Roshan Ara Bokhari
A Compassionate Soul

This accomplished daughter of Pakistan spread love and affection all around.

(This feature was initially developed by former editor Javed Ansari, who died on November 18, 2022. It was then completed by the editorial team of SouthAsia.)

January 2023

The much respected and accomplished Mrs. Roshan Ara (Aziz) Bokhari passed away peacefully in Karachi on October 11, 2022.

She was born in 1931. Her father Khan Bahadur Mian Abdul Aziz was from Mochi Gate, Lahore. He was a brilliant prose writer and committed to the cause of freedom and emancipation of women. He served as the Finance Minister of Jaipur State and later as Chief Minister of Kapurthala State in East Punjab, prior to Partition he Indian subcontinent into the independent nations of Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. He wrote under the pen-name of “Falak Paima”.

Roshan Ara was the youngest of five sisters and one brother. All the siblings made significant contributions to sports, performing arts and culture.

These included Mehr Nigar (Aziz) Masroor, who was the lead choreographer at the PIA Arts Academy founded by Air Marshal Asghar Khan in the 1960s. She made a breakthrough in the Pakistan dance scene by introducing ballet and choreographed many memorable dances which were presented to world leaders abroad as well as in Pakistan. She choreographed folk dances depicting village life, wheat and cotton harvest, and other aspects of Pakistani culture on stage as well as on Pakistan Television (PTV). Her famous ballets included “Sons of the Rivers” depicting the invasion of Alexander the Great and the resistance by the people of the Punjab.

Mehr Nigar was Vice-Chairperson of the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). She compiled a book on Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, authored Children’s Stories and her own book “Shadows of Time”, a novel depicting the mystery and tragedy of human relationships of three generations preceding the Partition of the subcontinent as well as a commentary on the contemporary political and social circumstances.

Begum Mehmooda Jehan (extreme left) with Mr. Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah in June 1947.

Roshan Ara Bokhari pursued her passion for dance and was the lead choreographer for the Punjab Arts Council in Lahore in the 1970s and later for over 15 years as the lead choreographer for the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) in Lahore till she retired in 2012. During these periods she choreographed a ballet called ‘Shakargarh” depicting the impact on the residents of this northern Pakistani city lost to India in the 1971 war, numerous folk and spiritual dances and also composed ballets to the poetry of Amir Khusrau, Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz. Keeping up with the times she choreographed dances to Salsa and fusion music combining Ragas with Rock, which won the Gold Prize in China in 2009, competing against 28 countries. She led her PNCA troupe to perform in various countries to promote Pakistani culture through dance. A significant effort was the choreography for the Opening & Closing Ceremonies of the South Asian Federation Games (SAF Games) which involved training 5,000 school children for the event in Islamabad in 2004. For her lifetime services to Dance, the PNCA held a Tribute to her in Lahore in 2016.

Roshan Ara Aziz married Syed Haroon Bokhari in 1953, the younger son of Professor Ahmed Shah Bokhari (Patras).

She was passionate about Pakistan. Her parents’ close involvement with the Pakistan Movement had a huge influence on her. Mr. Jinnah’s vision for a progressive Pakistan was very dear to her.

Her mother, Begum Mehmooda Jehan was the Treasurer of the Women’s Wing of the All India Muslim League and worked closely with Mr. Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah. As a young girl, she often travelled with her mother to accompany Mr. Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah at political meetings.

Roshan Ara in Bridge Team

At the time of Partition in 1947, she and her family were based in Lahore. The ensuing riots within the city and at the border crossings resulted in thousands of men, women and children dying or being injured. Roshan Ara and her sisters and friends became volunteer nurses at a makeshift hospital set up in the hostels of F.C. College in Lahore.

Her sister, Mehr Nigar climbed the gates of the Civil Secretariat in Lahore to hoist the Pakistan Flag at the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947.

Roshan Ara Aziz started playing bridge at an early age, learning from her parents. She became the Ladies National Champion in the early 1980s, partnering with her first cousin Mrs. Qudsia Dossa.

She remained Pakistan’s leading ladies bridge player for over 30 years, having represented Pakistan for over 25 years in Regional Championships and in 7 World Championships (known as the Venice Cup) played in various countries. Though her physical movement was restricted due to health reasons, she used to play competitive bridge on her iPad every afternoon an played her last tournament one week before she passed away.

She was passionate about her family and friends and was blessed with an adoring family from her father’s and mother’s side as well as her in-laws.

She often said that if she could be half as good a mother-in-law to her two daughters-in-law, as her own mother-in-law she was blessed to have, she would have done very well.

1st & 3rd from left, granddaughters Hana & Zahra. Extreme right daughter in law Laila Bokhari along with other family ladies

Roshan Ara was the centre-piece for her nephews and nieces, their spouses and children. She developed life-long friendships from childhood and made new and lasting friendships over the years whether she lived in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Dhaka, Islamabad or Karachi. These friendships also extended to her love and affection for the children of her friends.

She leaves behind three sons, namely Zain Bokhari, Ayaz Bokhari and Ali Bokhari, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. She used to live with her eldest son Zain while Ayaz and Ali and their families lived overseas.

Her passion for sweets was legendary. There was never a day when there were no sweets in the house. Her signature sweet dish was shahitukras.

With sons Zain Bokhari (L), Ayaz Bokhari (C) and Ali Bokhari (R)

Chocolate was a real weakness for her. All her family and friends knew of this and showered her with gifts of chocolates. She would make the most divine chocolate fudge and guava jam and couldn’t resist brownies and chocolate chip cookies.

She would often say that she had had a most blessed life. The doors of her home and heart always remained open and welcoming to all throughout her life.