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A tribute to Manzoor Ahtesham: A man buried in his books

A tribute to Manzoor Ahtesham: A man buried in his books
on Apr 29, 2021
A tribute to Manzoor Ahtesham: A man buried in his books
Decorated Hindi writer Manzoor Ahtesham signed off on a well-spent life in a hospital around midnight in Bhopal on Sunday last. When he breathed his last, he was in the company of a doctor and some paramedical staff as he was a COVID-19 patient and family members were not allowed. He is survived by the families of two daughters and that of younger brother Aijaz Ghafoor, a well-known interior designer in Bhopal. Manzoor had recently lost his wife and elder brother to COVID-19. (Stay up to date on new book releases, reviews, and more with The Hindu On Books newsletter. Subscribe here.) Born in April 1948, Manzoor belonged to one of the middle class families of Afghan lineage in picturesque Bhopal. He was handsome, very polite, unassuming, and friendly. A gentleman to the core, Manzoor had a sensitive heart, a sharp mind, and frugal lifestyle. For more than seven years that I spent in Bhopal as Resident Editor of Hindustan Times from 2000, and even later during numerous visits to the city, I found people had only good things to say about him. His parents wanted him to do engineering. He took admission, tried for a few years, but gave up, as his interest was in literature. When his brother Aijaz started a furniture showroom in late 70s, he requested Manzoor to help him out by being there. Aijaz fondly says, “Many visitors to the showroom would tell me that Manzoor Bhai was not to be seen, though he used to be around, sitting in one corner surrounded by books.”
During one of the several evenings that I spent with him discussing poetry, novels, plays, and world affairs, he talked very fondly of Orhan Pamuk’s writings. It was in July or August of 2006 that he had told me he expected Pamuk to win the Nobel Prize in Literature that year. A couple of months later in October, Pamuk did get the Nobel. Also read : https://www.frontlist.in/techgadgets/samsung-galaxy-book-pro-pro-360-notebooks-launched-with-intels-11th-gen-processors/ Bhopal’s topography — an abundance of greenery, large water bodies, and generally pleasant weather through the year - also helped Manzoor’s literary sensibilities to flourish. I remember him telling me once that the name of his highly awarded novel Sukha Bargad (A Dying Banyan), came from Dela Wadi, a forest area near Bhopal having several banyan trees. The novel tells the story of a middle-class Muslim family’s struggle to come to terms with the transformation of Indian society after partition, particularly worsening Hindu-Muslim relations. Some institutions, such as Bharat Bhawan, a premier multi-arts autonomous complex and museum, and theatre and literary personalities such as BV Karanth, Habib Tanvir, and Shani Gulsher Ahmed helped Manzoor hone his literary skills. His interest in theatre helped him get the role of a professor in Merchant Ivory Production’s film In Custody (Muhafiz in Urdu) in 1993. In 2007, New York magazine cited Dastan-e Lapata, (The Tale of the Missing Man) as one of “the world's best untranslated novels.” The book, which raises important questions about Muslim identity, was translated into English in 2018 by Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. It has received the Global Humanities Translation Prize. Manzoor was a recipient of several awards such as Shikhar Samman, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Puruskar, Vir Singh Deo Award, and several others. The government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award, in 2003. However, writer and poet Rajesh Joshi was recently quoted in a Hindi newspaper saying that Manzoor had wanted to exchange his Padma Shri with his Sahitya Akademi award which Rajesh had got at about the same time. Manzoor Ahtesham’s first published short story in 1973 was Ramzaan Mein Maut (Death in Ramzaan). Ironically, we lost him during this time of fasting and prayer. Source: https://www.thehindu.com/

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