Bhopal: Celebrated novelist-playwright Manzoor Ahtesham dies of Covid- 19

BHOPAL: A Hindi novelist, short story writer and playwright, Padma Shri Manzoor Ahtesham, died of Covid-19 at a hospital in Bhopal late on Sunday night. Ahtesham, who had begun his literary career with the story, ëRamzan Mein Ek Mautí, departed for his heavenly abode in the sacred month of Ramzan.

The 73-year-old author, who was admitted to the local Parul Hospital some days ago after getting infected with Covid-19, wrote many novels, short stories and plays. He was not keeping well for the past many months. His wife had passed away in December last year due to Covid-19. He leaves behind two daughters.

Born in Bhopal, Manzoor Ahtesham was a prominent name in the field of Hindi literature. The Padma Shri was conferred on him in 2003. He is also the recipient of the Shrikant Verma Samman, Vagheshwari Award, Bharatiya Bhasha Samman and Pahal Samman. A three-day drama festival, ëParv-3, based on the dramatic adaptations of his stories and novels, was organised at Ravindra Bhawan on March 3-5 this year. He had command over the Hindi, Urdu and English languages.

Theatre director Mangilal Sharma, who had directed a festival of nine plays based on the short stories and novels of Ahtesham, told Free Press that the late writer was a reserved man who liked to interact with a select few. ìIíve been working on his works since 2013. It was with great effort that I could persuade him to allow me to make plays on his works. We organised three drama festivals on his works,î he said.

The festival organised this year was a big success. 'I was a Pandit and he was a Pathan. But religious differences never came in the way of our relationship. I addressed him as Abbi,' Sharma said. He said that Ahtesham was a thorough gentleman. "I've lost a father figure. I still canít believe that heís no more," he said.

Hindi poet and author Rajesh Joshi said that Ahtesham was a leading contemporary Hindi litterateur. ìHis works, especially ëBasharat Manzilí, explore the role of the Muslim community in post-Independence India. ìAlthough he was more comfortable in English and Urdu, he chose to write in Hindi,î Joshi said. Ahtesham, he said, had dropped out of an engineering course. He did odd jobs for some time before settling down as a writer. ìHe was a full-time contemporary author. His demise has created a void in the world of Hindi literature thatíll be difficult to fill,î Joshi added.

Director of the MP Urdu Academy Nusrat Mehdi said that Ahtesham was a humble man who shunned publicity and preferred to devote his time to literary pursuits. ìIt was very difficult to persuade him to come onto the dais,î she said. ìHe was a big name in the world of literature and his departure has further depleted the ranks of Hindi fiction writers,î Mehdi said.

'Ramzan Mein Ek Maut'

His first story, Ramzan Mein Ek Maut, was published in 1973 and his first novel, Kuchh Din Aur came out in 1976. His other novels include Sukha Bargad, Dastan-e-Lapata, Basharat Manzil and Pahar Dhalte. Ramzan Mein Ek Maut was the title of an anthology of his short stories published in 1982. Another anthology, titled Tasbeeh, came out in 1998 and the third, titled Tamasha Tatha Anya Kahaniyan, came out in 2001. His play, Ek Tha Badshah, was published in 1980.Sukha Bargad has been translated into English under the title A Dying Banyan by Kuldip Singh, while Dastan-e-Lapata was translated into English by Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark under the title The Tale of the Missing Man.

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