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Bhopal and books - a forever affair

Monday October 03, 2011 12:05:09 PM, Shahnawaz Akhtar, IANS

Bhopal: From 11th century philosopher king Raja Bhoj to the Nawabs and Begums of the 19th century to waiter Nandkishore Kushwaha of this century, one thing has not changed in Bhopal down the ages -- people's love for penning down their thoughts.

After the royal era, not only professional writers but even administrators, professors, doctors, officers of state services and journalists have penned their memoirs or done creative writing in the city.

Bhopal has given more than 100 Urdu and Hindi writers.

Kaif Bhopali, Bashir Bader, Chandrabhaan Khayal, Ishrat Qadri, Takhallus Bhopali, professor Ramesh Chandra Shah, writer Manzoor Ahtesham, journalist Rajesh Joshi and Sharad Joshi's works were recognised by the governments and they had been conferred with awards too.

It is believed that Raja Bhoj had written 84 books. Some of his manuscripts are still helping writers here. Manoj Shrivastava, the commissioner of Bhopal division, has a copy of the king's work "Samrangan Sutradhaar".

So what lies in the city of Bhopal that attracts people to writing?

"The literary tradition here helps a lot. Then you have Bharat Bhavan where all kinds of cultural and literary activities are performed," said Shrivastava.

"Our profession too gives us a wider canvas as we do meet all kinds of people while working. So with all these, writing becomes quite spontaneous," he added.

The Bhopal commissioner has interpreted Ramayana's "Sundar Kand" chapter and five volumes out of 15 have already come out.

Of the Nawabs who ruled in Bhopal, Siddique Hasan wrote at least five books and his "Interpreter Of Wahabism" is being taught at Kahira University in Egypt. His son, Nawab Ali Hasan, had prepared Farsi and Urdu dictionaries.

In fact, the lady Nawabs of Bhopal were ahead of their male counterparts as far as writing was concerned.

Qudsia Begum, Sikander Jahan Begum, Shahjahan Begum and Sultan Jahan Begum -- all had written accounts of their lives. Sultan Jahan Begum, who had performed Haj, wrote "A Story Of A Pilgrimage To Hijaz" after her visit to Mecca.

"The nawabs and begums gave great importance to their works and had documented most of them. When Bhopal was going to merge in the Republic of India, Nawab Hamidullah Khan told the Indian government that it would have to preserve their documents," Sayeed Ali Hasan Mujibi, the great grandson of Nawab Siddique Hassan, told IANS.

"The government had agreed and a centre of National Archives was opened in Bhopal," he added.

Soon after independence, renowned writer Khushwant Singh wrote his first book, "Train to Pakistan", from Bhopal.

After the Union Carbide gas tragedy in 1984, several journalists wrote books on the incident and the lives of survivors of the worst industrial disaster ever.

The contribution of the bureaucratic fraternity remained significant as many officials, including Ashok Vajpai, Sudeep Banerjee, Ashok Shah, M.N. Buch, Jabbar Dakwala, Manoj Shrivastava and Pankaj Rag wrote books when posted in Bhopal.

Kushwaha, hailing from Narsinghpur's Manakwar village, is the son of a farmer and works at the canteen of Bharat Bhavan. The young writer, who already has a book, "Aakhri Panchayat", to his credit, recently came out with "Gramin Vikash Ki Nayi Sambhavna". He mostly writes about rural issues.

A physician, doctor Gyan Chaturvedi, has also made his mark as a writer.

Gandhian thinker Dhurav Shukul who wrote 11 books gives credit to the cultural movement that had begun with the establishment of Bharat Bhavan and Kala Parishad in Bhopal.

"The city did not get developed like the metros. There is not much traffic here as compared to Delhi or other metros. There is no club or party culture in Bhopal. Instead cultural programmes are frequently organised. All these help in book writing," said Rasheed Kidwai, the author of "24 Akbar Road" and "Sonia - A Biography".

Said Shiv Kumar Sharma who started writing after completion of engineering: "The peace and green nature of the city increases my creativity. People are friendly too, they meet you with ease, there is no rush for anything. So a struggling writer like me finds it good to work from this city."

And being Bhopali also helps, said Sikander Mallick, a promising writer. "For my book 'Bastani', I had once met late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. And he had recommended me to a publisher. It is not possible with people of other places."

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at









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