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Malihabad in twenty first century: In the land of Josh and Mayel, Asmat carries the legacy

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL/LUCKNOW: Malihabad is known for its cultural and literary traditions over centuries. The land that produced poets like Faqir Mohammad Khan 'Goya', Shabbir Hasan Khan 'Josh' Malihabadi and author Mayel Malihabadi is known for the unique lifestyle, culture and the huge production of multiple varieties of mangoes.

Walking in the lanes of the historic town, one repeatedly hears people rue that there are few to carry the literary legacy forwards. The names of writers that come up during the course of discussions are just Asmat Malihabadi and Khan Mohammad Atif, both veteran authors.

But in the town of Shayar-i-Inquilab Josh Malihabadi, there are not many wordsmiths among the new generation. Asmat Malihabadi is the prominent poet who also writes short stories, he has been painstakingly penning books and compiling the rich literary heritage of the town and the region, so that it's preserved for future.

In fact, he has collected and compiled almost the entire poetry of Josh Malihabadi in the Kulliyat-e-Josh that brings to us Josh's huge output, in terms of poetry, at one place. This book that runs into 1600 pages brings to us the complete works of Josh, who was among the most prominent poets to have challenged the British Empireduring the freedom movement.

But this is just one of his major works. In fact, Asmat Malibabadi has churned out books after books. His 'Dastan-e-Mayel Malihabadi' once again brought focus on the author [Mayel] who wrote 140 novels in his lifetime. It took him years to obtain and read all those novels to write the book.

This book focuses on Malihabad, the town's history, its role during freedom movement, as well as the literary contribution of major personalities and then goes on to inform us about Mayel Malihabadi's life, his complete body of works and brief info about most of the legendary author's novels--both historical as well as social novels.

Not only he has written separate books on Josh's elegiac poetry and his revolutionary nazms and documented Josh's stay in Hyderabad during Nizam's era till his controversial exit, Asmat Malihabadi holds the fort in the town as far as literary activities are concerned. 'Unfortunately, the Goya library closed long ago', says Asmat who probably turned his own house into a library to compensate the loss. The house is full of books that include rare literary texts.

"Once I asked my wife, what will happen to these books after me. She jokingly said that they will be occasionally taken out, placed on clothesline, ensured that they are saved, taken care of and kept in good condition', he says. But, the irony is about lack of interest towards literature and the decline in the culture of reading books.

Khan Mohammad Atif is also a prolific writer. Besides, veteran Urdu Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi. But is there anyone after therm? That's the question, which haunts Malihabadis. Where is the next generation. There was excessive focus on mangoes and feeling that they hCW mango orchards, youths induldged in fun and flaunting their possessions, rather than focusing on education. In recent years, change has come, but there are not many writers in the new generation.

Asmat Malihabadi's poetry strikes a chord with the listener. There is a romantic, rebellious streak and the poet brings to us the voices of country folk, the love and longing in rural life, apart from showing us the beauty of qasbah life and it's culture. 'Fakhta Ki Awaz' is the collection of his ghazals and nazms.

Having heard of legendary authors and major personalities hailing from a city or a particular place, we often look for their match in next generation and in contemporary world, which is a bit unfair too. Those writers or rhymsters who come up too hold promise for future.

But, we being nostalgic, naturally, look towards past and take solace in Josh's lines, 'Aye Malihabad ke rangeen gulistaan alwida'. There is more to the town than poetry. The baradari, the chhota mahal, the heritage structures and above all, the mango orchards and the greenery around, attracts people to Malihabad. It was a short trip but more about Malihabad and the region in our next piece.

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.