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Short fuse burning

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 00:56 IST
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Sixty-seven-year-old Khasim Rahman Khan, now Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha, did his home state, Karnataka, proud by becoming the first Muslim to qualify as a chartered accountant. That he used his accounting skills for the benefit of the Congress party rather than for his father’s business is another matter.

When the Congress split in 1969, senior leader Devraj Urs asked Khan to audit the Congress accounts. At that time, Khan recalls, the annual income of the Congress was just Rs 20 lakh, which the party had raised through the sale of stalls during festivals. “Similar to Diwali melas organised now,” he says.

Though he had no political ambitions, he trudged to the party office day after day, to the chagrin of his father, who wanted Khan to join the family business. After about 10 years of looking at the party’s balance sheets, he was hand-picked to be its nominee for the legislative council. He fit the bill since the Congress was keen that a Muslim fill the slot.

Back home in Krishnarajpet, Mandya, in Karnataka, Khan is better known because of his father, rather than it being the other way around. His father, Khasim Khan, was famous for his ‘healer’s touch’. Neither a miracle man nor a doctor, the senior Khan started off as a grocer, but later added a pharmacy to his business. People in Mandya believed that any medicine he touched would cure. He followed the Holy Quran in letter and spirit.

Yet, he failed to rein in his “wayward son”. A law unto himself, Khan often had heated arguments with his father, particularly over the “shop and school” regimen he was expected to follow. “He did not see beyond studies and business,” says Khan, who did not want to follow the beaten track. Things came to a head when Khan protested against what he interpreted as “Brahmanical comparisons”. He explains, “Each time my father spoke of good behaviour, he would ask us to emulate Brahmins. This infuriated me.” Admittedly “a narrow vision”, which Khan says he outgrew in later years, he confirms that he is a practising Muslim who offers namaz five times a day and fasts through the Ramzan month. His computer is also tuned to play recitations from the Holy Quran when switched on.

He also undertook the Haj as penance for the sin he felt he had committed of upsetting his father. “When my parents left for Haj, I felt very guilty. I thought I had failed in my duty as a son by letting them go on their own.” After a sleepless night, Khan took the next available flight to see his parents through the tough religious drill.

For someone who is responsible for keeping order in the Upper House, his village folk remember Khan as an “angry young man”. When his school doubled the tuition fee from Re 1, he led a protest march, snatched the attendance register from his class teacher and disrupted classes. Consequently, when he joined politics, his father was worried and unsure of how his “short-fused son” would behave.

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