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Delhiwale: A house for Mr Ahmad

A man of letters looks back upon his life in the age of materialism and finds no regrets.

delhi Updated: Sep 26, 2018 15:54 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
delhiwale,delhi,aqil ahmad
Aqil Ahmad has authored 10 books on literary criticism and is the secretary of the Ghalib Academy in New Delhi. (HT Photo )

He arrived in Delhi years ago with just two sets of clothing and a much-thumbed paperback dealing with Urdu literature.

Forty years later, poetry critic Aqil Ahmad has authored 10 books on literary criticism — while serving as long-time secretary of the Ghalib Academy, promoting the 19th-century poet Mirza Ghalib.

For all this success, Mr Ahmad has certain reservations. This afternoon, he is speculating whimsically about the practical aspects of life.

“To start with, I have got no house of my own,” he smiles dimly, between sips of sugary black tea. Instead, he lives in a flat allotted to him by the Academy.

“Look at it this way. Millions migrate to Delhi with almost nothing, but then they set up roots, build houses, buy property…. I couldn’t do those things.” When he retires, he would also be leaving the cost-free dwelling.

“What then? Should I just go back to my ancestral village? But my family and I are too used to a life in the city…”

Mr Ahmad, 58, makes it clear that the pursuit of wealth never figured in his life plan.

“When I was a young PhD student I decided to opt for a life of reading and writing, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. No regrets.”

He once travelled abroad during the course of his scholarly pursuits. “I went to Karachi in 1986 to research for my thesis on poet Josh Malihabadi.”

Since the Academy itself has no official retirement age, its secretary hopes to work for many more years. “Maybe I will have the flat until then.”

First Published: Sep 26, 2018 15:53 IST