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Indian Booker may come to City

AT THE end of next month, prestigious Crossword Book Award, dubbed as Indian Booker, is most likely to come from Mumbai to Bhopal with noted writer Manzoor Ahtesham. His book, ?A Dying Banyan? is on top of the Indian language fiction translation category?s short list. The award is to be given in a function in Mumbai sometime at the end of March for which Manzoor has been invited.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 15:24 IST

AT THE end of next month, prestigious Crossword Book Award, dubbed as Indian Booker, is most likely to come from Mumbai to Bhopal with noted writer Manzoor Ahtesham. His book, ‘A Dying Banyan’ is on top of the Indian language fiction translation category’s short list. The award is to be given in a function in Mumbai sometime at the end of March for which Manzoor has been invited.

The other Hindi novelist in the short list is Krishna Sobti on sixth place for her novel the ‘Heart Has Its Place’. Last year’s Crossword Book award winner was internationally –renowned writer Amitav Ghosh in the English fiction category.

Manzoor Ahtesham is understandably delighted with his place in the august company of India’s most celebrated writers. But he is more delighted that a Hindi novel’s appeal has transcended language barrier with such panache. “If only we had such awards in Hindi literature too,” he longs.

“I must give credit for the short-listing to my novel’s translator Dr Kuldip Singh. He worked really hard on each fine nuance of the narration for eight years. The translation is simply wonderful,” Manzoor feels.

Without sounding immodest, he also informs the novel was among first 20 of the 20th century’s best 100 fictions. It had already won Srikant Verma Award in 1988.

The novel, Sukha Bargad in Hindi original, has a span of nearly 30 years- from the Partition to the 1979’s communal riots in Jamshedpur which claimed the life of poet Zaki Anwar. The novel revolves around a Muslim girl of Bhopal. The protagonist’s relationships with the parents and the brother against the backdrop of post-Partition trauma are vividly portrayed in the novel.

All the other four Manzoor novels also have Muslim families in the centre. This centrality on Muslim issues is his forte. His latest novel Basharat Manzil is a strong narrative of three generations of a Muslim clan.

Small wonder then that the novel taking shape in his mind also deals with Muslim issue. “I have been thinking of writing a novel about role of Madarsas in the Indian Muslim society. How Madarasas have undergone an identity crisis –from revered seats of learning to suspected havens of obscurantism. They need updating and modernity.”

For a novelist of his stature, Manzoor’s strong yearning to become a poet really amazes one. He candidly admits he gave up on poetry writing after initial dabbling, as he did not find he could write the way he would have wished.

“I most certainly did not want to join the bandwagon of Bashir Badrs and Manzar Bhopalis,” he chuckles, then adds on serious note, “but I must say Bashir Badr had done some great poetry in the past”.

Another facet of his personality Manzoor is quite pleased with is his non-aligned identity in literary world. He traverses ideological barriers with inimitable ease. Should he get the Crossword Award, celebrations could be expected among his friends whether Marxists or non-Marxists. And he has a legion of friends across India.