“One on One”
German Jourmnalist Mohammad Asadullah
|Asif Anwar Alig|
t’s my first one on one with Mohammad Asadullah, India born veteran journalist from Germany whom I meet at Akbar Road, New Delhi. He visited India for a short period to meet his friend Justice Jain. By the time I formally begin interaction, page three scribes had already interviewed him. Before I ask him a question he tells me what would be my preferences; focus of this encounter. “Your achievements as journalist and an author in you” would be my preference, I put my intention. "You mean you are not interested to know the reasons why I still admire Urdu literature," he counters. Yes of course, I emphasized.
I just finished his recently published book in Urdu namely Khutoote Hamahrang (Multi-Hued Letters). It is a treasure for the Urdu scholars willing to know the realm of progressive movement in India. The book is a collection of letters written to him by the litterateurs or poets in a time span of several decades while progressive literature pioneered from pre to post independent Indian literary history. Such letters are personal communications amongst those intellectuals and Mohammad Asadullah now available in book shape.
|Mohammad Asadullah and Ali Sardar Jafri|
"Let me tell you that my inclination to join Progressive Movement developed after reading thought-provoking poems and writings of Makhdoom Muhiuddin who highlighted the dilapidated condition of undevided India through his write ups,” I am told. “I was young then and used to sit with Makhdoom Mohiuddin, my first inspiration. I have always tried to learn a lot from him and his colleagues,” Asadullah remembers his childhood days.
|Mohammad Asadullah and Faiz Ahmed Faiz|
He admires Krishn Chandra, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Ismat Chugtai, Sadat Hussain Manto, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi—the pioneers of progressive movement. In his youth, Mohammad Asadullah met some of them and later as a journalist he interviewed few, he recalled in our rendezvous. He didn't miss Friday conglomeration of progressive writers in Hyderabad (India), as an adolescent participant and took keen interest in the debates and discussions which erstwhile writers would organize. He used to reach half an hour early without any interruption to attend such meetings.
|Mohammad Asadullah and Justice V. Jain|
I asked him about his memories on the partition of country and his early life in Hyderabad. "I moved to England at age sixteen. Much is not left to say on this." Born in Hyderabad Deccan—one of the princely states out of 562, that was autonomously ruled by the Nizam—he saw revolutions, resistances and angst against the British in this part.
|Mohammad Asadullah and Kaifi Azmi|
People of Hyderabad were politically active bu they didn't support partition. “Neither I, as one of the youths, found this idea interesting. I was against the two nation theory”. Partition was based on the following counts...“British intended to divide the country. The suppressed Muslim community of that period desired to live in peace; with their own state (sic) country and the manifesto of the Muslim League, the party that was led by the elite Muslims revolted from the mainstream political resistance and felt it prudent to have their own country. Last but not the least Pakistan is the creation of political bigotry," he declared.
|Mohammad Asadullah and Sajjad Zaheer|
|Asadullah, Krishn Chandar and Salma Siddiqui|
While in the Cambridge, Mohammad Asadullah studiedPhilosophy, a subject he liked the most. He toured to Moscow and twenty more western countries before finally settling down into Berlin, where at present he works as a political correspondent. He opines that religion and politics must have parting of ways. Both need to deal their affairs individually. Religious interference in the matters of state would hamper the progress of its masses.
The seventy something journalist, born in Hyderabad, getting educated in London and touring to several countries counters the diverse environments. What are the major ergonomics in the lives of a successful journalist, I ask him. “The prejudice between Western and Oriental mindsets dither the ascent of world class media culture of West.” You might have faced such difficulties while working in mulch-cultural and mulch-religious work environment of West. "Not at all, I was lucky,” he responds.
|Mohammad Asadullah with wife and family members|
I settled in West in very early age before prejudices and racial differences began in England by 1970's while Powell propagated British masses to look into their own “selves” and avoid foreigners including Asians, he insists. This revolution rapidly worked against Asians and still continues. I ask him what is his dream city in the world. "It's London; my darling city, though I have finally settled in Berlin, Germany,” he reveals.
Mohammad Asadullah has keen eye on the condition of South Asian media particularly Indian and Pakistani media. “South Asian media is brainchild of the West,” he says. Though it has made mark it needs to come at par. Media here is bound to follow the ordeals of proprietors. They remain boss. Unfortunately editors are nothing more than a puppet and are part of the “business.” That is why one “media tycoon” owns several newspapers and television channels at one go.
|Faiz Ahmed Faiz|
|Asadullah and Krishn Bedi|
He further mentions, "I don't like the language of Indian newspapers.
They never publish follow ups. Analysis and editorials lack intelligence in India. On contrary, Daily Dawn of Pakistan is still a respectable newspaper. It has its own history.
It has seen birth of its country. The News has made righteous place in Pakistani media but its pro government attitude has compelled it to loose credence. Daily Times remains objective. This paper will grow with the time.
He comments on Pakistani weekly The Friday Times. "The best thing about The Friday Times is its team work culture,” he advocates. It has broken rules and made rules. "I admire its crispy presentation; the team spirit of young journos." Urdu media in Pakistan, particularly newspapers, is a success. Jung is best example we can have.
|Ismat Chughtai and Sadat Hussain Manto|
The difference between newspapers of the subcontinent and the West—“in Western media editor is still boss. This attitude lacks in the subcontinent. Even though future of media is bright here because even under such complications, such countries have number of newspapers tht regulalry try to save the trend of objective journalism. Impartial and partial media is everywhere.
In London two newspapers The Guardian and Observer are free of any pressure. Newsweek and Time are international in nature. Others are focussed on the regional aspects. Most of them follow a trend which is not much different from those who do journalism for the sake of business, Mohammad Asadullah briefs.
Journalism, in the subcontinent is not safe from religious fanaticism. It is observed that most literary sections of Urdu newspapers begin with "Naat" or a prayer. Is this religious fervor of any use? Where religion counts when you talk of literature. West is safe from such imbroglio. Media houses publish both mature and cheap pieces and market them for survival as media house. This is an unfortunate senerio for journalism to grow.
Where did he learn Urdu, I asked Mohammad Asadullah. He loved Urdu in childhood. Literature is his hobby and journalism ‘means for survival.’ "The litterateur in me can't feed me. My association with media for last 35 years have kept me survived. But literature can't even feed me. My books, in Urdu, can't keep my family go. This is nothing but my hobby that I write in Urdu. Khutoote Hamahrang is my latest outburst of literary taste, my hobby.”
Mohammad Asadullah is not optimistic about future of Urdu literature. He believes that Urdu will not die in India but it will, of course, shrink. In Pakistan, Urdu is national language and expected to rise gradually. Though he feels ashamed that in Pakistan most Urdu books published are not more than four hundred copies. He firmly denies the tall claims of the guardians of Urdu that it is rising. They also propagate that Great Britain and United States of America are Nai Basti (New villages) of Urdu.
Urdu have, of course, traveled into these countries. But the new generation has almost forgotten it and none wishes to read Urdu because there is no future prospect of this language in these countries. He sets deadline that within 10 years Urdu will die in the West. None will take interest to read Urdu in both England and USA by 2015.
Before winding up, I ask him to tell me what were the memorable days in his journalistic career. "I reported NAAM conference in Belgrade, Non-aligned Countries Conference where Jawahar Lal Nehru, Marshal Titu and Jamal Abdul Naser participated." He also reported Suez canal conflict when Anthony Adam had declared war. Other historical reporting by him that still remains imprint in his mind is Tashkent Pact where General Ayub Khan and Lal Bahadur Shashtri met.
Other major reporting by Asadullah were ‘demolition of the Berlin wall’ and announcement by the Communist Party of Germany in 1989 to declare that decision. There he stood in the first row of journalists.
In interviews his memorable one was with former Palestinian leader late Yaser Arafat. It was a learning experience for him. While I ask him to express his views on Western mindset after 9/11 and London bombings, he keeps mum and parts away with this message, “you know better than me what are the truths that we don't express always.”