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Deeba Zafir

By Akhtar Husain Raipuri. Translated by Amina Azfar
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2007, pp. 302, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

Akhtar Husain Raipuri’s memoir The Dust Of The Road offers a varied fare to its readers. The wide range of his experiences and the eventful times through which he lived makes Raipuri’s memoir interesting. A man of sound secular upbringing and Marxist leanings, Raipuri’s account of his travels and travails is in fact a retrospective glance cast over a life lived to its full. Be it his love for nature, animals, music, literature or adventures, Raipuri peppers his book with interesting episodes and anecdotes. A quick look at the contents of the book reveals a man of many parts and multifarious tastes—a polyglot with a wanderlust—a combination which enables comparative cultural critique and often yields fascinating critical insights. A self-made, self-taught man, Raipuri mastered Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, and Bengali early in life and his pursuit of knowledge led to the learning of many other languages of the world as well as acquaintance with their literature, music and culture.   Raipuri began his career as a Hindi journalist and later became a professor in Amritsar, spending the rest of his life in education related activities. With the increasing politicization of the Hindi- Urdu issue, coupled with Partition, Raipuri cast his lot with Pakistan, finally ending his career with important posts in the UN and UNESCO. The memoir is primarily an account of his career as a writer and journalist with just an obligatory reference to his personal life. Therefore the places, events and persons that shaped his intellectual and professional development gain primacy over details about his personal life. Raipuri comes across as a man thirsty for knowledge, grappling with the turbulent times and being shaped by the momentous events that overtook him, while also making choices that changed the course of his own life.   The memoir presents a fascinating account of Raipuri’s stay in Calcutta, the country’s cultural and intellectual centre in the1920s, as a formative one. It is here that Raipuri states, ‘The foundations of my intellectual and working life had been laid on the right lines.’ Not only did he meet many important Muslim intellectuals in Calcutta but was also drawn into the nationalistic fervour of those times. Raipuri went on to translate the works of Qazi Nazrul Islam from Bengali into Urdu, which later influenced many Urdu poets like Josh, Majaz and Makhdoom. He also recounts the early days of ...

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