Urdu lovers are shocked with the news that the Maktaba Jamia’s Mumbai branch will be finally closed on November 30. For six decades Maktab that had a vast treasure of books, was a centre for Urdu-lovers and had become an institution under Shahid Ali Khan.
Reacting to the decision, Nida Fazli said that Government should take the branch in its custody. ‘The names of Nehru, Azad, Zakir Husain and great personalities of yore have been associated with it’, he said.
Once it used to be a sort of pilgrimage for aficionados of Urdu literature to walk from Iqbal Chowkk to Mohammad Ali Road that had shops like Alvi Book Depot, Kitabistan, Haneef Book Depot, Usmania Book Shop, Iqbal Book Depot and other bookshops.
Almost all the important Urdu poets and writers gathered at Maktab Jamia Urdu’s branch. Nadeem Siddiqui says that from Maulana Shahab Malerkotvi to Abdul Ahad Saaz, this place has seen every literary figure of Uroos-ul-Bilad (Mumbai).
Yusuf Nazim recalls how Surendra Prakash, Baqar Mehdi and Sikandar Ali Wajd would arrive at the shop and sit for hours, discussing literature, art, politics and the young generation of writers learnt the nuances of writing and poetry by listening to these discussions.
Former General Managers of Maktab, Shahid Ali Khan and Yusuf Khatri have also expressed shock. Khan recalls that he used to get Rs 7,000 per month and it was a branch in profit. He wondered that how it could be in loss now when the present General Manager gets Rs 30,000 per month as salary.
In Inquilab Urdu daily, Inayat Akhtar has written that there was hardly a famous Urdu writer in the country who hadn’t visited the place. It was here that my political, social and literary consciouness developed like hundreds of other youths of my generation.
‘aajizi sikhi, GariiboN se mohabbat siikhi
yaas-o-hirmaaN ke, dukh-o-dard ke maanii siikhe’
He recalls how most of the collection of Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu which was burnt during the riots after partition and the remaining books were purchased by the Jamia. All those books were rare even in 1947 but if the price mentioned was Rs 3 on a book then the same price was charged even in 1967 by Shahid Ali Khan unlike other shops that revised prices.
The annual earning was Rs 1 lakh which went up to Rs 10 lakh during his period. Even today Maktaba Jamia has 2.5 million cash (Rs 25 lakh) in the form of Fixed Deposit in bank. From Sardar Jafri, Akhtarul Iman, Sahir Ludhianvi, Jaanisar akhtar, Krishan Chander, Aziz Javed, Mahendra Nath, Rajinder SIngh Bedi and Aziz Qaisi to Abdus Sattar Dalvi, Sardar Irfan, Haidar Asad, Ibrahim Rangla, Sabir Dutt, Anwar Qabar, Sajid Rashid, Fuzail Jafri, Tasadduq Seoharwi, Anwar Khan, Ali Imam Naqvi, Abu Bakr Merchant, Mahmood Chhapra and hundreds of others were frequent visitors to the place that was a galaxy of writers and literature.