Ghaus Ansari’s autobiography in Urdu

No autobiography in Urdu in recent times has hooked readers to the extent as Professor Ghaus Ansari’s ‘Umr-e-Rafta’, which tells the fascinating journey of the writer, his early days in Lucknow, his struggle and subsequent migration to Europe.

Such is his eye for minute details and his memory that the reader becomes a fellow traveller with him in his sojourns. Ansari, was born in 1929 in Firangi Mahal in Lucknow. He recounts how the caste-system was prevalent among Muslims to the extent that even in Madarsa, the students sat as per their caste and the son of a sanitary worker had to sit outside at the place where footwear were kept and had only the privilege to listen to the lessons and learn whatever he could hear.

Perhaps, these experiences played an important role in his life and he turned to leftist ideas, even joining Communist Party and going to jail after Independence. The account of his early life and teenged years make interesting reading. He was in the school when he started writing stories that were published in reputed magazines and he also brought out a couple of periodicals, one for children and the other was a semi-literary magazine on film industry.

Along with the events of his life, Dr Ansari’s detailed analysis of the communal polarisation and the politics in Uttar Pradesh (UP) in the first half of 20th century give valuable insight to readers about the freedom movement. More so, his own association with leaders of freedom movement, interesting incidents and anecdotes make this autobiography unique.

However, the hopes were dashed after independence. Ghous Ansari was also disillusioned with the culture of sycophancy, bribery and the communalisation. A humanist to the core, Ansari who had umpteen close Hindu and Sikh friends, recounts the experiences of dealing with bureaucracy and later decides to leave for England.

His life in London where he stuggled hard to eke out his living and later his stay in Vienna (Austria) for his doctorate on Casteism in Indian Muslims, is truly inspiring. And makes the two volumes of Umar-e-Rafta, a must-read for any teenager or youth. An anthropoligist, Prof Ansari had stopped writing in Urdu after leaving India but when he wrote the autobiography recently, one can only marvel at his grasp of Urdu idiom. You can see the Lucknow of yore, alive in this khud-navisht (autobiography).

Besides, his long stay in Iraq where he taught in University and later in Kuwait, are also recounted in the second volume. His wife Vadia, hails from Baghdad. Ansari has also written about the politics of oil and the turbulent era in Middle-East.



22 Responses

  1. I am flattered by your review of my autobiography and thank you for the clarity of your words.

    Ghaus Ansari

  2. Assalam Alaikum,

    Glad that you saw this review. Actually, I am the son-in-law of Janab Qasim Raza Sb and Mrs Soofia Bano.

    My wife is Oroosa. As I belong to Kakori, and I was there on Id vacations, I could read the books at Atiya Khala’s residence.

    I wish I had the photo of the book cover, scanned, to accompany the text.


    Adnan Alavi ‘Shams’

  3. Please note the full name of my wife; it is (Dr.) Wadia Taha Najim – Ansari. She is pforessor of Arabic Literature, having doctorate from London University. She taught at the Universities of Baghdad and Kuwait, and later lectured at the University of Vienna.

  4. Thank you for this synopsis. I am eagerly awaiting publishing in English – please let me know!
    All the best,
    Danila Mayer

  5. Dear Sir,

    I want to buy your book. I live in Germany and do not know where to buy.



  6. Umr-e-Rafta was published in two volumes.

    Volume I published by Educational Publishing House, 3108 – Vakil Street, kucha Pandit, Lal Kuan, Delhi – 110006

    Volume II published by Kitabi Duniya, 1955 – Turkman Gate, Delhi – 110006

    It is hoped that copies for sale are still available with the publishers.

    Thank you for your enquiry.

  7. salaamalaium ghaus mamu,
    can u please give me ur email id i tried getting it from khalaami and atia khala but i thing there is problem wid them.

  8. Dear Oroosa,
    My e-mail address is
    This address remains operative during our stay in Spain. In Vienna I do not maintain e-mail.

  9. This exceptionally rich experience of Prof. Ansari is worthy to be read by many others. I guess, if there was an English translation of the document available, more people could benefit from his unique experiences in different countries and cultures.

  10. Mr. Chandrabal Tripathi from Delhi is looking for e contact to his “old classmate” and friend Mr. Ghaus Ansari,

  11. I am proud to be Prof. Ansari’s neighbour and friend in Kuwait. He is and will always be in my memory very lovably and respectfully. We all study, work in our respective fields in different institutions / countries, grow old and then reminisce. While doing just the same, I recollect the range and depth of knowledge of Prof. Ansari not only in Anthropology, but also in historical facts on several world topics, politics, religion, poetry and also culinary arts of Lucknow. On the lighter side I still remember his crisp and witty jokes, which I guess, are not going to be documented in his biography. However, I must admit they made my conversations with him so very jovial, full of life and colour. I anxiously look forward to the publication of both Urdu as well as English versions of this document. Best of luck Prof. Ansari and God Bless you.

  12. I would like read his book, but I live in Argentina and here I can not get in bookstores. Although I think I’ll read it sometime.
    All the best,
    Walter F Brites

  13. پروفیسر صاحب! آداب
    میرا نام راشد اشرف ہے اور میں کراچی میں مقیم ہوں، ابن صفی پر ایک غیر تجارتی سائٹ چلاتا ہوں:

    مذکورہ سائٹ پر خودنوشت سوانح عمریوں کا ایک فولڈر عنقریب شامل کرنے والا ہوں جس میں لگ بھگ 250 کتب کا ریکارڈ دستیاب ہوگا۔ آپ کی خؤدنوشت کو حاصل کرنے کا کیا طریقہ ہے جناب والا ?
    کاش کہ یہ مجھے کراچی میں موصول ہوجائے
    میرا پتہ یہ ہے:
    Rashid Ashraf
    L-2, Block 13-D-1
    Gulshan E Iqbal
    Adjacent Zuberi Family Park

    عمر رفتہ کی تاریخ اشاعت سے بھی مطلع فرمائیے گا

    خیر اندیش
    راشد اشرف
    کراچی سے

  14. Janab e wala
    bar e khatier per kuch giran guzra jo hamara comment hata diya ?
    Shayad urdu zuban app ko pasand nahee ya shayad app ki kitab ki khawaish napasnd tehree
    Afsoos hoa app ki rawish per
    Khair Andaish
    Rashid Ashraf

  15. Dear Mr Rashid.
    You imagined too much. I hadn’t moderated comments for sometime as I was away. The day I checked the blog, I published it.

    You wrote, ‘afsos hoa app ki rawish par’. That’s nothing Janaab. Even if you abuse me, I will publish it.


  16. My Dear Inscribe!
    معذرت خواہ ہوں
    پروفیسر صاحب کی خودنوشت درکار ہے، کس لیے درکار ہے، اس کا جواب آپ مندرجہ ذیل فولڈرز کو دیکھ کر بخوبی لگا سکتے ہیں کہ اس کام کی تکمیل میں میرے تین ماہ صرف ہوئے ہیں:

    براہ کرم راہنمائی کیجیے
    خیر اندیش
    کراچی سے

  17. Kindly let me know the date of publish of Umr-e- Rafta so that i may bw ablw to update the record

    • Janab Rashid Sahib
      As salam alaikum
      I do not know whether u received the book “Umer -e- Rafta ” or not —-However today (First July 2011) i came to know that u have collected 500 auto biographies — Marvellous —it is also news of happiness that u have catalogued nearly 1000 names with title of auto biographies —Congratulations

  18. Dear Sir!
    My friend Ahmad Safi has returned from Dehli where he did attend the inauguration of english translation of 4 novels of his father (ibne safi).
    On my request, Ahmad sahab bring both episodes of Prof Ghaus Ansari’s autobiography.
    I also managed to talk to Ghaus sahab through one of his acquaintance who resides in USA.
    یہ تحریک یہاں ہی سے شروع ہوئی تھی
    آپ کا بہت شکریہ

  19. Hello,

    is thiis book available in english now?


    Bets Regards

  20. […] Ghaus Ansari’s autobiography in Urdu « The World of Urdu Poetry …Dec 31, 2007 … مذکورہ سائٹ پر خودنوشت سوانح عمریوں کا ایک فولڈر عنقریب شامل کرنے والا ہوں جس میں لگ بھگ 250 کتب کا ریکارڈ دستیاب ہوگا۔ […]

  21. Dr. Ghaus Ansari died on 12th July, 2012

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