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Remembering a silent champion of Urdu

JS Ifthekhar

Hyderabad: In his passing away, Hyderabad has lost not just a good educationist, an able administrator but a great champion of Urdu. No wonder the death of Dr. Abdul Raheem Khan, former Principal, Urdu Arts College, has plunged Urdu lovers into grief and left many shell-shocked.

Khan leaves behind two sons, a daughter and a legion of Urdu aficionados teary-eyed.

Over the years the soft spoken Khan became synonymous with Urdu and the Urdu Hall, Himayatnagar where he worked till the very end. He spent his entire life in this campus, joining the Urdu Arts College as a commerce lecturer in 1973 and retiring as its principal in 2006. But he contributed a lot for the propagation and preservation of Urdu as the general secretary of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Urdu Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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Khan touched many lives and molded students looking for quality education. Quiet, firm and unrelenting in pursuit of causes dear to him, his death the other day following a brief illness, brought the curtains down on a multifaceted career. The crowded Urdu Hall on Sunday indicated his popularity. A large number of professors, teachers, students and Urdu lovers turned up to pay their respects at the condolence meeting organized here. ‘Ustad-e-mohtaram or Respected Teacher was how many chose to address him. He encouraged many of his students to take up teaching professions and gave breaks to the struggling ones. Dr. Nikhat Ara Shaheen recalled how Khan engaged her services for teaching of Urdu even though there was no vacancy. “I will miss him every day of my life,” she remarked.

Usually teachers do not make good administrators. But Khan begged to differ. His administrative skills came to the fore when he took up the affairs of the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Urdu and management of the Urdu Hall. Though essentially a commerce teacher, he strove to promote the Urdu language. He took the initiative of organizing free Urdu classes during the summer vacations. Age is no bar and anybody is free to avail the 45-day course to learn the language. Those who are not familiar with even the Urdu alphabets became proficient enough to recite Urdu poems and speak about poets like Ghalib and Iqbal at the end of the course. Khan took pains to distribute pamphlets about the summer schools in different localities and urged parents to enrol their children for the Urdu summer classes. But during the last two years the summer classes couldn’t be organized due to the COVID pandemic. Interestingly, days before his death Khan held a meeting where he expressed his desire to revive the now defunct Urdu Model School.

While Habibur Rahman donated his prime land at Himayatnagar for the Urdu Arts College, Raheem Khan devoted his entire life for the cause of Urdu. He endeavoured relentlessly to achieve the goal of propagating Urdu language. He often used to recall how the famous English novelist, EM Forster too had a contribution in the college. He donated 1000 pounds for the cause of Urdu, a language he didn’t know. The money was the American royalty he got for his book – A Passage to India. A plaque put up in the Urdu Hall on March 22, 1962 reads: I never spoke Urdu and yet it is my language so near to our beloved Masood’s heart. EM Forster.

Many speakers broke down recalling their association with Khan. He had a thorough knowledge of the education system and up-to-date data with the infrastructural facilities available in both government and private institutions, said Prof. Ashraf Rafi, former head of department Urdu, Osmania University.

Not many know that it was Khan who took the initiative of starting budget discussion in Urdu to explain in simple terms a dry subject like annual budget of the country. Under the title Apne mulk aur budget ko janiye, every year a lecture was organized at the Urdu Hall. Prof. Masood Ahmed, a management expert, explains the nitty-gritty of the Union budget within a week of its presentation. It has become hugely popular with students, housewives and common man turning up to know the details.

As Prof. Majeed Bedar says, Khan remembered the past, worked for betterment of the present and meticulously planned for the future. No wonder he left his mark of excellence in whatever he did. It speaks about his honesty and integrity that he never misused his office position. He spent from his pocket to treat visitors who came to meet him. His colleague of several years, Zahoor, says he still has about Rs. 3000 given by Khan to arrange tea and snacks for people who come to meet him.
Though the vacuum created by his departure is difficult to be filled, the successor of Abdul Raheem Khan should be one who should carry forward the mission of Urdu so dear to him, said many including senior advocate, Ghulam Yezdani, who is also the president, Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Urdu.

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