A Man of Many Fascinating Facets
Ifirst met Anwar Maqsood way back in 1961 when I had enrolled myself as a student of BA (Honours) with English Literature as my main subject. He was one year my senior, but when I did my Masters four years later, he was one year my junior. He didn’t take exams because he feared that the examiners may by mistake see him through. Eventually, he settled for a plain BA. 7HAT DEPARTMENT WAS HE IN ) STILL DON T know. But what I remember very clearly is that he used to collect students in any empty classroom and make them laugh. Once, while commentating on Pakistani cricketers’ batting debacle, in a Test match, in the style of Allama Rasheed Turabi’s majlis, he annoyed an Iranian student so much that he got up from his seat to beat up Anwar. I was one of the few who intervened. ) REMEMBER BEING STRUCK BY A BLOW 7HO was responsible for that I don’t know?
But there was another side of Anwar, which I came to know at about the same time – his command over Urdu poetry. He could recite a couplet at the drop of a hat and his selection was admirable (it still is). From classical poets to contemporary bards, he could quote them with ease.
Yet another facet to Anwar’s personality has been his flair for painting. He does oil and/ or acrylic on canvas. He started with water colours. He doesn’t hold exhibitions these days very often. There are some admirers with deep pockets who walk away with his paintings. He recently claimed that it was his pursuit of art that kept the kitchen fire burning. ) TOOK THAT WITH A PINCH OF SALT 7HEN ) ASKED Immo (Imrana Maqsood), in some ways his much better half, recently to confirm her husband’s claim she just smiled evasively.
Like his late younger sister Zubaida Tariq, a well-known chef who did TV programmes, Anwar enjoys cooking. Immo says her hubby likes to entertain people with his culinary skills but he leaves the kitchen behind in a bad shape as nothing is placed back in its right place. Anwar denies the charge vehemently. “Don’t believe her. That’s just her propaganda,” he said when I went to see him. h7HY DO YOU WANT TO INTERVIEW ME 9OU don’t need to. You have known me quite well for years,” he says, but agreed to squeeze me into his tight schedule for he was to leave for Bangkok with Immo, their two children and six grandchildren two days later. The eldest is Mikail, who has inherited his grandfather’s artistic genes and whose paintings punctuate the walls of his grandparents’ house.
As we climb the stairs leading to Anwar’s study, he shows me his grandson’s works of art proudly. Anwar’s square-shaped room is lined with photographs and paintings, not to speak of the packed to capacity glass door with book shelves. You can hardly see the wall (that is true for his entire house). A large table (not a desk, mind you) occupies the centre of the room. Anwar is watching the TV as he is keen to know the punishment that is to be awarded to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter. Sick of politicians as I am, I concentrate on his beautifully done portrait by Shahid Rassam. The colours are subdued and the face highly realistic.
Much to my relief, the announcement has been postponed by two hours. The idiot box is switched off. I ask him about his correct year of birth. Google mentions 1932 which is wide off the mark. “I was born in Hyderabad Deccan on 7th September 1940,” he says in one breath.
His maternal grandfather, an Urdu poet of merit, was from Badayun in UP, who had settled in Hyderabad, while his paternal grandfather who held the high-ranking post of Awwal Taluqdar belonged to Hyderabad state. He was mentored in Urdu poetry by no less a person than Dagh Dehlvi. Anwar’s family migrated to Pakistan in 1948, after the army action in Hyderabad.
I came to know Anwar all the more, when he joined the multinational EMI, which was headed by the late Mansoor Bokhari, the son of Patras Bokhari and a distinguished person himself. He gave Anwar a free hand and the latter compiled quite a few long play records. As piracy caused a dent in the sales of discs and audio cassettes, Anwar made an exit.
He joined Hurriyet, the second most popular Urdu newspaper which had been taken over by the Dawn group as the editor of the
weekend magazine. Shama Zaidi did all the leg work, Anwar wrote a widely read column. His was a humorous and satirical column while the late Nasrullah Khan penned a serious column. The newspaper didn’t do too well and Anwar once again jumped overboard before the ship sank.
Anwar’s two-sided personality was amply
reflected in his writings for TV. If he wrote such serious long plays as Daur-e-Junoon and Naeem Ahmed banam Saleem Ahmed and serials like Sitara aur Mehrunnisa, he wrote Angan Terha and a number of shows such
as FiftyFifty, Shosha, Studio Dhai and Studio
Paune Teen, which were all hits. He told me that earlier this year he was invited by lovers of Urdu in Sydney to stage a one-man show. “There were as many as 800-plus people in the audience. Even Gulzar sahib’s and Javed Akhtar’s shows did not have such a large audience. In my show there were people from Brisbane and even Perth,” he exults. “Seeing is believing,” I feel like telling him. But sure enough, the organisers could not afford to pay for a witness.
Anwar says he spends at least an hour reading literature and another hour listening to classical music. I see his audio CDs and cassettes neatly stacked. So, the man who is accused of leaving his kitchen in a shambles is much more organised about his music collection. I shall see to it that my wife doesn’t get to see his music library otherwise she will nag me. I have a fairly large collection too but not enough time to arrange them systematically. Maybe Anwar can help me.