Notes on Abdullah Hussain: HM Naqvi remembers a master of Urdu realism

H. M. Naqvi in Scroll:

ScreenHunter_1289 Aug. 04 12.47When Abdullah Hussain ashed a cigarette, he always missed the ashtray. There was an inevitable salting in his immediate periphery. He had large, dramatic hands that he used to swat the air when he spoke. He spoke English with a slight, lilting British intonation, tending to accent vowels. He chose his words carefully but did not seem to care about his appearance. I spent time palavering with him at my place, his place, in hotel rooms where the curtains always seemed drawn, but never saw him comb his hair or dwell before the mirror. He would change from one pair of track pants to another, from one crumpled shirt to another before leaving for a dinner or a session at a literary festival. He lumbered like a giant emerging from a cave into the bright light of day.

It was not as if Abdullah Sahab didn't care what people made of him, and it was not if he didn't care for company, but he didn't suffer fools, didn't care for crowds. Once he told me, “Lots of people come…you know, scores of people…I don't know them, never seen them ‒ they have never heard of me, probably, and never read a word that I have written, and they just want to come and have they their picture taken…In the last few months, there must have been thousands and thousands…It's ridiculous…It's like taking a picture of Humayun's tomb.”

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