Dr Akhtar Husain (1912-1992 Urdu: اختر حسین) also known as Dr Akhtar Husain Raipuri was a Pakistani scholar, journalist and lexicographer. He is also the author of the book The Dust of the Road: A Translation of Gard-e-Raah that was translated into English many years after his death.
Akhtar Husain was born in the district of Raipur in the British Indian Empire, now within the state of Chhatisgarh, Republic of India. He was born to Saiyyed Akbar Husain, an engineer stationed in Raipur. His mother Mumtazunnisa was a publisher in women's journals. She died at age twenty-six when Akhtar was just three.
As a child, Akhtar became fond of reading and saved money to buy books in Hindi (a major register of Hindustani written in the Sanskrit script), but could not read Urdu (another major register of Hindustani written in the Perso-Arabic script) as fluently. At age twelve, his school teacher asked him to help organize the school library, and his command over Hindi was so strong that, apart from reading it, he began writing in the language, and "his first story “Parajit” (Defeated) was published in Madhuri, a reputed literary journal, when he was only 16 years old."
Education and career
Husain moved to Calcutta to pursue advanced studies which at the time was also a major center for publication in Bengali, Hindi and Urdu. But after leaving there in 1932, Husain went on to translate popular works from Bengali poet Qazi Nazrul Islam into Urdu. According to Husain, Babu Moolchand and Maulvi Abdul Huq as his two major life influences.
He also became acquainted with friends with the poets Saghar Nizami and Majaz Nizami. Huq upon reading Husain's works encouraged him to increase his attention to literature rather than journalism. Huq encouraged Husain to assist him in the development of an English–Hindi dictionary and the publication of the Urdu journal. After Husain agreed, the two of them moved to Aurangabad where they started Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu and worked for about two years. During that time, Husain also reviewed Urdu books under the pseudonym "Nakhuda". Over this time bonds between Husain and Abdul Haq.
By 1935, Husain married Hamida, daughter of police officer and crime fiction novelist Zafar Omar. Akhtar Husain witnessed the historic 1936 meeting of Sahitya Parishad in which Mahatma Gandhi declared that Hindi rather than Hindustani (which includes Urdu and technically Caribbean Hindustani as well) be the national language of India upon independence.
Upon this, Haq stopped all his works in Hindi, including the development of the English-Hindi dictionary, and Husain left Aurangabad for Dehli where he had difficulty settling for a career as a result of his application being rejected.
He then applied to Sorbonne where he pursued a PHD in ancient life in the Indian subcontinent based on Sanskrit texts. His thesis adviser was Marc Bloch. He also briefly worked as a translator to support himself financially. He also later worked in news bulletins to write news analysis. He also worked with the Radio's Dictionary Committee.
By 1942, Husain became Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Amritsar. Mutually, he also translated a three volume autobiography of Gorky. He also continued to write short stories (Zindagi ka Mela). By 1945, Husain worked as an assistant in the education department at Simla, where he also got the opportunity to work for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
Independence and the end of British Rule
Two years within the end of the Second World War and the end of the British Raj, Husain and his family relocated to Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. It was around this time it was reported that violence between Brahmans and Muslims intensified.
In Pakistan, Husain continued working in the educational fields, where he worked as secretary. Dissatisfied with the political direction Pakistani society had headed for, he took up a job at UNESCO where he retired from in 1972.
Some of his major works include:
- La société dans le drame sanscrit. PhD thesis written in French for the Sorbonne, in 1939, 'on the society in Sanskrit drama'.
- Adab aur inqilāb. A critical study on prominent Urdu authors and their works.
- Ḥabash aur At̤āliyah. History of Italy and Ethiopia.
- Payām-i shabāb. Translation of Bengali poetry from Kazi Nazrul Islam.
- Roshan mīnār : tanqīdī maẓāmīn kā majmūʻah. Essays on Urdu literature.
- Tāsh ke patte. Urdu translation from the English of James Hadley Chase's The Joker in the Pack.
- Śakuntalā. Urdu translation from the Sanskrit of Kālidāsa's Śakuntalā.
- TNS Editor. "Raipuri's life and times". TNS - The News on Sunday.
- "The Dust of the Road".
- "The Dust of the Road A Translation of Gard-e-Raah".
- Coppola, Carlo. "Iqbal and the Progressive Movement." Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 1.2 (1977): 49.
- Alice Albina. "Chapter One: Ramzan in Karachi". Empires of the Indus. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. ISBN 0393338606.
- Partha Chatterjee; Pradeep Jeganathan (6 May 2001). Community, Gender, and Violence: Subaltern Studies XI. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-50739-4.