Josh Malihabadi’s autobiography Yadon Ki Barat is available to us is in its truncated form. While still in the press, large portions were either lost or stolen. This is what Dr Hilal Naqvi’s research says about this precious work of the poet. The research has been published under the title Yadon Ki Barat Ka Qalmi Nuskha, published by Josh Literary Society, Calgary, Canada. The volume running to 382 pages discusses in detail the sad story of the manuscript written by Josh.
Dr Naqvi is a distinguished scholar who, apart from his other research interests and critical studies, has to his credit a number of books devoted to the study of the life and works of Josh. The present work can be seen as a researcher’s long journey in search of facts related to the loss or theft of parts of the manuscript.
After hectic research, Naqvi discovered a handwritten manuscript of Yadon ki Barat which was in the possession of Josh’s family. He was very happy when Josh’s granddaughter Suboohi Khatoon was kind enough to hand over this precious document to him. But to his disappointment he found out that a number of pages from that too were missing. These missing pages included a long chapter titled ‘Mairay Ahbab’.
Naqvi succeeded in tracing the calligraphist of this manuscript who confirmed writing this chapter in which Josh had talked about a number of his contemporaries.
After searching further, Naqvi finally succeeded in retrieving most of those lost or stolen papers from Rafiq Naqsh, the editor of a literary journal. These papers, 234 in number, included the chapter ‘Mairay Ahbab’. Naqsh, however, refused to name the person who had handed him the pages.
Being a researcher, Naqvi was very curious about this mysterious man was and his motive. Was it an attempt to see that this chapter is deleted from the book? But why? In response to his query, Hakim Raqib Muradabadi, Dr Aliya Imam and the calligraphist all pointed their fingers towards Syed Sibt-i-Hasan. The calligraphist said that Sibte Sahib had asked him to delete the remarks made by Josh and Firaq, which he had refused to unless asked by Josh Sahib.
But can we rely on Dr Aliya Imam and Raghib Muradabadi when they have no evidence to offer in support of their suspicion? As for the evidence advanced by the calligraphist, it is of course understandable. Sibte Sahib might have asked him to delete remarks concerning him, which were certainly not in good taste. But why would be have the entire chapter deleted? That is simply unconvincing.
In fact, Josh’s fickleness itself, as portrayed by Dr Naqvi, appears to be responsible for much of the confusion. It was because of his indecisiveness that he could not stick to any one version of his autobiography and went on making drastic changes so that, as Dr Naqvi, tells us, we have more than three manuscripts from him. Moreover, he did not keep his papers in order. It appears that all kind of visitors had an easy access to his manuscripts. So his own carelessness has played havoc with his book.
Dr Naqvi has tried his best to retrieve all the lost papers which formed a part of the original text. It goes to his credit that he has succeeded in retrieving what he regards the most important chapter of the book. Another chapter, ‘Mairay Muashkay,’ could not be retrieved. That too should be an interesting part of the book.
The retrieved chapter has been reproduced here under the title ‘Mairai Chand Qabil-i-Zikr Ahbab’. In the introductory note, Dr Naqvi tells us that in the hand-written manuscript, Josh had divided this chapter into three parts, ‘Mairay Chand Qabil-i-Ziker Ahbab,’ ‘Mairay Khurd Ahbab’ and ‘Mairay Pakistani Daust’. The latter two parts have also been reproduced here.
Josh seems to be in a hurry to accommodate as many friends and acquaintances as possible. And so he has to be brief while talking about them. But in spite of that, taken together these short sketches, or short notes, make an interesting reading. It is a mixed crowd of writers, non-writers, friends, acquaintances, family members, distant relatives and admirers. Here is a social gathering on a grand scale. And we feel happy moving among them. However, there is one man who is conspicuous by his absence. He is A.T. Naqvi.