Masood Ahmad Barkati: Why Another ‘Unsung Hero’?

Two days ago a renowned and seasoned children’s story writer, Masood Ahmad Barkati passed away. He has been the editor of the famous but not so famous now Naunehal magazine for all his life. I m usually late in writing eulogies, it has to do something with nostalgia, the mystery of time, our fragile existence but I digress.

People who are into reading and writing were already familiar with the name of Naunehal Magazine, Hamdard group and Masood Ahmad Barkati. Personally I m not well read when it comes to Urdu literature. Hence, when I learnt of the Naunehal editor’s demise, I did feel at loss not because I could relate to Masood Ahmad Barkati’s endless work but because I did not read his stories; because in recent years too no one in media ever mentioned his name.

Man with glasses
via Express tribune

I felt at loss for not having known him enough. It was his death that brought back this slight knowledge of the magazine and his affiliation with Hakim Saeed. It brought back the shame that I did not read enough of my own literature to feel the loss of such a person.

I read a couple of write ups of people who had actually grown up reading the magazine, who could relate to the man behind the wonderful children’s stories and I felt good. There is a generation who read all those wonderful stories with morals and ethics and patriotism. But I felt out of touch. And I know there are many out there like me who felt like observers who knew the name but not more than that.

He was like a silent writer, scribbling away his pen, editing and creating stories after stories for children as the world around him changed seasons and colors. For some years now, with the proliferation of other mediums, reading in general has lost its place in our lives. But more so, and sadly as well, Urdu reading has almost become redundant. When I was in O level, I remember my class fellows taking pride in the fact that they couldn’t read or write Urdu properly.

I can see it today, much more clearly, with the death of Masood Ahmad Barkati, who could have been our very own Enid Blyton, that we do not value people and their talent when we have them. I said t he same when only recently Amir Zaki, a musician passed away. The media and the music industry expressed their sorrow over the loss. But it felt superficial, like we only remember people when they die.

I might be wrong, but not to so much. I say this with some certainty because as I mentioned above, our priorities have changed over the years. We do not like to read a lot. And it is a worldwide phenomenon. But that does not mean we should stop worrying about it. We also do not like to talk to people on mainstream media if they are not glamorous enough, or ill enough to make the audience very emotional, or if they are not dramatic. Call me a cynic but off lately I have observed  that our mainstream media only brings out those issues and people onto our screen that would generate enough ratings for them.

With the passing away of another writer, who seemed to have lost his place in our society, I feel like we need to look for those people in our society who are not talked about enough. We need to revisit places, ideas, people, literature that has become forgotten in this time of glitz and glamour. We don’t want more ‘unsung heroes’.  But instead need to cherish people and their talent when they are still here with us.