Special Reports

Syed Athar Hussain

Syed Athar Husain Asraf was an unsung hero. He was a man who derived pleasure from people's happiness, and pride from people's achievements. He came to Delhi from Bihar a little under two decades ago and first made his mark by giving a facelift to the pages of Nation and the World, a fortnightly. Later he used his skills to good effect for Radiance and Milli Gazette. He was always associated with magazines/journals that espoused the Muslim cause. The cause of the community burnt bright in his heart. With his skillset he could have easily landed a plum job with a frontline media group but he preferred to plough the anonymous furrow for the community. Later, when he got a chance to guide the next generation of students, he again, almost predictably opted for Jamia Millia Islamia.

In between he kept the fire in him burning by designing books for various publication houses including National Book Trust (NBT). Such was his mastery over the medium that he could think on his feet, innovate and improvise in the middle of a page.

At another level, he was Athar Bhai, simply an elder brother for youngsters who came from Bihar and indeed elsewhere. They could confidently walk up to him, seek his guidance, use his hospitality and even ride on his sources and resources. Athar bhai had that generous streak about him. Not a trace of ego, not a hint of lethargy, he was active, on the ball. All so selfless. Not blessed with the best skills for expression, however, he made the maximum use of his limited assets and communicated in a unique mix of Hindi, Urdu, English to which all he added a Bihari hue. Never once did he stoop to ask for a favour for himself. He was too rich a man to seek personal favours.

As a brother and father, he believed in the value of modern education. But all along he kept the fire of faith simmering inside and worked to arrive at a balance, give his near and dear ones the best of modern western education and Islamic values.

At the young age of 50, he passed away following a massive heart attack and was laid to rest at the Batla House cemetery. He died young. But he shall not remain unsung. His countless admirers and friends have to ensure that somewhere down the line Athar bhai gets his due. In death, if not in life.      Ziaus Salam

Athar bhai was MG’s designer from the very first issue until the previous one - he never missed an issue. Even when he went on holidays to Patna, he made it a point to return in time for the next issue. We miss you Athar bhai  (MG family).

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 July 2012 on page no. 13

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