On the 20th day of the 100 day 'Share a book' program that is being organised at Rhapsody by the indefatigable Dr. Surya Prakash and his Life HRG team, I had the opportunity to listen to a fascinating story 'Vendi Meghalu' told by its author Sayeed Saleem, a Sahiya Academy winner for the same book. Mr. Saleem spoke with great clarity, order and passion, and it came as no surprise to me to hear that he is an Assistant Commissioner in the Income Tax Department, Hyderabad.
He started with a brief about why wrote the story, the history behind it, which stemmed from his childhood as a Muslim in Coastal Andhra. The sensitive, clear thinking young Saleem saw the injustices done to the Muslim converts from low caste Hindus who were treated differently by the other Muslims. He also observed closely the other injustices done in the name of religion against women in the Muslim community, the way the religious sayings were misinterpreted and misused. His novel was all about this anguish he felt.
Starting sometime in the 1930s the story is about a young Muslim girl who is forcibly married to her brother-in-law while still in her teens because her older sister passed away in childbirth. Luckily for her she gets a forward thinking mother-in-law who encourages her to work, specially after the death of her son. How the Muslim girl grows up into a financially independent and confident woman and how the story moves forward to cover even the alleged Hindu-Muslim riots of the late seventies and winds up in the 90s is a remarkable tale. It was interesting to see the author tell his story and read from it and know why he wrote it as he did.
I was too shocked to respond when the mike was passed to me but I was only thinking one thing - what a brave effort. Sayeed Saleem tries to right all that is wrong - women, education, injustice, health, communal riots, misinterpretation of religion, political mischief in communal riots - in a sweeping, brave and sincere effort to make a difference, to appeal to whoever cares to listen. I was hoping to speak to him after the interaction but we missed one another. I can certainly get a copy of the Telugu book because I can read it but I guess it would be even better to get it signed by the author when he comes back one of these days. It was truly an evening well spent listening to a man of rare sensitivity and calibre. Sayeed Saleem's blogspot lists an enviable body of work already - over 100 poems published, 140 stories, 5 novels, several awards. Wonderful stuff.