Two doyens of Hyderabad lose their lives to COVID-19

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By A. Joseph Antony

Sports and journalism suffered two deadly blows in three days. Ahmed Mohiuddin, popularly known as ‘Saleembhai,’ passed away on Sunday morning while Asad Shameem breathed his last on Friday night. The Sports Writers Association of Telangana (SWAT) mourned the loss of its two much-loved members, while a bigger outpouring of grief is bound to follow when word gets around of their demise.

“The first wave stripped Shameem of his job (at Etemaad), the second claimed his life,” was a poignant post on social media by a friend about the sports in-charge of the soon-to-be-launched Adaab Telangana.

‘Saleembhai,’ 65, was official photographer of the Telangana Assembly besides the Sports Authority of Telangana State (SATS). With help from his three sons, Saleem ensured a steady, if not a daily flow of press notes, results and photographs to most media houses in Telangana and erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh for decades.

Major assignments included the National Games, the Afro-Asian Games, the Military World Games besides every important city, state, national or international event ranging from sports to politics. Universally popular with sportspersons, officials and journalists, he was unofficial spokesman for promotion of lesser sports such as kho-kho, tennikoit and tug-of-war among many others with their offices in the Fateh Maidan stadium.

Shameem began his career as a calligrapher in the early eighties and also as a sub-editor under the late Mahmood Ansari. Seeing Shameem’s keen interest in sports, his editor encouraged him to write, edit sports articles and interview various sports stalwarts.

“Always ahead of his times, he switched from manual to computerised calligraphy, seeing the media evolve from teleprinters to fax machines, internet and social media, the last mentioned arena seeing much of his creativity flourish,” reminisced Dr. Syed Fazil Hussain Parvez, whose doctoral thesis dwelt on ‘Urdu media kal, aaj, kal’ (Urdu media yesterday, today, tomorrow).

“Elegant with his prose, his expressive writing had clarity and simplicity too, equally enjoyed by sixth class students and Ph D scholars alike,” said Dr. Parvez, Editor of Gawah, a 22-year-old weekly Urdu newspaper that has an online edition too. Although very gentle in demeanour, Shameem could be very tough when it came to a challenge.

“Modest, down-to-earth, an extrovert, devout Muslim but a secular citizen, Shameem vehemently defended Virat Kohli as the greatest batsman in the world today in a recent article, when efforts were made to compare the Indian captain with Pakistan’s Babar Azam,” said Dr. Parvez, also the author of ‘Azharuddin cricket ka shehzaada’ (Azharuddin, emperor of cricket), which was launched by the former Indian captain himself after he broke into international cricket with a record three centuries in a row.

While Saleem and Shameem were good friends and ever ready with a smile, they lost a close and common friend in Raheem Hyder, Munsiff’s former Sports Editor, only a few months ago. Hyder was an authority on Hyderabad football, having published two books on the subject.

“‘Bhaisaab,’ was Saleembhai’s favourite mode of address,” recalled Valentine Wilson. “A grassroots level photographer, he upgraded to digital cameras, laptops and internet in keeping with the times. He gave his work a personal touch by calling newspaper offices to confirm receipt of his pictures and request their publication. Most often he would receive neither remuneration nor acknowledgement by way of a byline for his published pictures, which never diminished the warmth of his later interactions though,” the former Sports Editor of Deccan Chronicle fondly recalled.

Saleem, who succumbed to Covid 19 after suffering from the scourge for a fortnight, died in hospital and is survived by his wife and three sons. Shameem was struck by a heart attack at home and leaves behind his wife, two sons and six daughters.

Shameem perhaps had a premonition of his impending end. One of his last posts in a media Whatsapp group, a day before his demise, drawn from Islamic scripture, was a telling sign of what was to come. ‘Tell them (O Muhammad): “Everyone is waiting for his end. Wait, then, and you will soon know who are the people of the Right Way and are rightly guided.”