Ex-Mayor Afzal Imam misses swimming in Ganga, plucking tamarind in Patna

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 28-05-2024
Former Mayor Of Patna Afzal Imam
Former Mayor Of Patna Afzal Imam


Seraj Anwar/Patna

Afzal Imam is transported to his grandmother's house in Patna, on the banks of the Ganga as I ask him about his memories of summer vacations. "I loved going to my grandmother's house, climbing the tamarind tree, bathing in the Ganga, and making noise with friends in the hot afternoon."

Additionally, he also played cricket with his peers in the neighbourhood.

Afzal Imam has been the Mayor of Patna, the capital of Bihat, for three consecutive tersms; He happens to be the second Muslim - Ehteshamul Haque was the first one - to occupy this position.  

Afzal Imam broke all records of popularity by being elected as the mayor from 2010 to 2015. He studied at Kishanganj's famous Insaan School.

Afzal Imam is a resident of Alamganj, a Muslim locality of Patna. His house is located on the banks of the Ganga and it's natural for him to have a deep affection for the Holy River. 

Afzal Imam with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

He spent his childhood on its banks. Afzal Imam believes he and the Ganga have had a lot of fun. Speaking with Awaz-the Voice, Afzal Imam says in his childhood the Ganga was not so dirty. 

"The Ganga was clean and sparkling. Ships used to move in it. The atmosphere was also not like this. There was no feeling of Hindus being different from Muslims."

Going down memory lane, he says, "There lived a man known as Kokil Mahato uncle living in his neighbourhood. "He was Uncle to all; He loved children a lot. He used to buy dalmooth (Savouries) etc. for 20-25 Muslim boys with his money. All the children used to be happy. Kokil's uncle's grandson was our friend. We used to play together."

Eid and Holi were celebrated together then. Afzal says that something happened in the nineties when people started living together. Bachhi Gop's house is in front of my house. Alamganj is such a big minority locality but she still lives in this locality. Hindus and Muslims used to live together with love in Alamganj. Whether it was Uncle Kokil's grandson or Aunt Bachhi Gop's son, they would swim together in the Ganga, and go far away. Even our parents were not bothered about us while we were out enjoying ourselves."

Afzal Imam says that children went to school in scorching and bright sun. There was no concept of Air conditioners or air coolers. "There was no TV etc. We were fond of playing and did not stay at home. We used to offer Namaaz and jump into the Ganga. We used to enjoy the Ganga in the summers. 99% of our friends knew how to swim. We used to reach the middle of the river while swimming. We used to carry a big tube with us. At that time, we used to spend three to four hours in the Ganga."

Afzal Imam playing cricket

After swimming, the whole bandwagon of children on vacation would climb the huge tamarind tree near Sheesh Mahal Madrasa. We would then sit in the graveyard near the tree and eat the soul tamarind we had plucked. My maternal grandmother's house was in Phulwari Sharif, I was born there. My paternal grandmother's house was in Gaya.

"I did not see my grandparents. There used to be a big fair at the time of Barawafat in my maternal grandmother's house, Phulwari Sharif Khanqah. We used to enjoy a lot in the fair. My grandmother's house was made of mud but it was very big. It was located on a plot measuring five to six kata. There was no concept of holidaying in exotic resorts during summer vacation like it is today. Apart from my maternal grandmother's house, we used to go to relatives' houses in summer. We used to bring water from the crossroads in big buckets.

I used to operate the hand pump and enjoy the scene of water gushing and flowing freely. Those days there was a lot of water scarcity. In childhood, I was also fond of giving Azan as I had a good voice. Everyone encouraged me in it. My father Mohammad Shahabuddin was in the police and my mother Akhtari Khatun a homemaker."

Afzal Imam says his father was strict towards his children. That is why father put all his children in Kishanganj school. Insan School was famous not only in Bihar but also in Assam and Bengal. Children from far and wide used to come to Kishanganj for education. Insan School was as famous in practice as its name. It was a school bigger than the government school and it had a high standard. Education was imparted there to make a human being a human being. The motto of the school is based on humanity.

We will become humans, we will make humans

Now we will learn and teach you how to live

Do not turn away from serving neither your own people nor strangers 

Whoever calls us, we will go running

He says several leaders like MLA Akhtarul Iman, MP Dr. Mohammad Javed have studied at Insan School. We called out tachers Bhai (Brother). Even the founder of the school, the late Syed Ahsan, was addressed as Syed Bhai. Today, students of Insan School are occupying high positions. Nazmul Hoda is a DG rank officer in Chennai. Nadeem Zafar Jilani was associated with the royal family in England. Currently, he is posted in the royal family of Qatar.

Afzal Imam

"Imtiaz is a DySP in Patna STF. Khalid is a lecturer in Ranchi. Afzal Imam became the mayor of Patna. Insan School was famous far and wide. Boys from every district of Bihar used to come here. Apart from this, boys from Kolkata, Assam, Darjeeling, etc. also used to come here to study. The school made everyone a human being. This was the special thing."

Afzal Imam says that Insan School's founder Syed Ahsan inspired him. "He was awarded Padma Shri and also received the President's Award. He could even cure weirdos. We were made to give more importance to service in the School anthem. Today, no one inspires me like that. It is Allah's grace that people are inspired by me. I never had the desire to become a great man."

He says, "I pray to Allah is that I should earn my living in a halal way. I have been in the company of elders and have been close to many scholars. Now it is not like the childhood days. To be with people in their happiness and sorrow, to work for society and to do justice, this is my hobby now. To stand with the weak people. I am trying to do some work in the field of education but it is not getting completed. If I find some people then the work will start. I have been fond of social service since childhood and came into politics later. Abba used to print Nayi Duniya Urdu weekly newspaper.

"In my childhood, I used to read Nayi Duniya. One day I came across an interview of Haji Mastan. I wrote a letter to Haji Mastan. He had formed a party named Dalit-Muslim Suraksha Mahasangh (DMSM). I got a reply. The reply was written by his PA Mohammad Khalid. I had not even passed matriculation at that time. Then my interest in politics increased."

In 1991, IK Gujral was contesting elections from Patna Lok Sabha constituency. "That election raised my interest in politics. In 2002, Patna Municipal Corporation elections were held and I was elected as a councillor. Since then, I have been a councillor. Currently, my wife Mahjabeen is a councillor. I have been a councillor three times and my wife has been a councillor twice. I was elected mayor for the first time in 2010.

"However, the number of Muslim councillors in the 72-75 member corporation has never been more than 6. Afzal says that with the support of their Hindu brothers, we became mayor three times. I got the privilege of becoming the second Muslim mayor of Patna. In 1967, Ehteshamul Haque was elected the first Muslim mayor. Afzal Imam has two sons, Haris Imam and Hamiz Imam. Harris is a student of political science at DU and Hamiz is studying economics at Jindal Global."

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Afzal Imam says that his childhood has been left behind. Now he is busy with his work. He has the responsibility of the house. He has the responsibility of the children.