I come from a lower middle class family of that part of Punjab which went to Pakistan in 1947. I had a very happy childhood.
My misleading surname does not denote my religion. It comes from the nickname earned by an ancestor. Because of his excessive fondness for swimming, he was given the Punjabi name – Ludher – for the animal called ‘otter’ in English. Go and see it in any good zoo. Someone later changed the letter‘d’ into‘t’ and caused all the confusion.
My father used to translate verses from the Quran and slokas from the Geeta, by way of a hobby. Our upbringing was therefore very secular. We were also taught music for a few years.
For people living in north India, and particularly in the Punjab, freedom of India had an ugly face – that of partition. There was rioting, loot and arson, massacre of hundreds of thousand s men, women and children.
We were in Rawalpindi in 1947. It was one of the worst riot-affected districts in the Punjab. Rawalpindi is now the twin city of Islamabad, the swanky capital of Pakistan. I was 15.
It was a miracle that we come out alive from Pakistan on 18 October 1947. Read my story in my article: ‘Sword, Fire and a Book’.
I graduated in Economics with honours and stood first in the university. I was awarded two scholarships. Alongside, I started writing articles for the English daily ‘Tribune’ which gave me Rs. 20 per article but deducted 25 paise for the money order. The postman used to smile and keep the loose change.
After my MA in Political Science, I was selected in IAS in 1955. In the batch of 50 probationers we saw the diversity of India in its fullness for the first time. Before that we did not know that there was no language called ‘Madrasi’ and that there was a language called ‘Telugu’.
After district training in Visakhapatnam, I was posted to Gudur, a division of Nellore district. Shortly after my joining there was unprecedented rain fall for three days and the Swarnamukhi River breached flooding vast stretches of land killing 21 persons.
The government issued a gazette extraordinary notification recording its appreciation of the outstanding flood relief work undertaken by me at grave risk to my life!
In 1959, I was appointed Director of Information and Public Relations to organize the department .That set me on my love affair with the city of Hyderabad.
In 1964 I was awarded a British Council scholarship to do a postgraduate diploma in Industrial management at the Leeds University.
On return from England, I was posted as a deputy secretary on the ministry of Mines and Metals in the government of India. For a year, I worked as Special Assistant to the minister of Steel and Mines, Dr. Marri Channa Reddy.
Coming back to the state in 1972, I worked as director of industry, collector of Hyderabad and Special Officer of the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad successively. Special Officer is appointed when the elected body of the Corporation is superseded and the entire administration is entrusted to one officer. That makes it a very powerful job. Thanks to the support of my minister, Challa Subba Reddy, and the chief minister, Jalgam Vengal Rao, I was able to improve the level of civic amenities significantly.
My work in that capacity and my interest in cultural activities brought me considerable recognition in the city and that has only increased with the passage of time.
I had another stint in Delhi as Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Leather Corporation.
Back in Hyderabad I served in the Labour, Health, and Tourism as Principal Secretary. Part of this tenure was spent under N.T. Rama Rao.
Thereafter I served as Commissioner of Training. I retired as Chief Secretary in 1991.
A Second Career
I was interested in writing ever since my childhood. I kept on writing during my service. Many people playing cards used to ask where I found the time to write. I told them to ask my wife.
When I came to Hyderabad, my Urdu wriritngs got such a reception that I ignored English and ended up writing four books in Urdu. In course of time I won seven awards from different official bodies in the country. Two of my books and some of my articles were translated into Telugu, Oriya and Hindi. Well before my retirement, I was acknowledged as one of the top Urdu humour writers in the country.
My serious turn towards writing in English came about rather accidentally.
A cultural organization called ‘The Golconda Society’, used to hold commemorative annual fair for the founder of Hyderabad, Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah. Once, the governor, Ms. Kumudben Joshi attended it as the chief guest. She suggested that a book should be written about the founder. The director of the Publications Division of the Government of India, Dr. S.S. Shashi was also present there. He approached me to take up the job.
The result was the book Prince Poet Lover Builder – Biography of Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah, Founder of Hyderabad in 1991. Alongside, I was also able to finish a pending book in Urdu – a humorous travelogue of the United States. I called it Hawai Columbus. It was later translated into Telugu as Gali Meda Columbus.
In 1990 the government decided to celebrate the fourth centenary celebrations of Hyderabad which was founded in 1591. The committee was chaired by the chief minister, N. Janardhana Reddy. I was appointed vice-chairman. I prepared a project and in order to complete it, I was given an extension of service for one year. However, when everything was ready for what I believed would have one of the best shows ever, the prime minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao cancelled his visit. So, one of my best conceived projects ended in abortion.
However, the historical material collected by me was easily transformed into a story of Hyderabad. It was published by Orient Longman as Memoirs of a City in 1995.
That was the second whip – to shift my gear into English permanently.
I did not accept any job either under the government or the private sector after retirement. I took up some social and cultural causes and did some unsolicited consultancy for international majors for some time.
Currently I am Chairman of the Yudhvir Foundation, and President of the Society to Save Rocks.
However, my full-time job is writing. And I enjoy it.
Now nobody asks me where I find the time to do so. I don’t enjoy that.