“Librarians have always been among the most thoughtful and helpful people. They are teachers without a classroom.”

Willard Scott

These days when reading the habit is dying down and people are losing interest in reading, libraries are also on the verge of becoming defunct. Amid such trying circumstances, here is a person who has neither been a teacher nor a librarian, but is facilitating and encouraging the reading habit. Son of a tailor in Bhopal, Mohammad Khalid Abidi has taken on the onerous responsibility of maintaining a library of over 7000 books.

Ironically Khalid was a weak student in his school days. His father tried to groom him in the art of tailoring, but of no anvil. Finding him good for nothing his father got so fed up with Khalid that he told him to die, as he was a burden on this earth. Obeying his father’s command, he went to the railway track and waited for the train to come, for committing suicide. As luck would have it, one of his father’s friends saw him and brought him home.

Home library bhopal

Khalid had an interest in reading newspapers, film magazines and was passionate about watching movies repeatedly. The turning point in his life came when he read self-help books by Swet Martin. He was impressed by reading about people who with their scant resources struggled against all odds and achieved greatness. He also aspired to do something big in life, but had no one to guide him.

Khalid failed in Higher Secondary examination repeatedly for five years. In fact Science subjects proved to be his Waterloo. When someone gave him the sane advice to switch over to Arts stream he passed in the second division and that too in the first attempt.

Urdu remained his favorite subject. He tried his hand at writing Urdu plays. His first play “lottery” was appreciated by the drama producer of All India Radio Bhopal. In 1969 he wrote a Humorous Series by which he earned Rs 90.

Bitten by the love bug, Khalid was keen to get married to a girl in his neighborhood. The father of the girl helped him to get the job of a clerk in the Electricity Board. His desire to enhance his qualifications played on his mind even after marriage. However he could complete his graduation after a staggering six years period. Surprisingly he not only passed M.A. (Urdu) in one attempt in the first division, but also secured a position in the merit list. His interest in Radio plays led him to publish a series which earned him Rs 1000.

In 1970 Khalid was selected as a Production Assistant in All India Radio. During the last four decades he has been collecting English, Hindi and Urdu Books for his personal library which he loves to call “Maktba Abidia”. It has a rich collection of books on drama which are referred to by Prof. Mohammad Kazim of Delhi University and other theatre artists from Bhopal.

Abidi is going an extra mile to facilitate the readers.  He has provided an extra distinctive feature to his library which is truly unique. On receiving a phone call he personally goes to deliver books to the readers at reasonable distances, and also collects them in time. His magnanimity can be gauged from the fact that even more than ten books can be issued to one reader at a time. Incredible as it may sound; Abidi is providing all these services free of cost!

Abidi, now 68 years old, along with his library has become an institution-larger than life. Two scholars, Dr. Haridas of Jammu University and Dr. Mumtaj Khan of Barkatullah University Bhopal have been awarded PhD’s on the life and works of Mohammad Khalid Abidi. A book on Abidi titled” Mohammad Khalid “has been authored by Dr. Razia Hamid and Rehbar Jaunpuri. Abidi himself has written 13 books and he is presently working on his memoirs “Arz-e-Hayat”.

Leading a simple life after retirement from All India Radio, Abidi is still sought after by Akashwani for reviewing radio plays, which he enjoys. The   message of his life is loud and clear “even if you are not a trained librarian by profession, your passion can take you far ahead of professionals”. May his tribe increase!

(The above success story is based on the interview of Mohammad Khalid Abidi by Major Pradeep Khare)