From Azad Kashmir to Small Heath

Mahmood Hashmi

Birmingham Archives and Heritage holds a collection of papers of noted Urdu writer and educator Mahmood Hashmi (ref MS 2579).  He was born in a village in Azad Kashmir and was from the 1940s a well-known name on the literary scene, with short stories and articles of literary criticism appearing in reputable journals such as Saqi and Adabi Dunya. He graduated from Punjab University and went on to gain an M.A. and L.L.B. from the University of Aligarh in 1943. In 1950, at the time of independence and partition he wrote a book of reportage, Kashmir Udas Hai, which was very popular in Pakistan, which was reprinted in 1995. He emigrated to England in 1953. He gained a postgraduate certificate in education from Leeds University and became the first black teacher in Birmingham in 1956 at Loxton School, Duddeston, Birmingham. He also turned to journalism and in April 1961, he became the founder editor of the London based ‘Mashriq’ (The East), Britain’s first Urdu language weekly newspaper and also the first South Asian newspaper. The paper was initially financed by Pakistani and Kashmiri factory workers from Birmingham who could see the significant impact it would have on their lives.

When he left the Mashriq in 1972, he returned to Birmingham and set up an Urdu interpreting and translating service, edited a bilingual newspaper (Saltley News) and continued to teach.  In the 1980’s as Urdu began to be introduced into British schools, he moved to Peterborough, where he undertook research into the needs of young pupils interested in learning Urdu in schools and devised teaching methods and materials.   This research resulted in him creating his Qaida (Primer) which was published by Bradford Metropolitan Council, in 1986. An entirely original approach in the teaching of Urdu, the Qaida was highly praised in the Times Educational Supplement.  Since retirement in 1983, he has reviewed bilingual books for the Times Educational Supplement, acted as a language consultant for the BBC School Magazine and as an examiner for the Royal Society of Arts Certificate in the teaching of community languages.  Today he lives in Small Heath, Birmingham, and is regarded as a leading light in the world of Urdu literature and is consulted by writers from across the globe.

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