Nikhat Sattar, a company executive from Karachi, nostalgically remembers the children’s Urdu monthly Khilauna from Delhi that enthralled children and adults in the age group of eight to 80 years old in India and Pakistan from 1943 to 1984. Till date, Nikhat preserves the copies of the magazine between 1944 and 1950.
When she received an old copy of 1964 in the mail, she was overjoyed and said, “It is a treasure of my childhood and adolescence. This Khilauna brought back so many memories and reassured me that I am not the only one craving for long lost treasures!” Nikhat has formed a Khilauna Club that brings together lovers of the magazine from India, US, the UK and other countries.
Khilauna lovers comprise of people like 80-year-old Kamal Ahmed Siddiqui, an eminent critic, who spends much of his free time rummaging through raddi shops and roadside booksellers, or Prof Azra Razzack, 50, head, Dalit and Minorities Institute, Jamia Millia Islamia, whose eyes turn wistful at the recollection of the distinctive smell of the magazine. “Right from the feel of those pages to the sheer pleasure of being lost in the story,” Khilauna and Khilauna Book Depot books bring back the joy of their childhood days, say the erstwhile readers.
Lamenting its closure, Amjad Hasnie, 54, a Cincinnati based Pakistani from Karachi, said, “I still remember how impatiently I used to wait for Sofi Sahib Akhbar Wala (newspaper hawker) for hours sitting on the porch to be the first one to set my hands on a new Khilauna, every month. I used to hide in my favorite spot for hours to read it from the first page to the last. I used to get so intensely involved with the stories that I could drift off and become a part of the stories myself, walking in the foot steps of the characters!”
Several old fans of Khilauna, today in their middle or old age, rummage raddi (scrap) shops or old bookshops from Karachi to Delhi and Lahore to Mumbai in search of it.
Aziz Burney, joint editor of the Urdu daily Rashtriya Sahara reads old issues of Khilauna to relieve stress, “You escape back into your childhood, when you didn't have a care in the world.”
What was once a household name in the comity of children’s Urdu monthlies has become a collector’s item post its shut down.
There are some who still hope for its revival, like Shahina Qazi from Gujranawala, Pakistan, who had written to Yunus Dehlvi, the then senior editor of Khilauna, “Trust me in a child's imaginary world, nothing has changed. Not sure if there are enough new readers out there, but I assure you that you will find enough old readers to make this whole project worth your while. I can only speak for myself and I assure you I will buy every issue.”
“The craze for Khilauna is keener among the older bunch,” Shahid-ur-Rehman, owner of Kutb Khana-e-Rahimiya at Urdu Bazaar, said, adding smugly that the old magazines always sold ‘at a premium’.
Khilauna, a collection of Urdu culture and heritage, had carved its niche through stories, poems, cartoons, comic strips like — Nanhi Munni Kahaniyan (a column for young writers), Hamara Akhbar (newspaper clippings), Suraj Ka Bahadur Beta Shamsi (serial pictorial story), Muskurahatein (jokes), Hamarey Naam (letters from readers), Batao To Bhala (Readers), and much more. Ilyas Dehlvi, the editor, had titled the editorial page Apni Batein.
Renowned Urdu poets and writers of the time like — Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Hafeez Jalandhari, Hasrat Jaipuri, Qateel Shifai, Ismat Chughtai, Salam Machhli Shehri, Razia Sajjad Zaheer, Krishan Chander, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Balwant Singh, Kanhaiya Lal Kapoor, Ram Pal, Sahir Ludhianavi, Ram Lal, Siraj Anwar, Basheshar Pradeep, Shafiuddin Naiyar, Kaif Ahmed Siddiqui, Dr Kewal Dhir, KP Saxena, Azhar Afsar, Prakash Pandit, Aadil Rasheed, MM Rajinder, Jilani Bano, Naresh Kumar Shad, Abrar Mohsin, Masooda Hayat, Ishrat Rehmani, Abrar Mohsin, Khaliq Anjum Ashrafi — besides many others used to be household names.
The Khilauna Book Depot brought out little bubbly storybooks for kids that were so popular that children used to register for them in advance at street libraries for ek anna (six paise) and later 10 paise per day. This was when there were Urdu book libraries everywhere in Shahjahanabad. Some of these titles were: Chand Shehzadi, Gauhar Pari, Mano ke karnamey and Ghasita ki Bhutnashahi.
The Shama-Sushma publishing group led by Yusuf Dehlvi and his three sons — Yunus, Ilyas and Idrees — brought out Khilauna.
The magazine was priced at only 50 paise, which rose to 62 paise in the late 1960s and then increased to 75 paise in the 1980s.
The artists' team was headed by the Siddiqui Artist, known to be the best children's books illustrator along with Jagdish Pankaj, Zia Faizi and Ghayasuddin.