A Woman Of Substance: The Memoirs Of Begum Khurshid Mirza
By Edited By Compiled By Lubna Kazmi
Pages: 245; Rs 450
Memoirs can be tricky things. They can read like dhobi lists when authors include anecdotes and trivia that wouldn’t interest anyone beyond family and friends. Or swing the other way with musings unescorted to the page by the smells, sights and emotions of a life lived. Khurshid Mirza’s remembrance of times past, lovingly put together by her daughter, is a flip-flop between the two. The remarkable life of the sprightly actress from an elite Muslim family of Aligarh, who took the nom de screen of Renuka Devi for her brief spell in films in the early ’40s in Bombay and Poona before moving to Karachi after Partition and becoming a celebrated TV actress there, can fill a volume by itself. She debuted in Jeevan Parbat
for Bombay Talkies, continued to work for Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in Bhabhi
; was the young Ashok Kumar’s co-star in Naya Sansar
Fascinating though her own life is, you get a memoir within a memoir. Her father, a Hindu by birth and from Kashmir, was fascinated by Islam and drawn to the progressive ideas of Sir Syed Ahmed, founder of Aligarh Muslim University. Thakur Das became Shaikh Abdullah. And with wife Waheed Jahan Begum, founded Aligarh Women’s College.