Muntazir Imam is an Indian journalist who is working with the editorial team of Gulf Today in Sharjah. Prior to joining the newspaper in 2007, he was an assistant editor of Page3 Tabloid in Delhi. He began his journalistic career in the mid-1990s in Bihar and wrote extensively for The Indian Nation, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Telegraph (Kolkata) and many other dailies and periodicals. He has covered numerous events of social, political and cultural importance. On one occasion, the External Service Division of All India Radio also broadcast his story. The Rashtriya Sahara (English Magazine), India Today – Hindi and Mid-Day, New Delhi also carried his stories in the late 1990s.
Muntazir Imam has a master’s degree in English literature from Magadh University, Bodh Gaya. He gained his matriculation from V. M. High School, Gopalganj. His full name is Syed Muntazir Imam Rizvi.
Born and brought up in a remote village of Bihar, Muntazir Imam has observed the vibrancy of the region closely. His rural background exerts a great influence on his way of thinking.
TBE: Can you share with us something about your latest book, “Jaihind made the Cobbler a Novelist”, that isn’t in the blurb? Why was it important for you to write this book?
Muntazir Imam: I am a journalist from Bihar. I was extremely shocked when a news anchor had distorted Lalu Prasad’s name in Munger a few years ago. ‘Jaihind made the Cobbler a Novelist’ sheds a great deal of light on all those prejudiced minds who distort the names of the members of the lowest strata of society to demoralize them. I don’t think any other writer has touched this topic.
Many books have been written on ‘untouchability’ and many might be on some of its vestiges, but there is hardly any book that shows a section of society distorting the names of the downtrodden. I can say that my novel is the only book in the world that has touched this serious social issue, a damaging remnant of ‘untouchability’. And I want to mention that the manuscript of my book had already come into being before the incident of Munger. I want to talk about the theme of my book with the help of this shocking incident. In a few words, I will say that what my novel has touched has not been touched by any other authors.
TBE: Your book deals with a very sensitive subject matter exploring the complexities of a casteism and racism. What made you want to tell this particular story? How did the idea for this book spark?
Muntazir Imam: Many books have been written on casteism and racism or even ‘untouchability’. The story of my novel is quite different. No word in my book will help the readers identify any communities directly. I have used the words ‘upper caste’ and ‘lower caste’ in the events that are taking place at fictitious places.
It is definitely a sensitive subject. But the places where the plots are unfolding are not real. But I believe some of its readers may find its story the story of their villages. This story is the result of the incidents which were common in some villages four decades ago. But from the incident at Munger, one can easily draw a conclusion that there are still some upper-caste people who distort the names of the lower-caste people.
TBE: Why do you think there has been a recent wave of teen books that address these real-life, often intense issues?
Muntazir Imam: Books play an important role in transforming any society. Some books are the voices of the neglected people. My book raises a new voice. That is to say, it is the voice of the lowest strata of society of the Indian subcontinent.
TBE: Aryali, the book’s Twelve-year-old protagonist, born in a predominantly poor cobbler family, and also faces caste-based discrimination. He is constantly struggle for his wishes. Why was it important for him to straddle these two worlds?
Muntazir Imam: At 12, Aryali thinks if he blames his guardians for his failures at 30, he will be considered a stupid person from the age of 12. He knows that he has at least 18 years in his hands to prove that he is not a stupid person.
TBE: Sticking to the story, let’s talk about Aryali. What was the inspiration behind that character? How did you develop his personality and background?
Muntazir Imam: Aryali feels hurt when somebody distorts his name or when he calls someone ‘babu’, the title of respect reserved only for the upper-caste people of his village. His father and grandfather want him to become an expert cobbler like them. He fears that his elder sister may die like the rest of his sisters. This fear also plays an important role in developing his personality.
TBE: Ultimately, what would you like for the readers to take from ‘Jaihind made the Cobbler a Novelist’?
Muntazir Imam: I know that some readers will sure find in the story of ‘Jaihind made the Cobbler a Novelist’ the story of their villages. This book will give the readers many valuable things. If your determination is rich, you are not a poor person at all.
TBE: What were the biggest challenges involved in writing this novel?
Muntazir Imam: I found myself fully immersed in writing only when I had more than three hours in my hands. Mostly on Sundays, I got enough time for this purpose. I am working with the editorial team of Gulf Today in Sharjah.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
Muntazir Imam: Excellent. I love the team of Leadstart Publishing.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Muntazir Imam: Yes. I am writing my next novel ‘NOT BEYOND PATNA’.