Hyderabad: Passion and profession are sometimes seen as mutually exclusive facets of life. Pursuing one of those means sacrificing the other. Not for Asifuddin Khan, a banking professional who moonlights as a poet and photographer. Be it Hyderabad, Jeddah, or Chicago, work and play have gone hand in hand for him.
That too, even with two kids.
Despite transplanting himself onto American soil, Khan remains a true son of the soil. In an accent ridden with American twang, he stresses “It is important to say I am from Kachiguda because when people move from here to another country, they say they are from Banjara Hills.”
“My grandfather Rashiduddin Khan was a tutor to the Nizam’s two sons Azam Jah and Moazzam Jah,” he adds. The royal resident of King Koti was a stone’s throw from his old stomping grounds of Kachiguda where he grew up. Even after the episode of that was Hyderabad’s accession to India — deemed Police Action — he remembers the days he used to see Alaa-Hazrat (His Exalted Highness) he emerged from the palace in all his grandeur.
Oil and water painting was Khan’s hobby. This was the artistic gene at play as only someone endowed with finesse, precision and form could teach Nizam VII’s kids Persian and calligraphy.
During his All-Saints High School days he got to interact with Mukarram Jah. Although, the desire to migrate to the land of opportunity was always there. He got admitted into a university at Illinois but the Consulate in Madras was a temporary bump on the road that eventually lead to the US.
The stepping stone to the United States then came during his time as an expatriate in Saudi Arabia. However, his painting pastime fell by the wayside there.
His brother then sponsored his immigrant visa to the US where he initially dabbled in the import of cotton jackets for a year. One fine day though, he saw an ad for a job as a bank teller in the Chicago Tribune which he eventually got. Climbing the banking ladder, he built a successful career for himself at renowned organizations like JP Morgan Chase. Now he works for PNC Bank.
In lieu of his first love painting, photography and poetry became his new passions. His verses reflect the depths of love that his native tongue Urdu exudes. “I love taking pictures of fog and leaves. That too, on manual and not auto.” Looking at his photos, the rain drops blend within the backdrops of his photos quite nicely. Normally one considers fog a dampener within any landscape, however Khan’s finesse as a lens man shine in that the fog enriches his subject.
Not only are his photos showcased on various websites but also in prestigious publications like the Washington DC-based Smithsonian Magazine. Plus, he has also been to Dubai and Muscat to capture more images for his portfolio.
This professional approach and repertoire is one that he developed mostly on his own without any formal training.
Although living in the US, he nor his kids have forgotten their roots. Khan states, “Indian and/or Muslim kids lead double lives. The pressure to assimilate by learning the language and culture of your adopted country like America is great especially with subcontinent culture being seen as inferior to that of America’s.”
His used to visit Hyderabad with his family once every two years but then his kids. Although this visit is one he has made after a decade.
Yet Urdu was the prime means of communications at home and a Maulvi Sahaab used to come and teach his kids Urdu. However, even though 9/11 spelled some trouble for Muslim Americans with prejudices against them manifesting themselves in the form of hate crimes, his Jewish-American friends couldn’t have been more supportive.
“A Jewish client of mine told me ‘Asif, if someone bothers you or threatens you. Call me first not the police.’ ”
Clearly, history has repeated itself as even after Police Action which saw communal violence erupt in the erstwhile Princely State of Hyderabad. Renowned city merchants such as jeweler Bhagwan Das remained friends through thick and thin in the same vein despite the trauma of Police Action.
Regardless of wherever he is across the world, his ability to stay true to his roots, calling and ability to nurture friendships within different communities remains unfettered.