Zaheeruddin Ali Khan: A journalist and philanthropist in boundless relationship

Hyderabad: A journalist. A Telangana protagonist. A regular figure at protest meetings. A pensive figure at conferences. A concerned citizen whose heart beats for the poor. A secularist to the core. A force to reckon with. Sure.

That gives a word picture of Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, former Managing Editor, The Siasat. In his 62 years, he was more than just a friendly, smiling face. He epitomised the essence of selflessness and compassion. He touched many lives, particularly of Muslim boys and girls, struggling for quality education. In his later years he took on the mighty Wakf mafia and showed by example what protection and conservation really means. Quiet, firm, and unrelenting. His passing away has brought the curtains down on a multifaceted career.

As I sit down to pen a few words about my friend of 30 years, I am at a loss for words. Zaheer Bhai, as he was affectionately called, was so talented and versatile that it is impossible to describe all his traits. But suffice it is to concentrate on just one aspect: his love and care for the well-being of the community. More than a journalist he was a social worker – a true humanitarian. He espoused causes that are not essentially part of a newspaper job. He went the extra mile to help people, especially during times of strife. Zaheer sab was there to lend a hand, be it the Gujarat massacre, the Mumbai riots, or the Bihar floods. He raised money through the Siasat Millat Fund and mobilised resources to help the affected. He was always at the forefront, ready to ease pain and suffering. This compassionate trait earned him a special place in the hearts of people. His innate sense of empathy touched countless lives and brought a ray of hope to despairing souls.

MS Education Academy

Zaheer Sab’s philanthropy was not limited to just emergency situations. He was always ready to support the needy and destitute. People made a beeline to his office for all sorts of things. Some would come to him seeking a job, some for educational support, and few others for help in corrections to Aadhaar cards and things like that. He lent an ear to everyone patiently and did the best he could.

For him, education was the master key to success. He believed it to be the best investment one could make. And all through his life, he tried to open the doors of opportunities through education to the poor and underprivileged. Women empowerment was a cause dear to his heart. Realising the difficulty the community faced in marrying girls in view of rising dowry demand, Zaheer bhai came up with the idea of ‘Do-ba-do’ (face-to-face) programme. This unique programme helped many families find a suitable match for their daughters without having to run around.

Though I knew Zaheer bhai for a long time, I drew close to him after my retirement from The Hindu newspaper. He wanted me to write for, a news portal set up by him. After initial hesitation, I agreed. He interacted with me on a day-to-day basis discussing story ideas. Like many others, I was touched by his boundless energy and infectious smile. I met him at a book release programme at the P.S. Telugu University on Saturday evening. We chatted together. But I never knew that it would be our last meeting.

The love and respect commanded by Zaheer bhai was evident from the huge turnout of people at his funeral prayers at the Shahi Masjid on Tuesday morning. Rest in peace Zaheer bhai. Your efforts to transform lives will continue to have a ripple effect.

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