Mohiuddin Khan – P. Lal

Address: 13/1 Patuabagan Lane, Calcutta. Profession: Bookbinder.

In 1962, I showed him an Alfred Knopf Borzoi hardback, a study of the Mormons by William Mulder, and asked if he could do as fastidious a job of binding for WRITERS WORKSHOP, which had started publishing paperback pamphlet-style poetry chapbooks three years earlier and wanted to burgeon into a more permanent format.

“No dada-babu,” he replied, “this is machine stitched, machine-pressed, machine-embossed binding. We cannot copy this in Calcutta – not so well.”

So I asked, “What can you do?”

“I can do something Ingraj-Sahib cannot do. I can stitch, press, emboss by hand. Fold too. And use Orissa handloomed sari cloth with traditional borders as binding cloth instead of rexine. No need to use glossy jackets to cover cheap mass-produced imitation leather, as Ingraj publishers do.”

I took him at his word. A couple of years later he was present at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi to receive from Dr. Zakir Hussain, the President of India, the Best Binding National Award for William Hull’s Visions of Handy Hopper.

Ten years later he went to Bangladesh to visit his family. He never came back to Patuabagan. He lies buried in a small village near Dhaka. His son Tulamiah then began doing all our binding for us. Tulamiah had a brain tumour in1980. I arranged for his surgery in Vellore in South India. He remained partially paralysed. His eldest son Zakir Hussain (yes, named afterthe President of India) continues the family tradition, helped by his brother Atoar Hossain.