Tulamiah 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.”

Tulamiah accepting the award from the President.I took him at his word. A few 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 was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1980. I arranged for his surgery in Vellore, Tamil Nadu. He remained partially paralysed after that, and died in his small ancestral village near Dhaka, Bangladesh. His eldest son Zakir Hussain (yes, named after the President) then continued the family tradition of binding, helped by his brothers Atoar Hossain and Asike Khan, who live in Diamond Harbour, 50 km south of Kolkata.