The principal of Jahangiria School Bhopal, Affak Hussain, used to stay in his own house located behind the Masjid Madar Domini (located at Ibrahimpura, ahead of the Madina hotel). His son Anas Hashmi asked his friend to shift to the outer room of this house, after consulting his father Affak Hussain. However this room did not have a bathroom. The back door of the masjid used to open in front of this house. This Hindu boy used to enter the masjid, wash his clothes in the bathroom and take a bath. The namazis of the masjid knew of this.
However once the moazzin (the person who gives the holy call of aazan) came to know of this activity of a Hindu boy, he took great offence. He started objecting vociferously that a Hindu boy using the masjid bathroom. Soon people of the neighbourhood, including Affak Hussain, gathered around the place. On being asked about the cause of commotion, the moazzin went on to narrate the incidence, complaining that other muslims of the locality also wanted to use the bathroom, causing shortage of water to the namazis. Much to the surprise of the moazzin, people mostly supported the Hindu boy, deciding that if the boy is using the bathroom that should not be a cause of worry. As far as restricting other muslims from using the masjid apart from the time of namaz is concerned, a lock was put in the bathroom and the keys were shared by the moazzin and by this Hindu boy, Devi Saran.
This incidence is an example of the non-partisan Bhopal of yesteryears, which is carried around by torch bearers like Devi Saran.
Devi Saran was born on 15th June 1929 at a Bhopal suburb village called Gaur Zhamar. He completed his initial schooling from Government middle school Raisen. According to Devi Saran ji, there were no colleges in Bhopal state (comprising of present day Raisen and Sehore districts) at that time. When asked by Nehru whether they had any college in Bhopal, Hamidullah Khan (ruler of Bhopal state) confirmed that they do. Minto Hall, built as the guest house for state visitors to adjoining Lal kothi (residence of the British representative), was overnight converted into a college. Devi Saran grabbed the opportunity and took admission in the college for B. Com.
There was struggle for survival in those comparatively quieter days of Bhopal. Being from poor family background, Devi Saran had to work while staying at Bhopal. He started working in an Urdu newspaper called “Hamara Bhopal”. In the year 1946, fees of the college was increased from Rs 10/- per month to Rs 26/-. The poor students were agitated and tried to reach Hamidullah Khan through his A.D.C. Massuk Ali and Fathe Ali, to no avail. One day, the students came to know of Hamidullah Khan’s visit to Chiklod. They decided to try their luck and talk to him when he crosses the Habibganj railway crossing. After a long wait, finally vehicle of the nawab arrived blowing a cloud of red soil. By chance the railway crossing was closed for a train and the vehicle had to stop. Devi Saran offered his salam to the nawab and requested him to rollback the increased fee. The crossing gates were opened by then, and the vehicle of nawab moved on. The students were heartbroken, as they could not get any response from the nawab. However on reaching the college the next day, they were glad to note that the fees hike had been rolled back and the fees will remain Rs 10/-.
More exiting days followed soon, as India gained independence. During Bhopal merger movement of 1947, when Bhopal did not join the newly independent India, Devi Saran was actively participating as Urdu journalist. He remembers with pride the leadership of eminent luminaries of the Bhopal movement like Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, Sakir Ali Khan sahib, Maulana Tarji Masriki, Chaturnarayan Malviya, Dr. Lal Singh, Kamta Babu in the initial phase. These people were followed by others like Akshay Kumar Jain of news paper “Nai Raah”, Mathura babu, Comrade Balkrishna Gupta. Meanwhile learned and resourceful people like Johar Qureshi, Ishtiaq Arif, Comrade Qamil were associated with “Arjuman” – an Urdu news paper. Eminent personalities like Fazal Tabish, Manjur Ehtisham, Alakh Nandan, Satyenkumar, Izlal Majid, Affaq sahib and Manohar Verma conducted seminars, conversations and get-together. In those days of Bhopal, renowned shayars like Majruh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Samim Jaipuri were personal friends of Devi Saran ji, while people like Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Madan Babu Taparia (of liberty shop), Attu bhai, Harru miyan and Fazal Tabish were all close associates.
Devi Saran completed his M.A. from Kanpur. After completing his education he joined the administrative services as nayab tehsildar in 1953 at Berasia due to family pressure and economic unstability. Subsequently he served as tehsildar of Goharganj in 1962, Deputy Collector of Sajapur,Ujjain, Indore in 1968, A.D.M. Indore in 1977 and Commisioner, Bhopal Municipal Corporation in 1982. He retired from government services as CEO, Bhopal Development Authority in 1988.
Devi Saran claims that he was the person who actually made Javed Akhtar recite for the first time in public. Javed Akhtar used to write wonderful shayaris, but was a shy and hesitant person, who thought he would never be able to recite in public. Devi Saran appreciated and finally cajoled him into a mushaira. During his entire tenure of Public service he has organised many big cultural events. When in Sajapur, Ujjain and Indore he organised the Tepa festival with Prabhat Bhattacharya, Rath Sahib and Ashok Waqt. Kaifi Azmi, Khumar Barabanki, Darab Bano Wafa, all performed at Indore during his tenure there as ADM.
Devi Saran’s wit and humor, evident in speeches at cultural events led Late Rajendra Mathur to approach him for articles in “Nai Duniya”. He wrote many articles for “Nai Duniya” in the column titled “Adhbeech”. Mahesh ji Srivastava published him in “Danik Bhaskar” in a column titled “aah aur wah”. He has also written by the name of “desh shree” in Raag Darbari. Proficient in the languages of Urdu, Persian, English and Hindi, he has written predominantly in Urdu. A collection of his news paper articles was collected and published by the name “Tum dal dal, mein pat pat”, the second edition of which was published by 1984 by Pahle Pahal Prakashan. In 2015 another of his book named “Yarane Meherban” was published. This book is in Urdu about Devi Saranji’s eminent friends.
On personal front, he was married to Hira Devi in 1955. Sadly Hira Devi left for her heavenly abode on 2011. Devi Saran ji’s eldest son Sanjeev Saran has settled in Mumbai and runs his own export-import firm, Sandep Saran works in Bhopal while daughter Sachita Verma is the Principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya at Oman.Devi Saranji, the living legend of Bhopal, resides at Professor Colony, Civil Lines Bhopal (Phone: 0755-2660171)