Passing away of quintessential Sarwat Hussain, from Osmania to the World Bank

M Somasekhar

Mr. Mulugu, How are you? Kya baat hai? It’s so good to meet you.

And quickly in his high pitched, American accent, he would share an experience or two.

This is how Sarwat Hussain used to greet, wherever and whenever we met. Be it at the ICRISAT, the Osmania University Campus, in New Delhi or even over the phone.

It would then be followed by updates about each other’s lives and resolve to meet soon.

Hussain, a Commerce Graduate, did his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Communication and Journalism from the Osmania University Department of Communication and Journalism in 1987 and 1989 respectively. He began his career with the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheruvu in the early 1980s.

He passed away in Washington due to Cancer.

Sarwat achieved many things very quickly, from ICRISAT to the World Bank; from Osmania University Journalism to University of Austin University and from helping people to instituting an endowment at the Osmania University in memory of his parents as recently as November, 2021.

I will be missing that voice of concern and encouragement as it sadly fell permanently silent on December 13. I was shocked to read the sad news on the FB wall of my good friend Sumanth Paranje this morning. Could not believe it! Was looking forward to meeting Vidya and Sarwat soon.

Sarwat always thought I should be doing bigger things. At every opportunity, he would try to nudge me. As recently as September 2019, he called me from Washington in the US on WhatsApp and said ‘You should be in the US bhai. Let’s explore some Niemann or other Fellowship.

Accidental encounters
More than the planned meetings, the accidental encounters with Sarwat have remained etched in my memory. Starting from the day we met near the, architecturally beautiful, Arts College building in the OU campus in his Vintage, modified car, with an open top. It attracted lot of attention those days as I got a ride around. Then, one Friday afternoon, a few years ago, I ran into him right in our lane in Begumpet. He had come to offer prayers at the famous, 100 year old mosque, called the ‘Green Mosque’, for its green topped minarets. It’s a Spanish architect design mosque.

One of the more memorable meetings was on a New Year eve party in my good friends —Sarada and Jayaram’s home in the AWHO, Secunderabad, around 1990-91. As the party started warming up with our friend circle from the Press Club, in came Vidya and Sarwat. As was typical of Sarwat, he came up with Mr. Mulugu and a warm hug. Thereafter, over spirits and fun, we had interesting discussions on life, love marriages and professional movements. It turned out that they were neighbours of Jayaram, who was then my senior colleague in the PTI.

Post his move from ICRISAT to the Word Bank, Washington in the 1990s, I read that Sarwat was closely working with Ismail Serageldin, the Vice President, World Bank and expert on Agriculture related subjects. I got in touch with him.

Knowing my interest in covering agriculture and development issues, Sarwat ensured that I was part of the media team to interact with the World Bank Vice President during one of his visits to New Delhi in the late 1990s. I served a stint from 1993-2001 for The Hindu BusinessLine in the National capital. During that period Agriculture Ministry, especially the Research area of ICAR and laboratories was my best.

Back in Hyderabad, I distinctly recollect, the lecture by Prof Anantha S Bobbili, Professor  and earlier Provost and VP- Academic of the Texas A&M University and VP- Academic Affairs at  the Press Club, Hyderabad around 2005-6. It was coordinated by Sarwat (with the OU Journalism Dept and Prof Bashiruddin Memorial Committee), who considered Prof Anantha as his mentor in the media. Incidentally, Prof Anantha is also an alumnus of Osmania Journalism Department.

It was a very insightful lecture as Prof Anantha delved on the changing landscape of communications with the bigger role being played by the Internet. He said, “In future, communicators and even ordinary citizens will have access to communicating directly to the world or their friend circle every day through email and other forms.” Perhaps, the role of the Social media was getting larger in the US and Prof Anantha could see the evolution as we now experience and indulge through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn etc.

Always keen to do something for his Alma Mater, Sarwat with the timely push by Karnam Narender, Dean, OU and his classmate, finally instituted the Dean of Social Sciences Gold Medal in the memory of his parents, late Major S M Hussain and Amina Begum. With his wife Vidya, he personally came and completed all the formalities. The first medal will be awarded from 2022 to a student who passes the Master of Communication and Journalism (MCJ) in First Division, in first attempt, securing the highest aggregate marks at the final examination conducted by the Osmania University.

Alas, Sarwat, who was into his early 60’s and the man responsible for the generous deed will not be present.

Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad