Maulvi Mahbub Alam (1863-1933) - The Founder of "Paisa Akhbar" - Lahore
Maulvi Mahbub Alam was born in1863, at Mauza Barhoki, tehsil Wazirabad, near Gujranwala in rustic Punjab. He had his primary education at a village called Burg Attari near Lahore, where his uncle Ahmed Din was a school teacher. From there he went to Kasur, where his other uncle Mohammaed Din was head-master and a publisher of a monthly magazine called “Kaleed”.
Maulvi Mahbub Alam did exceptionally well at school and graduated to medical college in Lahore. Amongst his distinguished contemporaries were Dr. C C Kelp and Dr. Dilip Singh. Before Mahbub Alam could complete his medical degree, his father died, leaving him, as the eldest son, to look after the family. But Mahbub Alam was too infected by the bug of learning to give upon acquiring knowledge. While he worked to support his family , prepared privately for the munshi and munshi alam examinations. It was a veritable miracle for a private candidate to stand first in the province, but Mahbub Alam achieved this great honourand was awarded a khilat or robe of honour.which used to be given totalented students, along with a scholarship for further studies.
Not long after, Mahbub Alam was given charge of the magazine “Kaleed” by his uncle Mohammed Din, which he transformed into an education-related publication called “Khadam ul Talim”. He started this venture with a capital of Rs 80/. When he moved to Gujranwala in 1888, he began publishing weekly newspaper called “Himmat” the motto of which was “God help those who help themselves”. Almost simultaneously, he began publishing “School Master” but soon realized that what people really needed was an inexpensive daily newspaper, so he transformed “Himmat” ino the famous “Paisa Akhbar”. Mahbub Alam printed only 100 copies of the first issue of Paisa Akhbar and the newspaper was sold by his brother personally at various schools.
Not content with stopping his endeavours at Paisa Akhbar , the infatigable man of letter next published “Zamindar and Baghban” which, once again, was first for the Punjab. In those days, newspapers were of small size and entire columns were taken up with trite subjects like the railways, the pen versus the sword, the changing seasons and such like. Not only did Mahbub Alam enlarge the size of his publication, he set a new standard for every newspaper publisher the then India. He also introduced daring new topics of discussion with plenty of human interest, and those inventions were later followed by all the other papers. Combined with interesting subject matter and the affordable price (the paper cost one paisa only, hence its name) in a short period of time, Paisa Akhbar became very popular throughout India. In 1889, with the paper’s circulation rising, Mahbub Alam moved from Gujranwala to Lahore along with his brother Munshi Abdul Aziz. Since then,Lahore has been the home base of Maulvi Mahbub Alam and his descendents.
The education of women was of great interest to Mahbub Alam and it was towards this that he began publishing a monthly magazine entitled “Sharif Bibian”, another first for the Indian reading public. Later, he devoted the entire issue of Paisa Akhbar to the advancement and education of women, eventually combining several essays from Sharif Bibian and the material publishedin Paisa Akhbar on women into a book dedicated entirely to the progress of females.
As if all his publishing ventures were not enough, Mahbub Alam Next printed a literary magazine called “Intikhab-e-Lajawab”. Together, all those publications ushered in a veritable revolution in the Indian newspaper industry. Never before had newspaper contained anecdotes, innovations, statistics, biographies of famous personalities along with there photographs and other engaging columns. It was this approach which gave Mahbub Alam’s publications their large circulationsand convinced others in the newspaper
The circulation of Paisa Akhbar was so impressive that the postal department allocated a special post office to Mahbub Alam and named it Paisa Akhbar Post Office….
It was for this innovations that Lala Hira Lal Kapur of Punjab Samachar dubbed Mahbub Alam the Benjamin Franklin of the Punjab.
world to follow suit.
It was for all these innovations that Lala Hira Lal Kapur of the Punjab Samachar dubbed Mahbub Alam the Benjamin Franklin of the Punjab. The zenith of Mahbub Alam’s publishing career came in 1895 with the inauguration of an English weekly newspaper “The Sun” which was in print for two years before it was closed down for lack of circulation. It would be true to say that Mahbub Alam was a renaissance man with an interest in politics (he was a member of the Indian National congress for many years before he became (disenchanted), languages (he was conversant with French, Turkish, German and Russian), and he was also a dedicated bibliophile ( his library contained 20,000 books which were later donated to the Punjab Public Library and Punjab University in Lahore). Amidst all of this, he found time to write the occasional poems.
Since change is a constant of life, nothing remains the same for any length of time. It was with a heavy heart that Maulvi Mahbub Alam temporarily, suspended publication of Paisa Akhbar on May 2, 1899. But ever the entrepreneur, in May 1900, he left for Europe to learn everything he could about the art of newspaper and magazine publishing. On his return in December 1900 he brought out his well know book “Safar Nama e Europe”. The then governor of the Punjab awarded him a prize of Rs400/- for authorship of the book..
In 1904, Maulvi Mahbub Alam once again began publishing a daily edition of Paisa Akhbar. This time it was double the size of the original and consisted of eight pages. This became so popular that the publishers of other newspapers also adopted the same pattern.
Many men of letters were journalists under Mahbub Alam’s wing and went to publish their own newspapers. Amongst them were Babu Dina Nath who later went to edit Hindustan, Mirza Ali Hussain (Fatah ul Mubin and the Times), Maulvi Abdul Rauf Bhopali (Zabda tu Hukama0, Munshi Abdullah Minhas (Wakil), Munshi Muhammed Din Khaleeque (Railway & Engineering News), Munshi Amba Parshad, Sufi Muradabadi (Jamia ul Aloom), Maulvi Shujaullah (Millat), and Sagir Akbarabadi.
Before long, the circulation of Paisa Akhbar was so impressive that the postal department allocated a special post office to Mahbub Alam and named it Paisa Akhbar Post Office. By then the newspaper was lodged in its own building New Anarkali, and the area is still known as Paisa Akhbar. Mahbub Alam died aged 70 in 1933 and was followed by three sons and three daughters.
Maulvi Mahbub Alam must surely rank as one of the Punjab’s earliest entrepreneurs.
A contributed article for Lahore City History Mr. Mahbub Hamid (grandson Maulvi Mahbub Alam)