Covid takes Fatma R. Zakaria, who interviewed Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher

“I recall how she had once worked diligently on a cover story on Islam for the Illustrated Weekly of India The article created history, and that issue of the magazine became the highest selling ever for the publication”

By Quaid Najmi

Veteran journalist Fatma R. Zakaria, the former Editor of the Sunday Times, Mumbai – who achieved glory by interviewing two of the then most powerful women Prime Ministers on the planet, India’s Indira Gandhi and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher – passed away here on Tuesday due to Covid at a private hospital, a close family friend said.

Fatma R. Zakaria, in her ’80s, was the widow of former Maharashtra Minister and Islamic scholar Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, and had been admitted to a local hospital since the past few days, Aurangabad AIMIM MP Syed Imtiaz Jaleel told IANS.

She is survived by four children – Tasneem Zakaria-Mehta, an art historian, Manzoor Zakaria, Arshad Zakaria who is with a US-based global hedge fund and Fareed Zakaria, the US-based former Editor of Newsweek magazine and ex-Editor at large with Time magazine, and currently hosting the ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ show on CNN TV channel.

“This is shocking and an irreparable loss to the media fraternity. Details of her last rites and other formalities are being finalized in consultation with her family members in view of the stringent Covid restrictions imposed here,” he added.

She joined the Times of India Group in 1970, worked for the Illustrated Weekly of India, and went onto become the Editor of The Sunday Times, the Bombay Times, and later edited the Taj magazine, a prestigious quarterly publication brought out by the Taj Group of Hotels.

Senior journalist and her former colleague at The Times of India Group, S. Balakrishnan described Fatma Zakaria “as an extremely hard-working journalist, meticulous, well-read and scholarly, a team-leader who could carry along an entire array of differing viewpoints, but “an extremely cool-headed person”.

“I recall how she had once worked diligently on a cover story on Islam for the Illustrated Weekly of India The article created history, and that issue of the magazine became the highest selling ever for the publication,”

Her professional highlights included interviews with two of the most powerful women leaders on earth then, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, besides several other renowned Indian and global personalities, which old-timers fondly remember.

According to Jaleel, though hailing from Mumbai, since the past few years, Fatma Zakaria was mostly living in Aurangabad and handling the affairs of the reputed ‘Maulana Azad Education Trust’ (MAET) as the Chairperson, besides several other.

The MAET was founded by the late Dr. Rafiq Zakaria in 1963 – a prominent Congress leader, former state minister and acknowledged as the architect of modern Aurangabad – and runs a chain of prominent educational institutions in the backward Marathwada region of Maharashtra, with branches elsewhere.

Fatma Zakaria carried forward her late husband’s legacy and transformed these academic institutions, brought in foreign educational collaborations, and ultimately made them comparable with the best centres of learning in Asia.

Among the institutes of higher education are regular degree colleges, engineering, pharmacy, medical, catering, journalism, IT and Computers, business management, and other fields, plus schools and a women’s college, for the upliftment of all sections of society, including the minorities.

During her long professional career, Fatma Zakaria was conferred with several honours and awards, including the Padma Shri in 2006, and encouraged hidden talent in many sectors of arts, culture, literature and media.

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