Skip to main content

Asrar Jamayee, great humorous Urdu poet, has passed away as pauper in Delhi

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
Hardly anyone had shown at the last rites, journey and burial of Asrar Jamayee (Abrar-ul-Haq) 83, Delhi-based eminent Urdu humorous and satire poet, the last of the series of the greatest mazahiya (humorous) poets, who breathed his last at his friend Mushtaq Alig’s house in Delhi’s Zakir Nagar after a long illness.
Owing to be a bachelor, he had suffered a lot during the last few years of his life. For the last ten years, many times he had fallen sick so badly that it appeared that he won’t survive; however, being stoic and steadfast, each time, he defeated death, but on the morning of April 4, 2020, at 5:15 am, death had the last laugh at the poet who had a penchant of laughing away at the day-to-day foibles and eccentricities of life.
Hailing from Patna, Bihar, for the last quarter of a century, Asrar used to visit me regularly to write for his monthly, “Post Mortem”. Even at 81, he used to walk a lot and carried out all his errands himself as he lived alone. Till he was 80, he was able to recite humorous nazams (poems). His last mushaira was at the World Urdu Conference 2018 by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). He is survived by a younger brother and two nieces, all in Patna.
He was a man of immense self-esteem and would never dine at anyone’s place. Tens of times, he would come to the Javed Nahari Wala hotel, just across the road of my house, and would consume sheermal (sweetened bread) or biryani sitting on the stool of the towel and bedsheet shop just below, but despite my forced reminders, would never come up to have food. That was his lifestyle.
Asrar had a checkered life and was extremely fond of distributing his couplets to one and all. He used to get these typed in Urdu at my place many times through my typist, Tanvir, who never charged him a single penny.
While he had settled at the house offered by advocate Mushtaq, his old age pension of Rs 1,500 was started by the ex-MLA, Asif Mohammed Khan, but when the duration expired sometime in the tenure of the present MLA, Amanatullah Khan, it never got revived, though he met the MLA many times. No relief, except lip-service came to him!
What is very heart-rending is that he was declared dead by the Social Welfare Department of South Delhi of the Delhi government in 2013 that deprived him of his Rs 1,500 per month pension/stipend for the old and aged. After that, he fell on bad days.
Dejected and depressed, he came to me and confided in me the entire proceedings. When he took all the relevant papers to prove his right for the old age pension, the officers there became belligerent. He stated, “I told the officials that I am standing in front of you, what else can be the biggest proof? The officials replied that they knew I am alive, but couldn’t help as the records mentioned me to be dead!”
I got this reported in the major dailies, including “The Hindustan Times” and “The Hindu”, and a couple of TV channels, but nothing moved and he remained a pauper. Since then he had requested to the two Delhi governments headed by late Sheila Dikshit and Arvind Kejriwal, but nothing had been done except the dilly-dallying that the politicians usually do.
Since then, Jamayee called it a day. However, Jamayee was appreciative of the previous MLA, Asif Mohammed Khan, owing to whose efforts, this pension was restored for him. He was often helped by Mushtaq Alig, Azeem Akhtar, an Urdu columnist, Zaki Tariq, a writer, and Sirajuddin Qureshi, president, India Islamic Cultural Centre. Asrar’s couplet fits in this position well:
“Hamdard ki lazzat baant rahey hein khushion ke paimaney mein
Kitney dukhi insan hein, yeh koi nahin pehchaney he
Mulkon, mulkon, basti, basti shor hamari jurrat ka
Bachcha, bacha, buddha, buddha, tanz hamari janey hei!”

(They are partying all and celebrating with goblets full of happiness
No one knows the trauma and angst of my life’s sadness
O, the bravery and boldness of my poetry is internationally known
What to talk of adults, even the children are aware of my sadistic groan!)
With Firoz Bakht Ahmed
In the room where he lived, in the cupboard, a pile of his recently published book containing his humorous poems lies under a thick layer of dust that he had been trying to sell for his survival. I bought some besides another friend of his, M Afzal, the editor of the “Akhbar-e-Nau” (now closed).
Though Asrar did not leave any will, he confided in Shandar, the son of Mushtaq Alig, that if any monetary assets, the same should be passed to his nieces who he loved and treated as his own daughters. Nevertheless, they did not bother to take him home to look after him. He had no links with his brother who had encroached upon Asrar’s landed assets.
It’s not that Jamayee hadn’t seen good days. He was appreciated and awarded by the first Indian President, Dr Rajendra Prasad
Jamayee sacrificed his life for the uplift of Urdu. As I have known him for a long time as a sincere friend, I helped type and design the poems and his signature type visiting card slips containing sardonic couplets full of sarcasm, pertaining to the present times, like the one on paucity of drinking water:
“Jis desh mein Ganga behti hei
Us desh mein pani bikta hei.”

(Ganga flows on the Indian land
Ironically, potable water, here is sold)
It is a matter of serious concern that big Urdu platforms like the NCPUL, Urdu Academy, Ghalib Academy and the highly circulated Urdu newspapers like "Inquilab", "Rashtriya Sahara", "Hamara Samaj", "Hindustan Express", "In Dinon", besides others, all Delhi-based, did nothing to uplift about the pathetic state of life of Jamayee. Only lip service was offered, no concrete help.
It’s not that Jamayee, a worthy son of Patna, hadn’t seen good days. While he was still young, he had been appreciated and awarded by the first Indian President, Dr Rajendra Prasad, who Asrar called “Babuji” out of fondness for him. Besides, owing to his comical poetry, he had also been the guest of APJ Abdul Kalam, Rajiv Gandhi, and Karpoori Thakur, former Bihar chief minister, besides others, all connoisseurs of his comical satire.
While Asrar was past his prime some eight years ago, nobody was concerned. Pointing at his shervanis, once Jamayee told me, “Gone are the days when these used to travel to Dubai, Kuwait and Europe.”
Though born in Patna in 1937 as Abrar-ul-Haq, his father, Syed Wali-ul-Haq, was a student of the eminent Khilafat movement leader and companion of Gandhi, Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar, besides being a zamindar (landowner).
Jamayee was lucky to come to Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia under the tutelage of Dr Zakir Hussain, ex-President of India and a celebrated Urdu scholar, who, witnessing his multi-pronged calibre, asked him to pursue his engineering at Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and side by side also carry on with his passion for humorous poetry. It was at this time that he added the moniker “Jamayee” in his name and started reciting his poetry publicly that ensued a huge response.
Half way through his engineering course, Asrar got the sad news of his father’s demise and returned to Patna, where he started an institute for coaching young aspirants for medicine and engineering. His graduation was in engineering, yet his cup of tea was Urdu poetry at which he had excelled more than he might have by erecting malls or markets! In the meanwhile, because property disputes and discord in the family, he suffered immensely and even lost his mother.
Asrar's couplets in Hindi
Owing to all this mess, he could not get married. Of course, he is wed-locked to his poetry, his first and last love! His younger brother, Iqbal Yousuf, is not on good terms with him as he has been under the influence of some detractors of Asrar. His is a common family property dispute story where he is the sufferer.
Again, Jamayee came back to Delhi only to see his room being occupied by some land sharks, who he could not fight. More than the room, he lamented the loss of his lap top, books, published pieces, original compilations of poetry that were all destroyed in his absence. He suffered this unsurpassable loss of his huge literary record and collection and still is not out of it.
Long time ago Jamayee deserved an award like the Padma Shri or the Urdu Academy Award but was denied each time as these were rendered to people who could manage political lobbying. Recently during the previous winter, while Jamayee fell sick and was not seen outside, many thought what the pension officers had thought about him — that he was no more. That’s why, the poet wrote in “Tanzparey”, his latest humorous book:
“Shayar, adeeb aap se jaltey hein kis liye
Poochha to boley Jamayee, mukhlis hein sab merey
Jaisey ke ek chiragh se jaltey hein kuchh chiragh
Shayar, adeeb mujh se bhi jaltey hein is liye!”

(Poets and writers are most envious of me
Know you all that I am a well wisher of thee
Aghast at my exceptional talent of poetry
That I might walk away with an award, they are scary!”
Nevertheless, Jamayee published four books on humour-cum-satirical Urdu genre that is unique to him in the comity of Urdu’s comical poetry besides some booklets on Indian history.
He has written on topics like “Delhi” and “Ram Darshan”. He also used to publish an entertaining Urdu fortnightly, “Post Mortem” that contained caricatures of the who’s who when he was able to save from his mushaira earnings, but at the fag end of his life, he has almost turned into a pauper.
As he kept on falling sick even fell quite a few times in the house, he had become absolutely frail and nobody from his family was there to take care of him except a distant relative of Mushtaq Alig, that is, Faizan and his sons, Shandar and Tajdar. Asrar Jamayee also wanted an accommodation in one of the old age homes in Delhi but could not do so as he could not afford the high rent there.
Besides, he was refused by some of these old age homes for any concession. Usually the rent of the old age home us paid by the son or the daughter of the person and Asrar had none. His absence from the fabric of humorous Urdu poetry will be badly felt by the connoisseurs of his poetry -- myself at the forefront in this regard! Very truly in his own words:
“Samjhoge usey kaisey, jo Asrar he Haq ka
Asrar ka Asrar faqat naam nahin hei!”

(It’s not easy to understand the righteousness in his name/
Eternal is the secret of the truth of Asrar’s fame)
---
*Chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad; grandnephew, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Cyrus Mistry, PM Modi’s brother: What do these accidents have in common? Merc!

By Rosamma Thomas*  In September 2022, in an accident at Palghar near Mumbai, Cyrus Mistry, former chairman of the Tata Group, died in a road accident . On December 28, 2022, a road accident in Mysore left one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brothers injured. What is common in these accidents? The car that crashed into the divider on the road, in both these cases, was manufactured by “prestigious” German manufacturer Mercedes Benz. One former dealer of Mercedes Benz cars in India has been raising issues of the threat to the lives of those riding these cars for many years now. Cama Motors, among the oldest dealers of foreign cars, having started business in pre-independence India, noted over 10 years ago that Mercedes Benz was indulging in corrupt practices . The cars are currently priced between Rs 41 lakh and Rs 2.92 crore in India; few people realize that the pride of owning a Merc comes at considerable risk to life. Cama Motors carefully documented several of the flaws on a websi

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen