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

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

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.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

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.

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).