Mujtaba Hussain’s head & heart qualities recounted in Bhopal

Padamshree Prof Hakeem Zill-ur-Rahman of Aligarh, Dr Sheikh Aquil Ahmad, Director of NCPUL and Dr Khalid Mahmood, ex-Head of Urdu Department in Jamia Millia Islamia University seen seated on the dais.

The head and heart qualities of renowned litterateur late Mujtaba Hussain, the king of satire and humour in the Urdu world, was recounted in-depth at a national day-long seminar entitled “Mujtaba Hussain and his Works” here the other day.

As papers were presented on late Mujtaba Hussain, a writer par excellence, he came “alive” with many unknown facets of his works and personality being revealed by the learned Urdu luminaries.

The air was thick with the fragrance, charm and sweetness of the Urdu language pervading all around as the assemblage of Urdu lovers, which is fast becoming a rare species with the passage of time, enjoying the occasion to the hilt.

Those who presented papers on the occasion included: Dr Azam Khan, Dr Razia Hamid, Dr Khalida Siddiqui, Dr Mubashrah Raafe Arab and Rasheed Anjum. They focussed on various aspects of his works and personality.

The seminar was presided over by Padamshree Prof Hakeem Zill-ur-Rahman of Aligarh while Dr Sheikh Aquil Ahmad, Director of National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), New Delhi, was the chief guest of the seminar.

Dr Khalid Mahmood, ex-Head of Urdu Department in Jamia Millia Islamia University, Urdu leading lights Dr Razia Hamid, Iqbal Masood, Dr Tariq Zafar, former Vice-Chancellor of Bhoj University; Haji Haroon, president of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, Madhya Pradesh unit, were guests of honour on the occasion. 

The seminar was organised by Bhopal’s Anwar-ul-Uloom (AU) Society in collaboration with the NCPUL at AU Higher Secondary School in Govindpura run by the society.

Enduring appeal

Mujtaba Hussain was known for creating ripples of laughter across the Urdu world with his writings. The enduring appeal of his writings was a tribute to his uncanny sense of humour and the Urdu language itself. A man knows how to cry from birth, but laughter takes some learning. But with Hussain’s ready wit, the job sure became easier. In a bid to tickle the funny bone, Hussain did not compromise on the language either. The simple but literary touch in his works came as a breath of fresh air.

Meanwhile, in his own words, Mujtaba Hussain had once said: “It was not me who chose humour and satire but it was humour which chose me. I still remember the day of 12th August 1962. Shahid Siddiqui (a well know journalist and poet) used to write a regular column for Siasat. It was known as “Sheesha wa Teesha”. Shahid Siddiqui passed away in July 1962.

“On August 12 as soon I reached Siasat office my elder brother Jigar Saheb and Abid Ali Khan saheb (the Editor and owner of the newspaper) called me in and proposed that I should start writing “Sheesha wa Teesha” column. In the morning at 10:30, I started writing my column and finished it before 2 pm.

“I wrote with my pen name ‘Koh Paima’; after a week people began asking who was writing the column. It has freshness, thrill, and was entertaining, they said. I was encouraged by the praise. Thus began writing regularly. The thing which began incidentally became the destination of my life and also the purpose of life. The only identity of my literary journey of 50 years is humour writing.”

‘Mera Column’

At the proposal made by Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, Managing Editor of Siasat, he began writing a regular weekly humour column with the title ‘Mera Column’ (My Column). The column began receiving huge applause from the readers.

Soon Hussain’s name and fame crossed geographical boundaries and he attained global acclamation. He was often described as the Mark Twain of Urdu. In 2007, the government of India presented him the Padmashree award in recognition of his contributions to Urdu literature. He bagged numerous other awards.

This purveyor of wit didn’t believe in sitting on his laurels even after 25 books and 13 awards, including the coveted Padma Shree. He worked tirelessly for his Sunday column in Siasat daily of Hyderabad for over 55 years. But due to old age and ailments, he stopped writing. Thanks to Siasat, now all books of Hussain have been digitalized and can be accessed on his website.

Some years ago when Mujtaba Hussain was felicitated on his long humorous journey, and his website was launched, he simply remarked “Lo aaj hum bhi saheb-e-website ho gaye”, a parody of Akbar Ilahabadi’s line on the birth of lawyer/advocate “Paida hua Vakil to Shaitan ne kaha lo aaj hum bhi sahib e aulad ho gaye…” sending everyone into peals of laughter.

Laughter may be the best medicine but for Mujtaba Hussain, it was the mother tongue of the entire humanity. “You may speak in English, French, Hindi, Telugu or any other language but you laugh the same way,” he said.

Authored about 2 dozen books

Mujtaba Hussain authored nearly two dozen books including Takalluf bar Taraf, Qata-e-Kalam, Qissa-e-Mukhtasar, Baherhal, Admi-nama, Urdu ke Sheher Urdu ke Log, Safar Lakht Lakht and Japan Chalo Japan. University Grants Commission (UGC) has included the Urdu book “Safarnama Japan Chalo” written by him in the syllabus of the National Eligibility Test (NET), which is conducted for the recruitment of lecturers in Urdu. At least 12 PhDs were done on him by different scholars from across India. His works were translated into Oriya, Kannada, Hindi, English, Russian and Japanese languages.

Returned Padmashree award

In protest against the “atmosphere of fear and hatred” created in the country by those in power, Mujtaba Hussain returned the Padmashree award in December 2019. Hussain had said that he was pained over the situation in the country with those in power targeting minorities, especially the Muslims.

He was concerned over the hatred and fear created among the community through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and proposed the National Register of Citizens (NRC). He said he was feeling suffocated and his conscience was pricking him. So he decided to return the award.

Meanwhile, it may be stated here that well-known writer-journalist, late Khushwant Singh, was an unabashed admirer of Hussain and felt he was rare among Indian writers of humour. While Pakistan writer, Syed Arif Hussaini, called Hussain a purveyor of wit and humour. “He excels in his field due to simplicity of his language, racy style and absence of overlapping themes,” he said.

Sure, Hussain’s brand of humour was wholesome and straightforward. He created humour without offending anyone. Borrowed brilliance was not his forte, said Mohammad Ali Siddique, Pakistan’s well-known critic.

“His humour was laced with a bitter truth which only an honest person can perceive,” says his daughter, Rashida Samdani. Those who have read his “Apni Yaad Mein” composition will know. It is a masterpiece of self obituary wherein the author highlighted his own follies while taking pot-shots at life.

Born in Gulbarga

Mujtaba Hussain was born to Moulvi Ahmed Hussain in Chincholi village near Gulbarga, which is known these days as Kalaburagi, on the 15th of July 1936. After completing his elementary education in Gulbarga he moved to Hyderabad and joined Osmania University’s Arts College in 1953. He had a penchant for writing since his college days. He took part in many essay writing competitions and theatre presentations.

He had two elder brothers. Mahboob Hussain Jigar, was the founder joint editor of Siasat Urdu daily. The other brother Ibrahim Jalees was a distinguished journalist and writer who migrated to Pakistan soon after the partition of India.

Meanwhile, at the outset, the programme began with a poem on Urdu which was rendered by Yaqub Malik with a group of A.U. Schoolgirls headed by Khalidah Sultan in a chorus while Firman Ziyayi recited a poem welcoming Dr Sheikh Aquil Ahmad.

A book titled “Fahm-o-Idrak” penned by Dr. (Mrs.) Razia Hamid was also released on the occasion.

An audio CD of late Ashfaq-un-Nabi, master of very funny poetry encompassing Urdu, English and Hindi words, was also released on the occasion. The CD was jointly prepared by Dr Qamar Ali Shah and Syed Liaquat Ali. Qazi Mohammad Iqbal, president of AMU Old Boys’ Association, Bhopal, rendered some amusing lines of Ashfaq-un-Nabi’s unique poetic content.

Mementos were presented to all the guests by Kalim Akhtar on behalf of AU Society on the occasion.


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