Mujtaba Hussain, a legendary Urdu satire and humour writer, passed away at his residence in Sun City, Hyderabad, on Wednesday, 27 May 2020, aged 84. A prolific writer who wrote columns, travelogues and essays which became highly popular, he had been ailing for a few years.
Mujtaba Hussain was a man who was always a pleasure to meet and converse with. He befriended all whom he met and won them over by his extremely pleasing personality. He had a pleasant way of conveying his feelings, a trait which helped him become a highly respected and admired litterateur.
Having started his career in 1956 as a sub-editor of a daily news paper ‘Siasat’ of Hyderabad, he started writing satirical and humorous columns in 1962.
He perfected the craft of humour writing during a long journey of nearly six decades. He was the youngest of three brothers born to Maulvi Ahmed Hussain in Chincholi, a small village near Gulbarga which later became part of the state of Karnataka on its formation. The eldest brother, Mahboob Hussain Jigar, was the co-founder and joint editor of ‘Siasat’, an Urdu daily of repute. Ibrahim Jalees, the other brother, an accomplished and popular humour and satire writer in his own right, had migrated to Pakistan.
A regular column “Sheesha wa Tesha” used to be written for ‘Siasat’, by Shahid Siddiqui who was a journalist and poet. On his sudden death Mujtaba’s elder brother Mahboob Hussain Jigar asked Mujtaba to write the column in place of Shahid Siddiqui. Mujtaba at first chose to write the column under a pen name ‘Koh Paima’ but later as the column became very popular and sought after Mujtaba started writing it under his own name. On the success of the column owing to the likeable style in which it was being written, Mujtaba was encouraged to extend his abilites to higher literary pursuits. Thus the Urdu literary world was enriched with creations which are now treated as a treasure.
Even though humour writing is generally regarded as lesser literature it needs a special talent and expertise. A satirist and humourist can bring instant laughter by his wit in words. He has the knack of describing and relating an incident with sarcasm and sometimes ridicule, to not only amuse the reader but bring home a ponderable and serious point and at the same time, draw attention to a weakness or shortcoming in the society. With clever play of words and use of parody Mujtaba Hussain brought smiles and laughter to millions of his fans and admirers spanning a vast number of countries where Urdu is spoken and taught.
Urdu, a language which developed in the land of Punjab around the 12th century evolved in India when Persian and Arabic languages mixed with the regional language, to faciitate communication between the local inhabitants and Persian,Turkish, Arabic, traders and invaders. The Moghuls who were Persian speakers during their long rule established the influence of their language on the local language spoken around Delhi and other parts of North India. Punjabi, Hindi and Braj Bhasha provided the base and common grammar. Urdu travelled from the north to the Deccan and then to other centers. Now spoken read and written not only all over the Indian Sub-Continent Urdu is taught and studied as far as Europe,China, Japan, Middle East and many more parts of the world.
Mujtaba Hussain lived for a large part of his life in Hyderabad where Urdu was very prevalent and entrenched in its culture. He thus had a very appropriate environment to carry on his literary work.
Mujtaba Hussain can be counted at par with many other writers who excelled in the field of satire and humour. In fact he was one of the best in the art. Urdu produced many such writers, like Mustafa Yusufi, Pitras Bukhari, Shauqat Thanvi, Shafiq Ur Rehman, Fikr Taunsvi, Kanahiya Lal Kapoor and many others.
Mujtaba Hussain not only served Urdu literature with his outstanding writings, he also worked towards propagation and progress of his art. In 1966 he was instrumental in arranging a successful conference presided over by the well known writer Makhdoom Mohiuddin and inaugurated by legendary Krishan Chander. The conference dealt exclusively with the subject of ‘Tanz o Mizah’ meaning ‘Satire and Humour’. This conference was only one among many others held on the same art, in which Mujtaba Hussain was a key figure.
He was of the belief that in spite of a world class collection of satirical and humorous Urdu literature available with our present generation, very few are showing passionate and strong interest in this art. This he thought is happening not only with one but almost all languages. People are unable to devote time for achieving command over languages. A mastery over language and a strong stamina is needed to create literature. Engrossment in the fast moving technological advancements does not leave time and energy to produce high class literatue. Speed of life is taking the toll.
Mujtaba Hussain devoted his life, energy and passion to Urdu literature. His memory will remain forever for those who will take the time to read and savour his creations.
Aazim Kohli writer, poet , ex-member, Sahitya Akademi, Urdu advisory board