By: Firoz Bakht Ahmed
Asrar Jamai, 80, eminent humorous Urdu poet, declared dead by the Social Welfare Department of South Delhi in 2013 to deprive him of his Rs 1500 per month pension/stipend for the old and aged, has been on bad days and fighting for survival. His condition is still more pathetic as he is single, has nobody to look after him and lives in a tiny rented single room littered with dust, old and worn out shervanis (overcoats) in one of the Batla House by-lanes. A pile of his newly published book containing his humorous poems, lies under a thick layer of dust that he has been trying to sell for his survival. Since then, he has requested to the Delhi governments (Sheila’s and Kejriwal’s) but nothing has been done.
When he took all the relevant papers to prove his right for the old age pension, the officers there became belligerent. “I told the officials that I am standing in front of you, what else can be the biggest proof? The official replied that he knew that I am alive, but he couldn’t help as the records mentioned him to be dead.” If someone is listening, please do the needful for getting this poet aster his rightful pension. Requests to the Delhi Chief Minister too have not entailed any response.
Jamayee has sacrificed his life for the uplift of Urdu. Till recently, he was invited to the mushairas (poetic gatherings) but now, no one invites him as he is considered too old. As I have known him for almost a quarter of a century as a sincere friend, I also help him type his poems and his signature type visiting card slips containing satirical couplets 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)
Jamayee often drops in at my place on the Main Road in Zakir Nagar from where he buys his daily food from Javed Nahari Wala. So many times, I told him that he could have food at my place but owing to his towering self esteem (which all poets have), he never acquiesces to my request. Even today, while he is able to walk with a lot of difficulty, he distributes these couplets to his acquaintances, especially the ones he likes.
It is a matter of serious concern that the big Urdu platforms like the NCPUL (National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language), Urdu Academy, Ghalib Academy and highly circulated Urdu newspapers like Inquilab, Rashtriya Sahara, Sahafat, Hamara Samaj, Hindustan Express, Jadeed Khabar, Jung Delhi, Mera Watan besides others, all Delhi based who all know about the pathetic state of life of Jamayee don’t bother. In spite of the fact that the author has been speaking about helping this illustrious poet, only lip service is indulged in.
In order that his stipend of Rs 1500 is revived, the author not only referred him to the local MLA, Amanatullah Khan, who can get it done but personally visited his office thrice to speak to him as well as his secretaries but all in vain. Of course whatever is possible for the author, he personally helps Asrar. When Jamayee had gone to the MLA’s office for the pension, he was treated very shoddily and in fact humiliated in public. Another way that he was harassed by the Okhla MLA was that he was given a Jammu and Kashmir Bank cheque bearing one thousand rupees but that never got honoured in spite of Jamayee’s umpteen visits at the said bank.
Since then, he called it a day. However, Jamayee is appreciative of the previous MLA, Asif Mohammed Khan owing to whose efforts, this pension was started for him. He is often helped by Mushtaq Alig, advocate, Azeem Akhtar, an Urdu columnist, Zaki Tariq, a writer and Sirajuddin Qureshi, president, India Islamic Cultural Center. Asrar’s couplet fits in this position well:
“Hamdard ki lazzat bant rahey hein khushion ke paimaney mein/
Kitney dukhi insan hein, yeh koi nahin pehchaney he
Mulkon, mulkon, basti, basti shor hamari jurrat ka/
Bachcha, 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! )
It’s not that Jamayee, a worthy son of Patna, Bihar, hasn’t seen good days. While he was still young, he had been appreciated and awarded by first Indian President, Dr Rajendra Prasad. Besides, owing to his hillarious poetry, he has also been the guest of APJ Abdul Kalam, Indian President, Rajiv Gandhi, the previous Prime Minsiter and Karpoori Thakur, Bihar’s Chief Minister besides others, all connoisseurs of his comical satire. But today, when Asrar is past his prime, nobody is concerned. Pointing at his shervanis, Jamayee says, “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, the ex-President of India and a celebrated Urdu scholar, who, witnessing his multi-pronged caliber, 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. In the meanwhile, because property disputes and discord in the family, he suffered immensely and even lost his mother. 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 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. But presently, as he doesn’t keep well and is all alone to fend for himself, most important is that the Delhi government resumes his pension. 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 writes 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 has published four books on comical poetry besides some booklets on Indian history. He also used to published 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 now he has almost turned into a pauper trying to sell his new book @ Rs 300 but there are hardly any buyers..
As he keeps on falling sick and nobody is there to take care of him, 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 has none. 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)
(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social, educational and religious issues and is the grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad)