The fans of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi have been savouring his four celebrated books for the past 24 years, enjoying every page and taking delight in each sentence. The iconic nonagenarian humour writer has now come up with a fifth book to add to ‘Ahd-e-Yousufi’ [the Yousufi era].
The launch of his book, Shaame-e-Shair-eYaaran, was the bang that started the seventh International Urdu Conference on Thursday evening. The ceremonial launch of the author’s book will help remember the conference in Urdu literary history for hosting the one-of-a-kind event of Ahd-e-Yousufi that stretches back 53 years when the author published his first book ‘Charagh Talay’ in 1961.
For the first time in his life, Yousufi, who is now 96 years old, had allowed to hold a launch ceremony for any of his works, which also include Khakam Badahan (1969), Zarguzasht (1976) and Aab-e-Gum (1990). Expectedly, the lawns of the Arts Council of Pakistan were jam-packed with his exuberant admirers who gave a standing ovation as the ceremony, presided over by poet Zehra Nigah, started.
The writer, who, in Nigah’s words, makes his readers’ eyes twinkle and their faces glow when they go through his writings, sat silent owing to his ill-health at the ceremony, save his eyes that spoke of immense gratification for all the love and respect that he received. “Neither Yousufi sahib, nor any of his books will ever get old,” she said. “They are timeless because they will continue to make their readers feel happy.”
Nigah’s brother, celebrated satirist Anwar Maqsood, commented in his peculiar way that every person who knows Yousufi is fortunate than the author himself. “Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi is living in the era of Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz but we are living in the era of Yousufi.”
While writing, asserted Nigah, the humorist had to be watchful not to criss-cross the fine line between quality humour and jesting, and Yousufi had always been cautious about his craftsmanship and diction.
Poet Iftikhar Arif said he has never come across a writer so meticulous about the usage and application of words as Yousufi. “His works are not only the epitome of Urdu literary humour, but his books are the representation of Urdu literature’s optimum that a very few writers have produced.”
Talking about Yousufi’s fifth work, poet Fatima Hassan said that the book offers a glimpse into the writer’s childhood, which had never been discussed in his writings before. “Though people consider ‘Zarguzasht’ as Yousufi’s biography but it holds his memoirs of the time when he was embarking on his career as a banker.” The book, she added, was a selection of 21 unpublished essays that the writer had penned down at various stages in his life.
What took the book-launch ceremony to a fitting conclusion was Zia Mohyeddin impeccable recital of one of the Yousufi’s essays on how the Urdu theatre was being managed by the Parsis in Pakistan post-Partition. The unification of Yousufi’s prose with recital maestro’s voice had compelled the audience to burst out in feral laughter.
Earlier on Thursday, the seventh International Urdu Conference kicked off at the Arts Council of Pakistan, with a session presided over by celebrated writer Intizar Hussain. Literary luminaries from Pakistan, India and other countries are spending the next few days discussing the state of Urdu language in the contemporary world.
“There is no line of control between the relations knitted together with art and literature,” said Dr Huma Mir, referring to the diverse scholars on stage.
The conference has become a point of reference for Urdu language and literature over the past seven years, pointed out Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, poet and Ziauddin University vice-chancellor.
“The international pop culture has forced the society to forsake its priorities to the point that art, literature and language have lost the significance in our everyday lives,” he said. “If this trend continues, we would see a rapid decline in intellectual pursuits. Our writers and thinkers need to guard the society from this ongoing change.” Dr Qazi Afzaal Hussain, professor of Urdu at the Aligarh University in India, said that the situation in terms of good quality writers was even less encouraging in India as compared to Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.