Anecdotes of Urdu poets

An anecdote is a short interesting or amusing biographical account, supposed to be based on a real incident involving actual persons, mostly famous ones of whom someone might do like to hear about.

Possibly being as brief as the setting and provocation of a ‘bon mot’ ,
anecdotes are sometimes humorous but are not jokes. This is because their primary purpose is not simply to evoke laughter, but to reveal a truth more general than the brief tale itself, or to delineate a character trait in such a light that it strikes in a flash of insight to their very essence.

There are volumes of anecdotes about literary figures, some of which show them applying their craft in real life and gives an example of how pervasive their art was.

My purpose here is not to dissect and the genre, but to recount some anecdotes concerning Urdu poets. I will give them in their original language as it is more expressive and effective. Those who do not understand something may well ask, if they like.

I begin with an oft-cited tale about the “Shair-e-Inquilab”, Shabbir Hasan Khan ‘Josh Malihabadi’ himself.

Josh Malihabadi Maulana Abul Kalam Azad se mulaqaat ke liye unki kothi par pahunche. Wahan mulaqaatiyon ki bheed pehle se hi maujud thi. Kafi der tak intezar ke baad bhi jab mulaqaat ke liye Josh sahab ki baari nahi aayi to unhone ukta kar ek chit par yeh sher likh kar chaprasi ke haath Maulana ki khidmat mein bhijva diya

“Namunasib hai khoon khaulana
Phir kisi aur waqt, Maulana”

Maulana sher padh kar muskuraye aur fauran Josh sahab ko andar bula liya.

Another one:

Bombai mein Josh sahab ek aise makaan mein thehre, jis mein oopar ki manzil par ek adakara rehti thi. Makaan ki sakhat kuch aisi thi ke uski deedar na ho sakta tha, lihaza Josh sahab ne yeh rubai’yee likhi:
 

“Kamre ki chhat pe hai us but ka makaan
Jalwe ka nahi hain phir bhi koi imkaan
Goya ae ‘Josh’ main hoon aisa mazdoor
Jo bhook mein uthaye huye khvaan”
 

There are several more about Josh, which i will relate but another poet who has a large number of anecdotes despite his tragically brief life and career is Asrar-ul-Haq ‘Majaz Lakhnavi’. In fact, there used to be a slim volume, called “Majaz ke Latife” which used to be eagerly sought after but is long unavailable. Thankfully, an enterprising publisher has included it in a recently-published collection of Majaz’s poetry, making the medium size volume – priced at a reasonable Rs.100 (Rs.60 if you get if from the publisher’s outlet in the bylanes of Delhi-6 and Rs.85 if from the admirable Jamia Maktaba shop, opposite Jama Masjid).

But now a tale or too about Majaz…. What comes to mind is one having Josh too

Josh Malihabadi ba laamum sharab peete waqt time-piece saamne rakh lete aur har pandrah minute ke baad naya peg banate the lekin yeh pabandi aksar teesre chauthe peg ke baad ‘nazar-e-jaam’ ho jaati thi.
Ek sohbat mein unhone pehla peg halq mein andhelne ke baad apne timepiece ki taraf ishaare karte huye Majaz se kaha. “Dekho Majaz! Main kitni ba qaidgi se sharaab peete hoon. Agar tum bhi ghadi saamne rakh kar piya karo, to bad-ihtiyaati se mahfuz rahoge.”
Majaz chahakte hue bole: “Ghadi to kya Josh sahab! Mera bas chale to ghada saamne rakh kar piya karun….”

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