Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi: from Tonk to Karachi

Syed Faizan Raza traces the journey of the great humourist

Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi: from Tonk to Karachi
Tonk, since decades, has been a dominion of authors, litterateurs, bards and nawabs. Die-hard research scholar Hafiz Mahmood Sheerani, his son and starry-eyed rhymester Akhtar Sheerani, Bismil Saeedi and Makhmoor Saeedi among others trace their origins to the erstwhile sophisticated princely city of romance and poetry. Faqeer Muhammad Khan Goya, distinguished composer and progenitor of Josh Malihabadi, also had an evanescent stint in the place where he attended the ruling Nawab. Such a salubrious milieu to literature always yielded stalwarts and Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi was one among such who impelled the scholarship of wit and humor to the stratosphere and left indelible trails.

Mushtaq was born in Tonk (Rajasthan) on the 4th of August 1923 and studied there until his third standard. In 1931, at the age of eight years, he proceeded to Jaipur where he resided in his ancestral house, located in a remote part of the Sanganeri gate. His bona fide date of birth had always been a subject of debate among the academics, and he himself always made it a point not to divulge it precisely; even his autobiography (Zarguzasht) is devoid of such niceties.

Marwari was his mother tongue and he was a Yusufzai from the paternal side and Rathore Rajput from the maternal line. His grandfather – Malang Khan – after completing higher secondary education from Jaipur was employed as a Post Master in Nagpur, Agra, Ajmer and Jaipur. He married Noor Bibi of Alwar and the couple gave birth to Abdul Kareem Khan Yusufi – who sired Mushtaq.

Ahmad Bakhsh, a Rathore Muslim from Beawar (near Ajmer), was Mushtaq’s maternal grandfather and he was wedded to a lady from Jawra. Being a police officer, he was counted among the gentry of the town. He fathered four daughters (two of them died in India) including Mushtaq’s mother (Masood Jahan) and a son Abdul Aziz. It was Ahmad who had mentored Mushtaq into learning Urdu.

Mushtaque’s endeavours could be tracked down to his illustrious father Abdul Kareem who passed matriculation from Maharaja High School and Intermediate and B.A. (1914) from Maharaja College, which was then conglomerated with the Agra University. It is worth citing here that he was the first native Muslim from Jaipur to have completed B.A. He initiated his profession as a school teacher; and from 1915 to 1931, he worked as a Political Secretary in Tonk. In the year 1931, he reverted to Jaipur, where he stayed unwaged for a while. Afterwards, he acquired an agency of the Imperial Tobacco Company and structured some contractual transactions as well. Finally, he hopped into the political arena wherein he commanded some pivotal portfolios such as the President of the Provincial Muslim League, leader of the party of opposition and Deputy Secretary of the Legislative Assembly. Twice, he served as the Mayor of Jaipur. He had to migrate from India on account of his unembellished political views which lambasted the military operation carried out against the Nizam’s Hyderabad. Having left Jaipur in September 1948, he settled in Hyderabad (Pakistan) where he died due to a heart attack on the 26th of June 1950, and was laid to rest the following day in the Phalili cemetery. Mushtaq’s mother, who had been combatting asthma, passed away due to cardiac arrest in 1971.

He had a brother: Idress Ahmad Khan Yusufi, and two sisters: Shaukat Ara and Firdaus Jahan.

Following the efficacious trajectories of his father Mushtaq concluded his preliminary education from Maharaja School; later on, he secured a first-class, first-division in the intermediate examination and emerged as the first resident Muslim to receive a gold medal from the Rajputana Board. In 1943, he finished B.A. with flying colours and thereby earned the Colonel Ogilvie Gold medal. In 1945, he obtained M.A. (Philosophy) from Aligarh Muslim University; and subsequently, he completed L.L.B. from the same university. Mushtaq in 1946 cracked the Indian Audit and Accounts Service competitive examination but couldn’t join the work as his vision was too feeble (it was minus 7) to conform to the stipulated physical necessities. On being precluded, he lampooned the prevailing system in general and the selection committee in explicit for devising such a callous way to vanquish aspirants like him. In the same year, he joined the Provincial Service and served the state as a Deputy Commissioner and Additional Deputy Commissioner until December 1949. When Urdu was struck off as the certified language of India, he abandoned his homeland and arrived in Karachi on the 1st of January 1950.

A. Asfahani, who was the proprietor of the Orient Airways and Chairman of the Muslim Commercial Bank Limited, procured him an employment with the airways, but he rebuffed the opportunity. Nevertheless, with the succour of Asfahani himself, he was enlisted in Muslim Commercial Bank (Mushtaq appeared for an interview, either on the 2nd or 3rd of January 1950, with the General Manager of the bank, Mr. Anderson – who was very much acquainted with the history and social fabrics of Jaipur – and consequently commenced his occupation as a Covenanted Officer on the 3rd of February 1950).

Ascending the hierarchy of attainment, he rose to the rank of Inspector of Branches on 4th November 1952; on the 3rd of March 1954 he was appointed Chief Accountant; on the 23rd of April 1962 he became the Assistant General Manager; and from the 1st of April 1964 to April 1965 he served the bank as its Deputy General Manager. From 1965 to the 31st of December 1974 he was the Managing Director of Allied Bank Limited (formerly Australasia Bank). After the nationalization of the banks in 1974 he assisted the United Bank Limited as its President until 1976. Afterward, he was selected as the Chairman of Pakistan Banking Council for the period of 1977-78. Mushtaq was also Director of Investment Corporation of Pakistan, Vice-Chairman of Council of the Institute of Bankers in Pakistan and Director of the National Investment Trust.

England also played host to this witty virtuoso where he lived from January 1979 to 1990 and aided the Bank of Credit and Commerce International as its advisor; he returned to Pakistan on the 5th of December 1990 and subsequently bade adieu to his professional career.

Mushtaq led a tranquil private life; he married his beloved Idrees Fatima on the 15th of June 1946. She too had finished M.A. in Philosophy like her spouse. Her father, Manzoor Ahmad Khan (d. 1988-90) – who had his origin in Agra – was a Judge in India. Mansoor Ahmad Khan, her brother, was an attorney in Karachi where he grew celebrated on account of his uncanny knack for the legal occupation.

One could discern the imprints of Mark Twain, Stephen Leacock (a well-known Canadian humourist) and Mirza Ghalib on his considerations and writings. He was very much enthused by, and in awe of, his Professor and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Aligarh Muslim University, Dr. Zafrul Hasan. His father Miyan Fazal Hasan was also responsible, to a great extent, for kindling and configuring his intellectual contemplations. An array of Urdu hulks including Colonel Muhammad Khan, Musarrat Ali Siddiqui, Syed Zameer Jafri and Shan-ul Haq Haqqi had been his admirers. Jafri had labelled him a ‘genial philosopher’, and Haqqi dubbed him a ‘person with a tangible presence’.

His first essay, entitled ‘Sinf-e-laghar’, was published in 1955 by a Lahore-based monthly, Savera. This was followed by some more articles including ‘Charpai aur culture’, ‘Cricket’ and ‘Kaghzi hai pairahan’. ‘Mausamon ka shahr’ was printed by the weekly magazine Nusrat. Afkaar (edited by Sahba Lakhnavi from Karachi) brought out some of his write-ups in the succeeding order: ‘Tu ne pee hi nahi’, ‘Aur aana ghar mein murghiyon ka’ and ‘Junun-e-latifa’. Other houses which carried his pieces were – Adabi Duniya, Funoon and Daily Jang.

‘Charagh Tale’ was his earliest book which hit the stores in 1961. It was followed by ‘Khakam ba-Dahan’ in January 1970 which received the prestigious Adamjee Adabi honour in 1971; and ‘Zarguzasht’ (1st of April 1976 and recipient of the Adamjee prize). ‘Aab-e-Gum’ (1990) was his most recent tome. Acknowledging his accomplishments in literature, the government of Pakistan bestowed a few of the premier civilian accolades on him which included the Hijra prize, Bolan award (1996), Sitara-e-Imtiaz, Kamaal-e-Fun (2000) and Hilal-e-Imtiaz (2002).

Zarguzasht offers ephemeral references to a handful of the litterateurs who were allied with the banking industry such as T. S. Elliot (who was a clerk with the Lloyds bank when he penned ‘Waste Land’), Jaroslav Hasek (a Czech satirist who observed the banking industry so closely that he left his home and led a bohemian lifestyle) and O. Henry (he was indicted for misappropriation and consequently incarcerated where he carved his maiden story using a fictitious moniker; although his unpretentious appellation was William Sydney Porter).

Eliciting the earliest illustration of the business maneuver, he revealed as to how some Muslims of ‘Chaksu Khurd’ (Jaipur) enabled one Saulat Yaar Khan (retired Sub Inspector of Police) to set up a small grocery store in 1933.

Some of the Goliaths of Urdu who have written about Mushtaq are Majnun Gorakhpuri, Nazeer Siddiqui, Ibn-e Insha, Jameel Jalibi, Amjad Islam Amjad, Ale Ahmad Suroor, Syed Zameer Jafri, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Mujtaba Hussain, Shan-ul Haq Haqqi and Ahmad Jamal Pasha.

Prominent researcher and intellectual Tariq Habib has done an awe-inspiring work by writing his biography Yusufiat, and concluding ‘Mushtaque Ahmed Yusufi: Charagh talay se Aab-i-gum tak’.

Mushtaq breathed his last in Karachi on the 20th of June 2018 and such a tragedy shaped a void in the literary sphere; and it ought not to be hyperbole to say that his demise marked the cessation of an epoch in the realm of Urdu literature.