His book ‘Japan Chalo, Japan Chalo’ is considered a unique addition to Indian fiction for its originality and beauty in the travelogue genre

Humour is serious business and humorists by and large are dour-faced souls. Mujtaba Hussain, however, begs to differ. Though he has a stiff upper lip, as one engages in conversation with him his sense of humour comes across. And as the conversation progresses one gets into splits at his tête-à-tête interoperated with a generous dose of pun, repartee and one-liners.

Tickling the funny bone is no child’s play. But Mr. Hussain is doing it for the last half a century. His satirical writings in Urdu have regaled readers across the world so much so that his works have been translated into Oriya, Kanada, Hindi, English, Russian and Japanese languages.

Livelier Sundays

On August 12 he completed 50 years of humour writing. Though age has caught up with him slowing down his movements, there is no let-up in his writing. Even at 76 he serves up essays which are sharp, witty and hilarious. No wonder his hugely popular column in Siasat daily is eagerly looked forward to. In fact it makes Sundays even livelier.

Dubbed as the Mark Twain of Urdu humour, Mr. Hussain doesn’t believe in sitting on laurels even after 25 books, 13 awards, including the coveted Padma Shri. He works tirelessly rather effortlessly to give his best.

From the mundane to the celestial, he has waxed eloquent on every topic under the sun. Neil Armstrong, who died the other day, was also a subject of his column when he landed on the moon. “Chand ki barbadi hogaee, budhiya gayab hogayee…”, he wrote referring to the lore of an old woman working the ‘charkha’.

Trendsetter

His book ‘Japan Chalo, Japan Chalo’ is considered a unique addition to Indian fiction for its originality and beauty in the travelogue genre – something unheard of in Urdu literature.

What is unique about this ‘Qutb Minar’ of Urdu humour is the freshness he brings to his writings. His exuberant style, scintillating humour and cryptic satire makes his works unputdownable. In fact, many persond have learnt Urdu just to read his books.

It was the sudden death of Shahid Siddiqui, a humour writer, in 1962, that gave birth to the writer in Mujtaba Hussain. He was asked to continue the column ‘sheesha-teesha’ written by Siddiqui. “I thought it was a one-day affair. But I got stuck with it and today humour has become my bread and butter”, says Mr. Hussain.

Ceaseless commitment

His commitment to work is so much that even after the death of his daughter in 1963 he came straight to the office from the graveyard and penned the next day’s humorous piece.

His sense of humour seems to have rubbed off on his wife too. After he was conferred Padma Shri in 2007 his phone never stopped ringing. Mr. Hussain was naturally tired answering the congratulatory calls and asked his wife to take them. When the next call came, his wife picked up the phone and the voice on the other end enquired who she was. Mrs. Hussain shot back “mai Padma Shri ki shrimati bol rahi hoon.”