Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. Always be fortified with humour, the weapon of the unarmed. An eye for the ridiculous and ear for the absurd can get you through. Otherwise, as the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon said, life can be as tedious as a twice-told tale vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man. A judicious mix of humour and harsh reality is what makes life easy and comfortable. Who knows this better than Hyderabadi poets! They know how to cock-a-snook at life and smile at any situation that pains them.
Humour is universal. It crosses borders of class and age. No wonder mizahiya shayeri of Hyderabad remains very popular and is potent enough to move even the stone-hearted. Equally popular are the hasya kavisammelans where many Hindi poets have made a name. Man knows how to cry from birth but laughter takes some learning. Hyderabad boasts of poets who can make you smile with tears in your eyes. Yes, their rib-tickling brand of poetry ensures that you laugh so hard that tears roll down your cheeks.
Along with romantic and serious poetry, Hyderabad is witness to the rise of poets who lace their verses with humour and satire. In fact, their very name and, sometimes, the takkhalus adopted by them is enough to make you grin from ear to ear. Sample names of the poets who have been tickling the funny bone for several years: Sulaiman Khateeb, Sarwar Danda, Himayatullah, Mirza Mustafa Ali Baig, Munnawar Ali Mukhtasar, Talib Khundmiri, Ghouse Khamakha, Gilli Nalgondvi, Waheed Pasha Quadri, Iqbal Shana, Daulat Ram, Moin Amar Bumbo, Sarpat Hyderabadi, Fareed Sahr, Pagal Adilabadi, Chacha Palmuri and Bogus Hyderabadi to name a few.
In most mushairas, humour poets are a permanent fixture. Organisers include them to ensure that there are no dull moments. Their presence is also intended to pep up events which otherwise look dull and drab. What’s so special about Hyderabadi humour poetry? Well, it has a generous dose of Dakkhani words and the peculiar accent in which it is spoken is enough to ensure a laugh riot.
More often, the kiraak shayeri, euphemistically called funny poetry, revolves around saas-bahu tangle. Sulaiman Khateeb took this kind of poetry to dizzying heights. The saas-bahu drama written by him remains a timeless classic thanks to the beautiful metaphors, lovely similes and spontaneity of expression. Sample the dialogue between the jaahil saas aur taleem-yafta bahu:
Inne chalit so chaal dekho ji
Hontan kittey hai laal dekhoji
Munh pe chhodi so baal dekho ji
Kya bichati hai jaal dekho ji
Na suno gar bura kahey koi
Na kaho gar bura karey koi
Jab tawwaqu hi uth gayee Ghalib
Kyun kisi ka gila karey koi
Of late, the mizahia poets are also holding mirror to the world by challenging the existing norms and social issues. Political satire is also very popular these days. Dakkhani poets don’t spare the netas and their policies. In typical tongue-in-cheek style, they make the politicians a laughing stock. Corruption, inflation, political double-speak, demonetisation – almost everything is attacked in a lighter vein. Young poet Waheed Pasha Quadri excels in the art of parody. He takes on the politicians in his inimitable style thus:
Kha chuke sari janta ka dhan sathiyo
Ab tumhare hawale watan sathiyo
All in all the mizahia shayeri is decent and wholesome. The poets know the Lakshman rekha and desist from wading into indecency and vulgarity. The best part is the way they recite the verses with a straight poker face. No, the humour poetry is not just meant to give you a hearty laugh. Discerning readers can glean gems of wisdom interspersed in the verses which show how to deal with the curve balls thrown by life.
Apart from poets, Hyderabad also boasts of many humour writers and satirists of repute who evoke laughter with their prose. The tallest of them, of course, is Mujtaba Husain. This Padma Shri awardee is the best of witty writers who is giving a rollicking time to the entire sub-continent with his ready wit and repartee for the last four decades.
Others like Abid Moiz, Abbas Muttaqi, Habeeb Zia have also made a name for themselves with their fine sense of humour. The humour genre will remain incomplete without the mention of Babban Khan’s Adrak ke Panje. The satirical play scripted by Babban Khan in 1965 in pure Dakkhani language ran to packed halls all over the world.
The All India Radio, Hyderabad, also deserve credit for promotion of humour. Its popular comic play Choti Choti Baten aired during the 1980s made Ahmed Jalees, Aslam Farshouri and Afshan Jabeen household names. Who can forget the nasal voice of Chand Miya, Lala Bhai or the way Fatima Bee uttered ‘Aadaab Mehboob Bhai’.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Zinda Dilane Hyderabad (ZDH) set up way back in 1962 to promote and propagate humour has contributed in no small measure in honing the skills of some of the writers. As its name goes, ZDH was established by a group of persons with lively hearts to cheer up Hyderabadis who were feeling down in the dumps in the wake of the Partition and the subsequent Police Action. Shugoofa, the monthly journal edited by Dr Syed Mustafa Kamal, has given a platform to poets and writers to showcase their humorous side.
Hyderabad can rightly lay claim to being the humour capital of India. Thanks to ZDH, humour conferences have become an annual event in the city. The three-day conferences leave the audience in splits literally. In the Mazahia Mushaira, poets regale audience with funny poetry while in the Adbi Ijlas writers read out their short stories and essays laced with humour and satire. The last day is reserved for Mahfil-e-Latifa Goi. This usually turns out to be laugh-a-minute session as the humorists go on a joke-telling spree.
This is not all. Hyderabad has the unique distinction of hosting the first-ever world humour conference. Narender Luther, a civil servant and a founder member of ZDH, was instrumental in organising the conference in 1985 in which humorists from India and abroad took part. Needless to say, it was a roaring success.
The only way to survive is to have a good sense of humour. It’s the escape valve for the pressures of life.