The poet who made you laugh till your belly hurt

Even while penning humorous verses, Ghouse Khamakha often reminded people about the transient existence

By Author  |  Published: 8th Sep 2019  12:44 amUpdated: 7th Sep 2019  8:42 pm

Everything looks funny as long as it’s happening to somebody else. But, to make yourself the butt of joke in order to provoke laughter is really cool. Ghouse Mohiuddin Ahmed had this quality in abundance. He wouldn’t mind cracking jokes at his own expense to bring cheer to others. He adopted the penname ‘Khamakha’ (meaning without reason) but his shayeri was not at all unreasonable. Irrational it might sound but hidden in the verses are nuggets of wisdom.

His USP was his deadpan expression. When he took to mike, audience went into splits. His unique style and the poker face with which he recited the verses ensured a laugh riot. Among his many ghazalsNai bole to sunte nai… is a rage among Urdu lovers. This popular lyric is all about the outbursts of a hapless husband who goes mad about the naughty ways of his wife. This is also the most sought-after poem on YouTube.

Sample some verses:

Karne ke jo kaaman hain so
Jaise ke wai si-eech hain
Nai karne ke kaaman karraen
Nai bole to sunte nai
Charbi chaat ko duble dikhne
Ek hafte se diet po hain
Chalte phirte dhakliyan khaaraen
Nai bole to sunte nai
Pehle gussa aata tha toMu mein mu mein bolte the
Ab to seedha aang po aaraen
Nai bole to sunte nai

A distinctive feature of his mushairas was that even before Khamakha could complete the recurring refrain many in the audience would sing it aloud. He used Deccani lingo to maximum effect and took potshots at social evils in a humorous way. His verses laced with razor sharp wit and sarcasm succeed in exposing hypocrisy, vanity and false pride among people better than a serious talk or write-up could do. See how he makes fun of the undue attention paid by women to their physical appearance.

Mu po make-up thoppte jaaraen
Umar ke peeche mat bhaago
Gayi jawani phir nai aati
Nai bole to sunte nai

His tongue-in-cheek brand of poetry took him to Middle East, the US and Europe where he was hugely popular. He was a big draw both within and outside the country. NRI Hyderabadis rooted for him as he reminded them of the forgotten Deccani language; his trademark poetry was easily identifiable.  Often, one would see bits of oneself in his poems and couldn’t help having a hearty laugh. His humour has an invigorating power and people felt purged and liberated after laughing away the blues. People laughed until their belly hurt – and then just a bit more.

Khamakha couldn’t continue his studies beyond Intermediate after the merger of Hyderabad with the Indian Union. He served in the Irrigation Department of Maharashtra and after retirement, took up residence in Hyderabad. But, even during his service, he indulged in his passion of writing poetry. A man with quick repartee, when somebody asked Khamakha to go for a second marriage, he shot back:

Jis ne pehle se hi khudkushi ki hai
Suli pe usse kyon chadhate ho

A livewire performer, when he recited his verses, people just laughed their hearts out. Many in the audience would request for recitation of a particular poem and he would oblige willingly. Often, he would take swipes at the audience too if they failed to cheer him. Khamakha dished out what people wanted most – the mia-biwi ki nok-jhonk. Sample these verses:

Mere ek dost bole Khamakha kuch kar dikha dena
Tadpata dekh lu biwi ko aisa gur sikha dena
Mai bola kaam bas itta karo tum apni biwi ko
Navi sadi pinako ghar ke sub ayne chupa dena

Endowed with a happy-go-lucky attitude, Khamakha believed in living life to the fullest. He advised people to indulge in full-throated laughter while attending his mushairas as “rone ke liye puri umar padi hai” (the whole life is left to cry). He often egged on the audience to laugh by reciting this couplet:

Khamakha hasne se wahi karega perhez
Qabz huva jisko ya julab liya hai jis ne

His motto was to enjoy every single moment – the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, inspiring and the not-so-glamorous. And thank God. Even in his humorous verses he reminded people about the transient existence. Life is short. Time is fast. No replay. No rewind.

Saya nai hai, dhoop kadi hai
Sar po aako maut khadi hai
Phata daman kaise siyun
Dhaga chota, suee badi hai

His poetry mostly revolved around love and the witty exchanges between husband-wife. On the question of love being blind, he says:

Mohabbat aashiq-o-mashooq ko andha bana deti hai
Magar shaadi hai jo donon ki aankhen khol deti hai

Like most Urdu poets, Khamakha tried to provoke laughter at the expense of his wife. He often used to say how he would have built a Taj Mahal himself had he a wife like Mumtaz Mahal:

Hafiz ki rubai ya Ghalib ki ghazal jaisi
Ya jheel ke paani par ek neel kanwal jaisi
Ek Taj Mahal mai bhi shayed bana bhi leta
Milti mujhe bhi jo begum Mumtaz Mahal jaisi

Khamakha drew inspiration from everyday events. He mirrored the realities of life in his characteristic style without sparing anyone. While portraying politicians, he was at his sarcastic best.

Jo kursi par baithega woh sab ke sukh le jayega
Badle main wo sab ko apne saare dukh de jayega
Aaj hukumat aur siasat donon ka dastur hai ye
Jis ke haath main lathi hogi bhains wahi le jayega.

A prolific writer, Khamakha commenced his poetic journey in 1954 and, over the years, authored three books of poetry – Kagaz Ke Tishey, Ba Farze Muhal and Harf-e-Mukarrar. He wrote in all genres of poetry – Hamd, Naat, Khitaat and Ghazal. One might dismiss Khamakha as a comic poet, but many scholars find in him serious material for doctoral thesis. The poet himself once remarked:

Wo shayer Khamakha mashoor hai jo
Zaeefi main bhi kitna khubru hai

The king of laughter who sent audience in splits of laughter, left his fans in tears when he passed away at the age of 80 in May 2017. A good number of people turned up at his funeral prayers, a clear sign of his immense popularity. Even at this solemn occasion, many were seen silently smiling recalling his funny verses. Khamakha lived a full life and till the end indulged in his favourite passion – poetry. But, he was conscious of his craziness and used to say:

Marne ke dina khareeb aaraen, Allah Allah nai karko
Khamakha sheran sunaraen, nai bole to sunte nai

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