Tribute Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s death marks end of an era

How do you define a man who is immaculate in Urdu written expression, has a sense of humour par excellence and who can use satire to identify and explain social issues with ease? How do you define a person who has acquired a degree in D.Litt, a status higher than that of a Ph.D.? You cannot describe him. You can only admire, acknowledge, respect and recognise his services. While there were many literary scholars and personalities in Urdu literature, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi was one of them. He passed away at the age of 94 on June 20, 2018.

What distinguished Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi from other prose writers of Urdu language in Pakistan was his ability and innate vision to add humour and satire in situations where it is seemingly quite a challenge to do so. While his sentence structure was simple, he used unpretentious and easy to understand words from the Urdu vocabulary. His dexterity to add humour, hilarity, and joviality added value to his expression, therefore, giving him a stature seldom enjoyed by prose writers.

Despite being associated with the profession of banking and financial institutions, a relatively boring and dull job as compared to being a writer, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s desire to put his thoughts to paper and making his readers laugh their hearts out was evident in his personality.

Reading Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s writings, one would realise that his narrative was not only modest but it became a realistic forefront for readers of all ages. He never imposed his opinions whether writing serious topics or when discussing humour

When he received the Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 1999 and later the Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2002, it was a testament to Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s literary prowess, agility in crafting sentences, adroitness in making his writings interesting and competency to remain at the top of his game. Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, born on September 4, 1923, in Jaipur, Rajasthan, earned his M.A Philosophy and LLB from Aligarh Muslim University and entered the banking profession where he served at key executive positions in leading banks of Pakistan. For his notable services in banking, he was awarded the Quaid-e-Azam Memorial Medal.

Where authors normally have a multitude of books to their name, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi wrote only five books in his career where each defines his personality, thought process and ability to write with precision, clarity, and simplicity. Chiragh Talay (1961) is a compilation of twelve essays of humorous nature while Khakam-ba-dahan (1969) has eight essays that keep readers amused. Zarguzasht (1976) is one of Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s most interesting works where he is not the main character but he writes a fictional autobiography. Aab-e-gum (1990) presents a yearning of a generation divided by the partition of the subcontinent while Sham-e-Shair-e-Yaaraan (2014) comprises many of his addresses and speeches.

Ibn-e-Insha, one of the leading humourists in Urdu acknowledged Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s expertise by saying, “If ever we could give a name to the literary humor of our time, then the only name that comes to mind is that of Yusufi!” While presiding over the book launch ceremony of Sham-e-Shair-e-Yaaraan at the Arts Council of Pakistan in Karachi, Zehra Nigah, said, “Neither Yousufi sahib, nor any of his books will ever get old”. Iftikhar Arif, on one occasion, referred to Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi as “a wordsmith par excellence.”

Reading Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s writings, one would realise that his narrative was not only modest but it became a realistic forefront for readers of all ages. He never imposed his opinions whether writing serious topics or when discussing humour. He always explained, elucidated and enlightened his own innate thoughts regarding life and people and readers accepted it in a heartbeat. There was never an ounce of pretentious or pompous display of arrogance but readers always saw his writings as a soft melody written in prose where each word reverberated with passion, plainness, and purity. This is why when he published five of his books over a period of 53 years (from 1961 to 2014), he never compromised on quality. It seems he pondered upon each sentence before writing it and thought long before making an edit. Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi gave us moments of laughter and that of introspection. His writings and literary works will forever remain a case study for aspiring Urdu writers and people for ages will read his writings with a smile and wonder how Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi wrote about our everyday happenings with such ease. He certainly was a wordsmith par excellence.

Published in Daily Times, June 25th 2018.