We often say that the hour of death cannot be foreseen. When we say this, we imagine this hour would be in a distant future. We never thought that we would be remembering Asrar Sahab as a memory, when we were publishing his book.Hafsa Idrees, Co-founder Daastan
An artist breathes their art. They become it. When their art is appreciated, they feel appreciated. But when their art is ignored, overlooked and forgotten, it feels as if they have faded away too. Such is the story of our beloved, Asrar Jamayee.
Who was Asrar Jamayee?
Asrar Jamayee was an Urdu poet, born in 1937 in Patna to Syed Wali-ul-Haq; a landlord who was an active member of the Khilafat Movement. A once renowned and sought-out poet, Asrar Sahab’s life took a drastic turn when he was shockingly declared dead by the Government of India. What followed was years and years of struggle for recognition and basic human rights. But while he suffered, his awe-inspiring determination in the face of adversity and his excellent poetic works made him friends with people who loved him and continue to do so.
Daastan has had the honour of being one of those who could play a little role in Asrar Sahab’s life. We helped bring his work “Tanz Paarey” to life. And two days ago, we received the heart-breaking news of him finally passing onto the other world. The 83-year-old poet took his final breath on April 4th, 2020 in a small home in Delhi. His death is, indeed, a huge loss not only to mankind but to Urdu language too. We, at Daastan express our immense grief on this sad occasion and pay tribute to the legend who deserved more by bringing to you his story. A story we shall never forget.
Asrar Jamayee’s Life
Asrar ul Haq who adopted the pen name Jamayee, began reciting his poetry at a young age upon his teacher, Dr Hussain‘s advice. Jamayee lost both his parents while he was still struggling to establish himself. He was thus forced to quit college and return to Patna where he opened a coaching institute for engineering and medical sciences. But this unfortunate course of action resulted in a bloom in his poetry.
Jamayee wrote four volumes of poetry books and kept reciting at Mushairas and soon his work earned him a name. Asrar was awarded a Prize by the 1st President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. His satirical expression along with the crisp sherwanis he often wore, became his style statement across the country. He not only scored among the commoners but also inspired various Chief Ministers and big names like Rajiv Gandhi and President Abdul Kalam, who later invited him as a guest on one occasion.
Rekhta recently payed tribute to Asrar Jamayee through this video:
Downfall for the Urdu Poet
In a sad turn of events, Jamayee soon found himself in adverse conditions. He lost his only property, a room in Jamia Nagar, Delhi to local thugs. In 2013, due to a government fault, Jamayee lost his pension upon being stated dead in official records. He spent his final years trying to prove his existence to the government officials. Arre, an Indian Website covered his story while Jamayee made rounds to be recognized as a living person.
Among those who stepped up to help the poet, Jamia Alumni of Chicago Chapter were also on fore-front. They raised a sum of Rs 70,000 as aid for Jamayee to deal with the financial crisis at hand. Welfare Minister Rajendra Gautam also visited Jamayee and promised an inquiry into his case to restore his pension.
A Struggle to Survive
During this time, in a car accident he fractured his hand but could not go for surgery due to lack of funds. Having no family of his own and brother Iqbal Yousaf who never supported him, Jamayee spent his last breaths in tragic conditions.
No matter how much value his words contained, there was very little that he could now trade them for. In 2018, The Wire held an interview with the old poet who talked about his life and struggles:
The hardships he faced for himself, he bore without complain. He wished nothing for himself but a respectable place and for his writings to be recognized. His only desire in these last days, was to publish his work. Abhijit Khandkar, a regular visitor and close friend of Jamayee Sahb’s caretakers, writes:
“A man who never even once wallowed in self pity when there was every reason to. Even when we had to raise funds for his ailment and daily needs, we had to guise it in a way as he still wouldn’t take money or cash directly from any of his visitors, such was his self respect. All he asked for, was an honest listener, to whom he could read his poetry. “Abhijit Khandkar, a close friend of Asrar Jamayee
Books and Awards
Asrar Jamayee wrote several books as a satire on politics inculcating hindu traditions and legends. Ram Darshan is one of these political commentaries that talk about society and return of Ram. His collection of books include Shayare Azam, Attare Azam, Baghe Daraz, Zarbe Kalaam, Khale Jibraeel, Murghane Hijaz, Dili Darshan, Bharat Darshan and Ram Darshan. Although deserving, Jamayee never received awards like the Padma Shiri or Urdu Academy Award, perhaps due to the lack of political support that he inherited. In Jamayee’s own words, the worth of an artist is :
“Wazn kitna hai kisi fankar ka
yeh pata chalta hai kaise aur kab.
Jamayee Asrar bola jaan lein
jab uthate hai ise kandhon par tab“Asrar Jamayee
source : Clarion India
What was Asrar’s Last Wish?
We are honored to have helped a true legend in these last, most sorrowful days of his life. Daastan with the help of Jamayee sahb’s fans in both Pakistan and India, published his book titled ‘Tanz Paaray‘. Daastan’s Urdu Editor Ms. Qudsia Jamali, digitized Asrar Sahb’s book. The book’s cover design, publishing and distribution was done by Daastan. The beautifully written poems that were long awaiting a roof over their head just like their creator, were finally given the shelter of a book. The journey of these torn, dusty sheets lying dormant beside the man who had once recited them to crowds of hundreds, reached their destiny by being published.
The smile on his face upon holding his last book was priceless and we shall cherish that for a lifetime. Daastan is proud to have been a part of this journey.
You don’t know the extent of joy you gave him by publishing his work. He would show it to every visitor so proudly. The copies he would keep by his side. He wanted to publish more and visit Pakistan again. That now remains…Abhijit Khandkar to Daastan
Daastan’s Relation With The Late Poet
Apart from helping Jamayee publish his book ‘Tanz Paaray‘, Daastan worked closely with Karan, the founder of Arre. In a radio interview hosted by the Co-founder of Daastan, Ms. Hafsa Idrees, she talked to Karan about his work and the condition of Asrar Jamayee Sahb.
Ms. Idrees penned her condolences for the late Asrar Sahab,
He had the most amazing, courageous strength and tenacity that every single person who ever came in contact with him could feel. We all know he went through so much in the past years, from being falsely declared dead to the struggles that followed. Things that would have broken a lot of people but never Asrar Sahab. He carried on gracefully because he knew he had to be strong for the people who were going to follow him and his legacy. Rest in peace, Asrar Sahab.Hafsa Idrees, co-founder Daastan
Daastan had been working with Karan and Asrar Jamayee in these past years which developed a very special bond between both parties. It is due to our emotional attachment to the departed soul that we are left in deep sorrow upon his death. Syed Ommer Amer, the founder of Daastan expressed his feelings in a recent Facebook post that read:
” We will miss you. Forever. I promise that every year, we will keep your legacy alive and tell the world about you, your work and the life you lived ”Syed Ommer Amer, founder Daastan
Our Cofounder Sidra Amin, through whom we connected with Asrar Jamayee and Karan, shares an equally strong bond. She conveys her despair in the following words:
“It is heartbreaking to know about Asrar sahab’s demise because we couldn’t give him anything in all this time. He needed financial help for his health and living conditions, but we couldn’t manage to do any of it. Heck, we couldn’t even get on another call with him. I am happy he had his poetry books, his smile, and love of people when he went away. I am glad that he wasn’t as lonely in this time as he must have felt when he was wrongfully declared dead earlier. Rest in peace, Asrar sahab“Sidra Amin, co-founder Daastan
Ms. Qudsia Huzaifa, the lady who digitized Asrar Sahab’s book, Tanz Paaray expressed her views by stating
It was an honor for me to work on his work and it was my dearest wish to meet him… I am not a great author or a poet who can pay a tribute to him however based on what I read, I want to say that ‘Every word written by the father of humor is complete in itself and carries secrets within which serve as an institution for other poets’.
We value these hand-written notes sent to us by Jamayee during our correspondence over his recent book, Tanz Paaray on which we were working.
In this meek attempt to keep his legend alive, we at Daastan pay tribute to Asrar Jamayee sahb and take comfort from the fact that his soul must have finally found the peace and comfort which this temporary world could not offer. We hope that Urdu language and Urdu lovers keep his poetry alive, if not while he lives then at least while he rests, we must remember him!
We have included information about Jamayee to the best of knowledge. If you have any more information about the late poet, do share it with us at email@example.com.