Sometimes personality traits run in families and siblings display identical talents and aptitudes — perhaps a genetic influence. How else can one explain three humorists in a family? Like the four cricketing brothers of Pakistan — Hanif Mohammed, Mushtaq Mohammed, Vazeer Mohammed and Sadiq Mohammed — three journalist and humorist brothers —Mehboob Hussain Jigar, Mujtaba Hussain and Ibrahim Hussain Jalees — were born in the same family.
Mehboob Hussain and Mujtaba Hussain stayed in India and worked as journalists in addition to writing humour. Today, Mujtaba Hussain is considered amongst the foremost Urdu humorists in India. Ibrahim Hussain, better known as Ibrahim Jalees, came to Pakistan and earned fame as a journalist, satirist and story writer.
Though Jalees’ family belonged to Usmanabad, Deccan, according to Malik Ram, Jalees was born on August 22, 1924, at Bangalore, where his maternal grandparents lived. His father, Ahmed Hussain, was a self-made man and knew the importance of education. He sent Jalees to Aligarh University from where Jalees did his BA in 1940.
Jalees got his first job at the civil supply department but kept it for hardly a year and resigned after some dispute at the office. With a flair for literature, he had begun broadcasting and writing for local newspapers and magazines during his student days. In 1941, he caused quite a sensation when his short story ‘Rishta’ got published in Saqi, a prestigious literary magazine published from Delhi. Jalees shot to eminence with the publication of Zard Chehre, a collection of short stories, in 1944. Other books such as Chalees Karor Bhikari and Tikona Des, collections of short-stories and the novel Chor Bazar established Jalees as a satirist and short story writer.
For a while, Jalees tried his fortunes at India’s movie capital Bombay (now Mumbai) where he stayed with his poet friend Sahir Ludhyanvi. However, his caprice and restlessness brought him back to Hyderabad (Deccan) after a year.
The winds of change were blowing in India: the Progressive Writers’ Movement had transformed the literary scenario and influenced a great many authors and journalists. Jalees was also attracted to it. In fact, most of his writings had a sarcastic ring that betrayed a Marxist approach. When the Progressive Writers’ Association convened at Hyderabad (Deccan) in 1946 for its All India Meeting, Jalees took active part.
However, 1948 brought about drastic changes in India’s political scene and Jalees shifted his sympathies. India attacked the princely state of Deccan and annexed it with the Indian Union by military aggression. Jalees supported Qasim Rizivi’s Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen and, as he stated himself, was dismayed at the atrocities committed against Muslims. He wrote Tirange Ki Chhaaon Mein, a cynical account of the political upheaval in Deccan, and protested against anti-Muslim riots in India. In this book, Jalees emerged as a nationalist Muslim.
He migrated to Pakistan soon after the fall of Deccan in 1948. But so mercurial was his temperament that as soon as he joined his progressive friends in Lahore, he reversed his nationalistic and Islamist approach. In the book Do Mulk Aik Kahani, written immediately after the migration, he repented for and disowned Tirange Ki Chhaaon Mein.
In Lahore Jalees joined Saathi, a children’s magazine. A little later he became a sub-editor at Imroz where Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Ibn-e-Insha were his colleagues.
The government imposed the Public Safety Act in those days and Jalees wrote about it in a satirical vein. When his piece ‘Public Safety Razor’ appeared, it infuriated the high-ups and Jalees was put behind bars for a few months. His book Jail Ke Din Jail Ki Raten is an interesting and satirical account of that time.
Jalees went to Karachi in 1955 and in 1957, when Majeed Lahori died, Jalees joined Jang where he wrote the humour column ‘Waghaira Waghaira’. As he had a natural talent for humour, his column became very popular. Later, he joined Anjaam as editor but resigned after a while because of a disagreement with the owners. He then launched his own weekly, Awami Adalat, but it fell victim to the lack of funds.
In 1976, Ibrahim Jalees became the editor of Musawat, the daily newspaper launched from Karachi by the Pakistan People’s Party. In 1977, the PPP government was toppled by the martial law and the publication of Musawat was suspended. Jalees fell ill and was hospitalized but passed away the very next day, on October 26, 1977.
Other books written by him include Ulti Qabr, Neki Kar Thane Ja, Ooper Shervani Ander Pareshani, Hanse Aur Phanse, Shugufta Shugufta and Kala Chor.
Ibrahim Jalees was a satirist greatly pained by the plight of the common man, a writer whose sobs were disguised as mood-lighteners.