ALEXANDER the Great is said to have created, at the age of 30, one of the largest empires in history. But then he died at 33. Literary history tells us that there have been many authors who had become quite famous at an early age and died young. For instance, Keats, Shelley, Emily Bronte and Lord Byron are a few of the notable authors who left the world early but left their mark.

Some believe life begins at 50, but the list includes some of the authors of Urdu for whom life ended before they turned 50.

• Ze Khe Sheen (died aged 28): Born in December 1894, at Bhikampur, Aligarh district, she was the daughter of Nawab Muzzammilullah Khan. Her real name was Zahida Khatoon Shervania but she used her initials ‘Ze Khe Sheen’ (Z.K.S.) as pseudonym to hide her identity as in those days a woman’s courage to compose poetry was sometimes frowned upon. Her ‘takhallus’, or penname, was Nuzhat. A talented poet, she died in February 1922, at Bhikampur. Her collection of poetry Firdous-i-takhayyul appeared posthumously from Lahore in 1941. But Nuzhat-ul-khayal, a collection of her ghazals, could not see the light of the day.

• Inamullah Khan Yaqeen (died aged 28): As a disciple of Mirza Mazher Jan-i-Janaan, Inamullah Khan Yaqeen is credited with composing poetry in a style that defied the trite expressions and double entendre that had become the mainstay of Urdu poetry. His precise date of birth cannot be ascertained, but researchers reckon he was born in 1827-28 in Delhi. Yaqeen died in Delhi in 1755-56. Some literary historians believe he was murdered by his father.

• Qabil Ajmeri (died aged 31): His real name was Abdur Rahim. Born in Churli, a village in Ajmer district, on Aug 27, 1931, Qabil Ajmeri had become quite famous as a poet at an early age but was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died of it on Oct 3, 1962, in Hyderabad. A collection of his poetry was published under the title Deeda-i-baidaar.

• Shakeb Jalali (died aged 32): Syed Hasan Rizvi was his real name. He was born in Jalal, a village near Aligarh, on Oct 1, 1934. A poet of remarkable talent, Shakeb committed suicide on Nov 12, 1966, near Sargodha, by throwing himself before a moving train.

• Vilayat Ali Bambauq (died aged 32): Born in 1886, Bambauq was an Aligarian and used to write humour in Urdu and English. He died in July 1918 in Barabanki, UP.

• Abdur Rahman Bijnori (died aged 33): Known chiefly for his preface to Divan of Ghalib, titled ‘Mahasin-i-kalam-i-Ghalib’, Bijnori was born in Seohara; Bijnor district, on June 10, 1885. He died in Bhopal on Nov 7, 1918.

• Hayat Amrohvi (died aged 34): The creator of famous ghazal with the opening line ‘Zindagi ka saaz bhi kya saaz hai’ — included in Bollywood’s movie Pukaar — was born in Amroha in 1912. His real name was Syed Muhammad Jafar. He died on Oct 16, 1946, in Amroha. Saaz-i-zindagi, a collection of his poetry, appeared in 1989 from Karachi.

• Pandit Daya Shankar Kaul Naseem (died aged 34): The creator of Gulzar-i-Naseem, one of the greatest masnavis of Urdu, was born in 1811. He died in 1845.

• Tribhuvan Nath Sapru Hijr (died aged 39): A humorist and contributor of Oudh Punch, a humour magazine published from Lucknow, Hijr was born in 1853 and died in March 1892, in Faizabad, a town near Lucknow.

• Muhammad Azmatullah Khan (died aged 40): Born in Delhi in 1887, Muhammad Azmatullah Khan is known for his modernistic poetry and prosodic experimentations with Urdu poetry. His book Sureele bol and its preface is an epitome of modern Urdu poetry. He died in Hyderabad (Deccan) in 1927.

• Mustafa Zaidi (aged 40): Syed Mustafa Husnain Zaidi’s first penname was Taigh Allahabadi. Later he changed it to Mustafa Zaidi. Born in Allahabad on Oct 10, 1930, Mustafa Zaidi died in Karachi on Oct 12, 1970. Mystery surrounded his death as some believed he was murdered and some thought he committed suicide.

• Parveen Shakir (died aged 42): Born in Karachi on Nov 24, 1952, Parveen Shakir shot to fame at an early age because of her poetry that was believed to reflect true feminine sentiments. She died in a car crash in Islamabad on Dec 26, 1994. Maah-i-tamaam is the title of her collected poetic works.

• Akhtar Sherani (died aged 43): Born on May 4, 1905, in Tonk, Rajasthan, Akhtar Sherani was the son of famous scholar Hafiz Mahmood Sherani. Dubbed as the poet of romance, Akhtar Sherani’s real name was Muhammad Dawood Khan, which sounds quite unromantic. He died in Lahore on Sept 9, 1948.

• Saadat Hasan Manto (died aged 43): Arguably the greatest short story writer of Urdu, Manto was born on May 11, 1912, in Samrala, district Ludhiana. He died in Lahore on Jan 18, 1955.

• Majeed Lahori (died aged 44): A humorist who wrote prose and poetry, Majeed Lahori was born in Gujarat, Punjab, in 1913. His column in the daily Jang made him a popular columnist. Majeed Lahori died in Karachi on June 26, 1957.

• Asrarul Haq Majaaz (died aged 44): Born in Rudauli, Barabanki district, on Oct 19, 1911, Majaaz was a popular poet. He died in Lucknow on Dec 5, 1955. His collection of poetry is titled Aahang.

• Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast (died aged 44): A poet and prose writer, Chakbast was born in Faizabad, a town near Lucknow, on Jan 19, 1882. He died on Feb 12, 1926, at Bareli.

• Azeem Baig Chughtai (died aged 46): A humorist, short story writer and novelist, Chughtai was born in Agra in 1895. He died in Jodhpur in August 1941.

• Yousuf Kamran (died aged 46): A poet and intellectual, Yousuf Kamran was born in Lahore on Oct 9, 1938. He died in Saudi Arabia on March 9, 1984, and was buried in Lahore.

• Rasheed Jahan (died aged 47): One of the earliest feminists and iconoclasts, Rasheed Jahan (often erroneously spelt as Rasheeda) was born in Delhi on Aug 25, 1905. Her short story was included in Angare, a collection that was published in 1932 and was banned by the then government of British India. She played a vital role in the formation of the Progressive Writers’ Association in 1936. She died on July 29, 1952, in Moscow where she had gone for the treatment of cancer.

• Mumtaz Shireen (died aged 47): A critic and short story writer, Mumtaz Shireen was born in Mysore on Sept 12, 1924. She died in Islamabad on March 11, 1973.

• Ather Nafees (died aged 47): His real name was Kunwar Ather Ali Khan. A poet and journalist, Nafees was born in Patal, Aligarh district, on Feb 22, 1933. He died in Karachi on Nov 21, 1980.

• Muhammad Deen Taseer (died aged 48): A critic, poet and researcher, M.D. Taseer was born in Ajnala, Amritsar district, on Feb 28, 1902. He died in Lahore on Nov 30, 1950.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2015

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