"Khaakey" reflects the author's great command of language as well as his humor which holds the reader's interest. He keeps the narrative engaging and gripping. The very first sketch is of the towering Urdu figure, Makhdoom Mohiuddin. He was no less a poet than the legendary Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Or so say the critics.
In a fascinating manner, Sayeed describes how Faiz and Makhdoom both regaled large gatherings of audiences in a "mushaira". And how Makhdoom was pestered with the demand for his famous poems "Charagar" (the popular film song "Ek Chambeli Ke Mandwe Talay"), "Chand Taron Ka Bun" and "Intezar". But Sayeed writes that his "Woh" used to carry the day or rather night. For, while he was declaiming "Woh" people would look mischievously at the window where some beauties would sit and enjoy Makhdoom's poetry.
Sayeed's appreciation of Makhdoom was no one-way traffic; Makhdoom also acclaimed Sayeed's mastery as a short story writer. It is through Sayeed's sketch that we learn for the first time that Makhdoom was of Arab descent. His full name was Abu Sayeed Muhammad Makhdoom Mohiuddin Hadari.
Another towering figure mentioned in the book is that of Ibrahim Jalees. He is the eldest of the three gifted brothers - the late Mahboob Hussain Jigar, who edited the popular Urdu daily Siyasat, and Mujtaba Hussain, a well-known Urdu humorist. Jalees earned fame with his very first book "Zard Chehre." Then he continued his ascent to fame with his novels - "Chor Bazaar," "Tikona Des" and "Do Mulk Ek Kahani."
Sayeed reveals that the famous Urdu poet Shaaz Tamkanat wrote only humor at the beginning of his creative life. And his humor was appreciated by no less a person than Ibrahim Jalees, the giant.
The sketch of the late Qazi Saleem, the famous modern poet, is illuminating - especially his infatuation and passion for reciting his own poems. Once while he was collecting leaves for "bidi" - a type of cigarette made of unprocessed tobacco wrapped in leaves - a cobra spread its hood nearby and began to sway menacingly. Unfazed, Qazi Saleem took his poem out of his pocket and began to read it to the snake. Without harming him, the cobra slithered away. Sayeed writes that the episode illustrates that poetry was dearer to Qazi Saleem than his own life. (The late poet was the elder brother of Dr. Majid Kazi, the late King Fahd's personal physician.)
Sayeed observes: "Qazi Saleem, while reciting his poetry, hypnotizes his audiences. His poetry negates the contention that there is inertia in Urdu literature, especially poetry."
The sketch of Moghni Tabassum (a friend who later became Sayeed's brother-in-law) is lively. He was so generous that one day he exhorted his friends "Come, take all the books from my personal library." Rashed and Shaaz, Sayeed writes, pounced upon them and grabbed as many as they could. Poor Sayeed only got one - the collection of poems by Saqi Farooqui.
Iqbal Mateen, a close friend of Sayeed's, finds a special place in the sketches. He is a short story writer who now puts his pen to poetry as well. He addresses everybody as "pyaare" (dear). Mark the irony when Sayeed says: "It is a tragedy that I became his close friend and, for him, my personality is a 'scourge' which he bears happily like a cross."
The sketch of Waheed Akhtar, the great poet, is sharp indeed. His ego was such that he was unwilling to recognize any of his contemporary poets.
The sketches on Shahryar and Aziz Qaisi, both well-known Urdu poets, are also interesting. It will be a revelation to many that the real name of Shahryar - the poet who wrote songs for the popular film "Umrao Jaan" ("Dil Cheez Kya Hai," "In Ankhon Ki Masti Mein," and "Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston) - is Kunwar Akhlaq Muhammad Khan.
The book is full of humor and enlightenment. The worthy son of a worthy father, Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, the Indian consul general in Jeddah, deserves appreciation for bringing out a second edition of one of his father's numerous works. Dr. Ausaf Sayeed's preface reflects his piety and love for his father.