(Ahmadullah Affandi was a personality we all will remember
(ASHWAQ MASOODI) feb 21 2013:
I remember moving to and fro on a rope-swing hung from an apple tree in my grandfather’s backyard in Onagam, Bandipora. I would wait till late evening for my nanaji (grandfather) to come back from school with a satchel full of ‘paan paraag’ candies. The sound of the wheels of his old battered bicycle would tell me that he was close. No matter how long his day would have been, he always had a smile on his face when he came back home.
Near sundown, all my cousins and I would gather in the lantern lit alley in nanaji’s house waiting for him to finish his evening prayers. We would all scuttle behind him and follow him to the kitchen to listen to his stories and hear him sing. He loved singing. He was so energetic, so lively, so excited about life. To all of us, stories of his life seemed to be more exciting that the Arabian Night tales. He was a person who lived his dream to the full. Despite coming from a poor family from a village with not many resources to accomplish his dreams, nanaji roamed around the world seeking knowledge, and did what he wanted to do. He was a liberal for whom education was more important than anything else. I remember how excited he used to be every time I mentioned my exam results. He said he wanted all his children to rise beyond conventions and live their dreams.
The last time I met my nana ji he asked me if his beard had grown thick under his chin and neck and whether his moustache needed a trim. As always I said he looks like an actor from a Bollywood movie. He laughed aloud and said, “sach meri laadli? (Is that so, my darling?)”
Just a few seconds after this conversation, he asked me who I was. I told him I was his daughter’s daughter. He nodded and sighed. Probably he didn’t believe me.
He took off his white turban and started running his hands through his dense grey hair like he always did. I kissed his cold forehead and his wrinkled hands. I could see a few light brown patches and some bulged veins on his hands. His face looked like a baby’s. His wet sea green eyes lit up like they always did. He looked at me, kissed my palm and again asked me who I was.
Since the beginning of this month, nana ji had stopped eating. He wasn’t talking to anyone. When my mother called and said she would have to rush to Bandipore because nanaji was not keeping well, I knew something terrible would happen. I knew death was sitting purposefully on my grandfather’s bedside.
My nanaji, Ahmadullah Affandi, the legendary scout of Jammu and Kashmir died on Monday.
At the time of his death, nanaji started reciting kalima out aloud. All his children except one were around him. My maamu had gone out to get some medicines for his father. Nanaji waited for my maamu. As soon as my maamu enetered the room, Nanaji looked at him and at around 1:33 pm on Monday, he breathed his last.
We all grow up knowing that anyone who is born has to die one day but I wasn’t prepared for him to die. I have realized that all those days and months of mental preparation didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye.
My grandfather was suffering from Alzheimer’s and had grown very weak over time. He would keep retelling the same stories. He remembered his past vividly but could not recall what had happened just a minute ago. He would offer the same prayers more than once. He would enter his room and search for clues to understand where he was. During the initial years, he kept on mentioning how he could not remember things properly. Within a few years, he could not remember that he could not remember anything.
In 1967, my grandfather was the leader of the Indian contingent, which was invited to Saudi Arabia by the then King Shah Faesel. The king had gifted him a transistor radio, a fountain pen among other things. Because of the negligence of an acquaintance, my nanaji lost the pen. He was deeply hurt by this. Even when he could not remember anything, he remembered his lost pen and kept searching for it, with a hope that he would find it some day. He never could.
Last summer I went to meet him with my friend from Kolkata. He wasn’t well then but when he looked at my friend, he understood she was not a Kashmiri and that she was his guest. He asked me to seek forgiveness on his behalf from her for not being in a state to host her properly. He became uneasy and constantly asked me if there was good enough food at home for my friend.
I cannot come to terms with the fact that he has left us. It’s so hard to believe that the next time I visit Bandipore, I would not be able to see him or feel his warmth. I cannot imagine how his frail body would have been buried in the ground. What would he have thought when he breathed his last?
I cannot forget the sweet smell of his body, the perpetual glow on his face and his touch. His voice singing ‘nanaji jannat se mangwa dijiye ghoda mujhe’ is still reverberating in my ears. I would probably never be able to listen to the song again. I can still hear him call me ‘natkhat’, and it tears me apart every second. It seems like something in me has died. Perhaps death relieved him of all his pain and suffering, but it created a permanent void deep inside of me.
(The author is a student of journalism at Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism, New York)