An Ode to Akbar Kakh: The Markhor Man

BY SAMEER KHAZIR

Death as nobody needs to learn afresh, keeps no calendar. It is in the nature of a reality we have to accept willy-nilly. However, a gaping void is felt when someone close to our hearts leaves us.
A fortnight ago , it was a sunny Thursday afternoon when the Benevolent Allah called this man for good. Soon after having discussed the management plan for kazinag National park in Nature interpretation center (NIC) of Lachipora Wildlife sanctuary, entailing recommendations and perspectives from wide range of officials of wildlife arena, our team left for the limber wildlife sanctuary to carry out the analogous exercise.
On way, our director stopped us only to click a picture of a cherry tree which later turned out to be a sour species. As we were about to reach the desired destination I saw Akbar Kakh wearing the Gharial- tagged caps (distributed by our director in lieu of promised Eidi), taking pics of his own, knowing little that this would be the last pic stored in his kitty of life. As soon as we alighted from the vehicle to shape our next assignment, my Akbar Kakh was found frozen at the back seat of our vehicle. Numb with the sight, the driver took a hasty turn to rush him to hospital. In this paradox of searing pain, hopelessness, our prayers soaked with rolling tears, failed to end up saving a conservation soul who lost his battle with life on way to hospital. He left us without bidding a formal adieu.
Born in 1972 in Babagail village of Limber wildlife sanctuary, Akbar Kakh is survived by wife, two sons and two daughters. He had been working with the Wildlife Trust of India as (Field Attendant) since the past decade with the Markhor conservation project. He was a man who lived a life enriched by both adventure and pure love for nature.
Gifted with phenomenal intellect, an amazing memory which remained razor-sharped until his end, the gentle soul was known as the Markhor man of Kazinag National Park. Possessed of deep wellsprings of character and inner strength, Akbar Kakh beautifully reflected the unchanging nature of the mountains that he loved. His elevated the power of sighting ungulates with their age- sex determination had no parallels. Kakh was after all much loved fatherly figure cum guide. The magnetic pull of this conservation gem was devoid of even a trace of arrogance.
There was hardly any idle moment for him and if he had some time he would draw funny and spend time in clicking the awesome photographs of birds and mammals. He was at home with tribal communities, a team player who would take vital decisions calmly and coolly. A committed attendant, a committed worker, a committed Kashmiri, a committed family man to the core, Akbar Kakh combined all attributes in his persona and personality. What he lacked in formal education, he more than made up in sheer passion, of the forests and the topography of the limber wildlife sanctuary made him intrinsic to the management of sanctuary since the time of its existence. During this period, Akbar Kakh helped strategize and implement anti-poaching, fire-fighting and many other community based conservation related programmes. He also helped many modern day researchers to shape their own scientific project.
River like munificence, sun like bounty, ocean like patience, my Akbar Kakh shared unrequited love with everyone he encountered. “Always make the promises that you keep” was his oft-repeated advice shot at me. A man with a mission, his simple life, keen sense of duty is rarely seen in this age of rampant corruption in all walks of life.
His passing has left a void in more ways than one, yet there is a comfort in the knowledge that the legacy of such a man can never be extinguished. Akbar Kakh’s is legacy will live on forever and we will always remember him as a gentleman, a true defender of our natural heritage. As we come to terms with his passing our thoughts are with his family that will surely find it hard to adjust to life without the lovable on the top of that adventurous Akbar Kakh-The Markhor Man.

—The author is working as a Field officer with the WTI’s, Markhor conservation project and can be reached at: sameer@wti.org.in