Among his 19 cousins, he still remains the most educated in the family. While his family’s new generations are in diverse fields, they still cannot match up to his personality.
Last year, in the first week of November, my maternal aunt was battling Covid19 at SKIMS. Her condition was serious. Her age, diabetes, and hypertension made the illness more difficult to cure. While she remained in that state, a phone call, at about 4am, put me in a state of turmoil.
“Bade Papa is no more,” a cousin told me over the phone. She was talking about my elder maternal uncle, Mohammad Amin Chowdhry. The news triggered a release of all the suppressed emotions in my body. I was sad, in shock, and in a state of disbelief.
She was talking about the death of a person who was physically fit, and had no serious health condition. She was talking about a person who had provided all those memories he was being missed for, even by those he had least interacted with.
“His presence would make any gathering lively,” said one of his childhood friends. “His demeanour, eloquence, and manner in which he would quote Allama Iqbal made even the most indifferent person interested. The power of his message would stay for days.”
This character of him had been constructed by his life choices. He started his life with learning, and ended it in teaching. My Mamu chose to pick up books when everybody around was looking away. In early 1960s, when going to school was still not a custom followed by the masses, his father got him admitted in the Biscoe school, where he completed his schooling. When he finished his graduation, he chose not to take up his father’s business, and refused two government jobs, one in police as an officer, and another in the meteorological department. He chose to join a government school as a teacher.
Such was his faith in books as a means to understand the world that while being in a job, and having children and wife at home, he completed master’s in various subjects, all different from the other. He went to Meerut University where he did his master’s in Maths. Then at Kashmir University he did his master’s in Physics, and later in Arabic. Among his 19 cousins, he still remains the most educated in the family. While his family’s new generations are in diverse fields, they still cannot match up to his personality. From a teacher he rose to the rank of principal. Even after his retirement, he was heading one of the leading private schools in the valley. And many times, he was a core member of the body that manages the shrine of Gous-ul-Azam, at Sarai Bala, in Amira Kadal area of Srinagar.
Beyond these degrees, his heart’s joy and peace was in reading Allama Iqbal. Such was the poet’s influence on him that no conversation would go without him quoting Iqbal. His presence was considered a must in any gathering, professional or personal. His time would either pass in teaching, or in his study, or in remaining connected to his Allah. I don’t recall a time when I have seen him away from this life. But for a year, he was missing among us physically. In memories he still remains alive, and will forever, as a Sufi who would find solace at the shrine of Peer Hazrat Gouszul Azam Dastgeer (RA), and showed us how his Peer’s presence in life, spiritually, makes a difference.
—The writer is a journalist