Saturday, 6 February 2010

Nanabba

Solitude is a writer’s best friend. No I don’t mean in the sense that to be a writer you should shun all company. But when you want to write something, try sitting by someplace empty, someplace vast…someplace quiet..

Its 11 pm on a Saturday evening, There is this field on my way back from the gym. Its an old abandoned football field, with two old goalposts being the last remaining signs that the grounds saw a lot of matches between young ones from the residential area it stood in.

I sit on a stack of bricks with some milk and a soft melody in my ears. And let my mind drift.

Today morning started with a hazy dream where I heard my roommate talking. I woke to the news that one of my roomies had lost his Nana (maternal grandfather) today. I’d heard him speak about his Nana many times, and he had been really really close to him all along. Being an NRI almost all my life, this situation had raised its ugly head more than once with me. Problem with the employed here is that our passports are in the hands of authorities to avoid us running off to home countries after committing some crime or fraud. And when a tragedy strikes, the first place we run to is the authorities and the airport to get a damn flight home. All for that one last glance.

My roommate didn’t get his chance to see his Nana. Chance plays an evil hand sometimes, and it’s a situation where your hands remain tied up. He came home from office, after resigning from his duties, and sat silent almost the whole day. We stood in the balcony after lunch, sipping tea and gazing at a cloudy Saturday sky. Moments such as these when even the most eloquent of speakers are stumped for words. I put my arm around him saying nothing. And he burst out. About not being able to see his Nana one last time. Words are weak consolers so I kept them at a minimum and let him cry.

That’s when I felt my skin go frigid and the moment took me back to the mid 90s when I was in a similar situation.

One of the toughest news my dad had given me was of my Nana passing away. I still remember the moment when he told me Nanabba (Grandpa) was no more, I was around 11 or 12. What first started as a shock (it was the first time I was fully comprehending death of a close one) later lead to me breaking down seeing mom in tears. Dad told me he and mom were going to India for the funeral and I was to look after Faiz, stay with neighbours and wait for them to return. I was not going to get my last look. So my mind raced back to the last time I had seen Nanabba. Hardly a year ago.

My Nana and Nani had performed their Hajj, one of the major and later duties of being a Muslim. And they had stopped over in Qatar for a month before heading back to India.

I begged them not to go back so soon, to stay for another month or two. But nanabba smiled and told me they had to go, and that they would see us in India soon.

I sat on my bed and watched Nanabba dress up for the flight. He wore his favorite safari suit of smokey blue color and spoke to me in his commanding but compassionate baritone, I remember him advising me to study well, and to be a good elder brother, to be a good and obedient son. Nanabba was a headmaster in a school in Bangalore, and education was something he was very particular about. He loved the reading habit in me and nurtured it with books from his school library. He always wished Faiz to develop it, but my brother was destined to earn his knowledge from Nat-Geo and Discovery more than printed pages. I’m sure nanabba would be equally proud of Faiz’s knowledge today.

I remember him talking to me, and I looked at him, nodding my head and saying yes. He took out his shoes, and proceeded in his disciplinary fashion to turn his socks the right way, dust the soles of his feet and wear the socks. He took out his little talc powder dispenser, and puffed it a few times into each of his shoes before slipping into them. He stood up to his full height in front of the mirror, set his famous handlebar moustache right, and wore his prayer cap. He looked at me, put his hands into his pocket and took out money, and slipped them into my hands with a smile. I remember hugging him, crying my eyes out and continuing my requests to not go away. My eyes fill with tears even today when I recall that moment he and Nanimmi walked into the airport departure gates in their slow and composed manner. That was the last time I saw Nanabba.

Everyone tells me that he is one of Allah’s most blessed beings. How with his modest salary and circumstance, he raised 3 kids, married them all into good homes, and completed all his duties before returning to his Lord.

For me, he was the paragon of principles. A disciplinarian who loved people in his manner. People of Richmond Town’s Serpentine street and Johnson market would stand and give their Salutations to him whenever he passed by with his umbrella and schoolmaster bag. Echoes of “Assalam Alaikum Shariff Saab” still fill those streets for me.

The moment I got my engineering degree and rushed to Mysore where my father was on holiday, I hugged and told him I’d passed with disctinction. He was speechless as he hugged me with a big smile. My oldest uncle cried joyfully in front of my dadajaan’s photograph. I never saw my Dada but have heard him to be a great figure of Mysore as well. But Even to this day, I hold this thought dear to my heart, that had Nanabba been alive, there would be no happier soul on the face of the planet on that day. Not a soul more thankful to Almighty, not a soul brimming with more pride over his Engineer Grandson.

I am a tough person to break into tears. He was too. Everyone says I am a lot like Nanabba. Probably since I was the first grandchild of the family, he was happiest when I was born, Mom talks about how he went mad with happiness and gave away money to all the nurses around. As per the custom of our Noble Prophet PBUH, every newborn is made to taste something sweet (Dates or Honey). And this duty is generally done by the Father. I tasted honey from Nanabba’s hand. He gave the first Azaan (Call to prayer) in my 1 day old ears. I dress like him, carry a bag all the time and share a lot of his traits. I know for a fact that I could never be even a percent of what he was. AlHaj Janab Mohammad Azeezullah Shariff Saheb’s legacy is that of respect and reverence in the old city of Bangalore. And I cannot thank Allah enough to be a part of it.

I miss you Nanabba. Thank you for everything. Specially for the love, the prayers and the values. I Love You !!

P.S.

I’m sure everyone of you have had someone like Nanabba in your lives. I’d love to hear about it. Sit back, let your mind wander to the past and pull out the memories and re-live them. Cry if you can, these tears have a bitter-sweet taste.

4 comments:

Raihan said...

very well written... your thoughs put down in words straight away touches the reader's heart...
keep going :):)

taskeen said...

Awesome..Faraz, one of the best posts of yours I've read.

susie said...

sharky.. *hugss...

ur post left me in tears..

Cutie Pie said...

The best post so far :).... *hugs* u know ur the best :) there's no1 who is better than you sach mein ..... ur a gem...love yew... mwah