I have trashed various drafts of this post. I have been at loss to decide from where to begin and how to end it. I wanted to give a befitting tribute to the man, who played an important part in me becoming the man I am today. At first, mere use of past tense for him was too much to begin with. In the end, I just simply gave up. I have come to conclusion that rightly so, I am not qualified enough to write a proper homage for Baba. This is just an attempt to celebrate his life, rather than mourning his demise.
Like any other relationship, our relationship too had many facets to it. My earlier thoughts of him are of being in awe of him. We were raised to simply behave when he was around, as he usually travelled a lot due to nature of his work. There would be a comparative calm at our house in his presence, and pin drop silence whenever he was on phone. It’s not that he was tough on us in anyway, it’s just this is how we were brought up.
But it changed soon. Although for most of pre-teen and teen years Baba was posted outside Hyderabad and we were camped there due to our schooling, but there were times when he was posted in Hyderabad and we lived together. Some of my best years of life were spent in an old Banglow at Civil Lines in Hyderabad when we all lived together. Every evening, Baba would play cricket with us and it was sort of beginning of our personal transformation.
Some years later, Baba got posted in Nawabshah and we would visit him during school breaks. During a particular winter break we visited him and insisted him to play cricket with us. That particular residence had a huge backyard and its surface consisted of crushed brick material. This meant it was less than ideal for playing cricket and Baba noticed it when he played with us. Sometimes ball would keep extremely low or at other times would jump up unexpectedly. When we got back there again for summer breaks, the backyard had a newly laid cement pitch on it. That event pretty much explains Baba’s contribution to my life. Nobody asked him to get that pitch laid for us. He got it done himself knowing how much we loved playing cricket. Similarly, all my life I got everything without having to ask. He almost always knew when we needed something.
During my school years, Baba was very particular about us maintaining our grades. He would constantly tell us that he we need to study hard to get into good universities and land good jobs. He particularly drilled into us that he would not be able to support us financially and we had to build our own lives. This is probably the only time I can remember where he attempted bluff and did it successfully. I would probably never forget my first day at work when I was getting ready for office in Karachi and Baba happened to be there. He asked me to have breakfast with him and asked several questions about nature of my job. I tried to explain advertising and nature of agency-client relationship in layman terms. He grasped that client’s would not always be kind to me. He then said I should keep in mind that if I ever felt insulted by a boss or a client, I should not hesitate to resign and he has earned enough to be able to take care of me. For a moment I was taken aback by his advice but that discussion gave me confidence which I carried throughout my career. I knew I had solid backing, and it is that backing I miss now. Even when I went to see him after my return from Bahrain, he could sense I was feeling down and he said only one sentence about the situation, “ I am not dead yet, what are you worried about?”.
In terms of his personality, if I compare Baba with his peers and colleague, he was a simple person. As I matured, I realized he was easy to talk to, though not talkative. Our relationship in last decade or so had moved to a point where we would frankly discuss cricket, movies or politics but his authority always remained there. He was usually not a person of strong likes or dislikes (unless it was politics or religion). For example, I don’t think he had a favorite cricketer or an actor (although he liked Dilip Kumar). As for politics, he felt Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hard done, and hated Zardari clan with vigor. But only few days ago, my younger brother Arif told me that Baba refused to be photographed with either George Bush or Tony Blair during his visit to Madam Tussaud’s museum in London due to their role in invasion of Iraq. Similarly, he had very strong views on religious matters.
Last six months were not easy on anyone. To see someone who was not just in control of his life, but everyone around him, disintegrate so rapidly was unthinkable. It reached a point where I stopped praying for his life and started praying for his peace. He was buried on 21st of Ramadan, and being a Shia, he couldn’t have asked for better timing. Today when people are offering their condolences for him, they describe him as gentle, kind, patronizing and some go to extent of calling him saintly. They tell us of patronizing things he did for them, things we in family were not aware of.
Now that I look back, I don’t ever remember him saying anything like ‘I love you’ to me or to his other kids. To be honest, he didn’t need to. I knew how much he loved me, or all his family. But I do regret not telling him how much I loved him. I hope he knew. Whatever he was to the world, to me he was simply Baba.