Thursday, March 7, 2013

A moving tribute


By Sudheer Kulkarni


My very dear friend, Asif Ali Khan, is no more. He breathed his last yesterday afternoon at his home near Byculla in Bombay after a prolonged but brave battle with cancer.

I joined a large number of his admirers (among them my longtime friends Javed Anand and Feroze Ashraf) to bid him final goodbye at the Nariyalwadi Qabrastan late in the evening. It’s a very serene place, full of trees and flowering plants. My grief-stricken heart recalled that it was at this very place that Asif, Javed, Ferozebhai and I had come, a little over a year ago, to bid goodbye to our common friend, Sajid Rashid, a renowned Urdu journalist and writer. First Sajid and now Asif, their departure leaves a big void in the field of social activism in a city that direly needs more such activists.

Asif strove passionately all his life for communal harmony, Hindu-Muslim understanding and amity, national integration, and socio-economic and educational progress of the Muslim community. Against all odds, and with an exemplary spirit of selflessness, he pursued ideals that were close to his heart. He constantly and sincerely struggled to build bridges of dialogue and cooperation between people with divergent views on socio-political and religious issues. It’s an endeavour that can easily create misunderstanding and disillusionment. But Asif’s sincerity of purpose and unassuming style of functioning won him the trust and admiration of a wide range of personalities in public life.

Asif gave expression to his thoughts and concerns through cartoons – he had an amazing sense of humour – journalism and non-political social work. He was very dynamic in his work, a person always on the move. Yet, he was also very gentle in the way he worked and interacted with people.

Asif was full of love for life. However, his fullness of love for life flowed from a deep awareness of the injustice, exploitation, cruelty and suffering in the world around him. He hated hypocrisy, bigotry and dogmatism. This dichotomy between Life, that is forever longing and trying to create a better world, and a world that is unable and unwilling to become better, was a source of perpetual sadness for him. But he rarely showed his sadness, except in private conversations with trusted friends. The sadness was well hidden beneath the natural smile on his face. His smiling face (which adorns his Facebook page) greeted me even when I last saw him on Wednesday, even though he was no longer in a position to speak.

My wife Kamaxi and I knew Asif and his family since the mid-1980s. We conveyed our heartfelt condolences to his old and ailing mother, wife Sharifa, their newly wed sons Naved and Rameez, and their daughters-in-law.

Asifbhai, you’ll forever remain in my heart. I am grateful to you for your love and friendship, for your understanding and comradeship. I shall forever remember your unpretentious but internally solid personality; your strength of character; your lifelong endeavour to contribute to justice and peace in this world (in Bombay, our beloved city, to begin with); and for all the happy moments we shared. Surely, you were the kind of person that our Almighty Creator has a special liking and love for.

No comments: