Publishing Well
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Publishing Well

The man called Ansar

A glimpse of my late grandfather

“Naam ka hoon Ansar, rehta hoon Urdu ki tarha. Sab jaantay toh hain, magar poochta koi nahi.”

Translation: I am known as Ansar, but I live like Urdu. Everybody knows me, but they don’t ask how I am.

Chotay Chacha (younger uncle), was my father’s uncle, but he was like a grandfather to me. During my childhood, I would visit him every Sunday, with my father, and spend less than an hour, at his place. I knew him as a retired, lonely, old, grumpy man, who adored his isolation. His small house in the P.N.T (Post and Telegraph) Colony, was his palace. He had grown cheeku, banana and anaar (pomegranate) trees, in his back yard. My dad would bring some fruits, change his bed sheet and some times, get medicines or pay his bills. He would often insist me to stay with him, but I would refuse, as I instinctively felt strange.

He would often say, “Saatth (60) saal ke baad aadmi retired nahi, retarded hojata hai.”
Translation: After the age of 60, one becomes retarded, not retired.

His life after retirement was quite stagnant, yet his routine kept him going. He would wake up at 5 a.m, having his breakfast, read the newspaper, then sit outside on the charpoy in his back yard, enjoying the sun light. Then lunch at 11 a.m, followed by a siesta, then in the late afternoon would go for a stroll around the block and meet his neighbours, on the way. Sometimes, his friends would come over and visit him.

He had a collection of old indian audio cassettes, a stereo, empty old spice bottle, some antique items, a few calendars hung on the wall. Under his pillow, he kept a tasbeeh (rosary), his old radio and a stress relief toy. On the side of the bed, he kept a book, which I believe was a novel by Intizar Hussain. He had a tiny store room, full of biscuits. He would give us a mini tour of his special room, and ask us to pick any brand of biscuit, we preferred.

Ansar Hussain, migrated from Dibai, India, soon after the partition, during the late 1950s. He completed his intermediate (12th grade) and got a clerical job at Post and Telegraph (now called PTCL). He went through a year of training and learned the morse code. At that time, telegram was used to communicate and thousands of messages were sent and received everyday.

Post and Telegraph building

He was not really ambitious, but had a strict schedule. His anger was sublimated into his busy routine, which included, walking, going to the YMCA sports club, and playing tennis with his friends. Then he would reach his office at 8:30 sharp, and would get upset if his subordinates would show up late. In the evening, he would do the chores, and spend time with his family.

He was a deeply sensitive man, although his personality was quite the opposite. He was 6 feet tall, with a broad physique and quite outspoken, yet he would take care of his family and loved children. He would bring us ice cream, whenever he would visit us at Nanoo’s (grandmother) place in Seaview. At that time, ice cream was considered an exquisite dish.

He was a fan of classical literature, music and hindi films. One of his all time favourite films were Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeeza and Mahal. During his last days, he would ask me to play the songs “aega aega” and “chalte chalte” on my phone, and would lose himself in nostalgia. As he would fall asleep, his soul would travel to Dibai and would become a child again and play with his friends, who were no longer with him.

On his last day, he was completely unresponsive and was struggling to breathe. We rushed to get an ambulance and soon, the driver came with a stretcher and we carried him in the van. Suddenly, I saw a crow in my garden, lying in a puddle, taking his last breaths. I picked up the poor thing and put him under the sun, and covered him with a cloth. I could sense that it was an omen that Chotay Chacha won’t survive. After an hour he departed from this world and entered the next.

Khwabon ki koi sarhadain nahin hoti, phirta hoon gali gali.”

Translation: Dreams have no borders, I roam around, from one street to another.

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