His name was Akram Affandi—a face in crowd, died in September 2012. It was a normal routine death — a man comes, lives and extinguishes. But who was this Akram Affandi? A steady, stable cyclist with high cheeks, a pinkish glow around the face, with a nineteenth century English cap on head, peddling to what destination no one really knows. Wait, you could see him driving a monster bodied tractor with melons and fresh vegetables on board and follow him to his field, you will find him amidst golden husk or grading golden delicious apples. Perhaps it is because of his multifaceted role modeling that Madam Sofia Ashraf (a keen observer) called him “Gabriel Oak”—the central character of Thomas Hardy’s novel ” For from Madding Crowds’.
Akram Affandi’s father Abdul Rehman Affandi had visited Kashmir toward the end of eighteenth century and finally settled here. Being a part of Afghan royal family, Mr. Rehman came very close to Mahraja Hari Singh who appointed him as a courtier in his government.
For Akram Affandi the royal blood was just like any other blood, so his choice to place himself in the new found land (Kashmir) was to follow his divine urge to work and work alone. In late thirties he joined German Army for some time but his restless soul wanted him to engage in something original, innovative, enduring and really impressive. These are my ‘adjectives’ but for Affandi, there was only one adjective and that is work. Affandi didn’t care if the grammarians were not comfortable with ‘work’ as an adjective.
This ‘work’ was his devotion to mother earth, to its products, to the animals being nourished by it and to the human’s enjoying its gifts.
Prof Agha Ashraf in his autobiography writes:
“What was great about Akram Sahib was his strong will power nothing worth the name could stop him from doing what he wanted to do. His liberated mind was the only support to his free life style, once he lost his cows, his rabbits disappeared and his trees fell. He planted them again waited till they blossomed, gave fruits and the cows, the sheep and the rabbits again came jumping in the small world. Akram Sahib had built”
The juicy fruit he got from his Rawalpora Orchards seemed to me as an honest reward to a person who had developed a passion for trees and love for serving them beyond all doubts
You can’t categorise him as an Extravert or Introvert, infact he was both. He was Extravert when seen as grading apples, pruning plants, making charcoal for public use during winters, milking cows for the best quality milk in the town (you may call him Verghees Curian of Kashmir Milk Industry). He is an introvert too, a ‘solitary reaper’ a lone observer and perhaps with no friends but one—Professor Agha Ashraf Ali who had found him “an attractive, charming and handsome Afghan “Whose Royal looks had to penetrate the barren lands and discover the best they had to offer to humans, plants and animals equally. Agha Sahib has devoted eight (8) pages of his 340-page Autobiography to Akram Affandi, I didn’t find any of his friends getting such a big space in this narrative.
Another strong reason for his introversion was his faith in the power of silence. Perhaps the languages of silence he had picked up from his cattle. Here I want to record a quote from ‘Paulo Coelho’s, the Alchemist – an extraordinary book of wisdom and love. The extract best fits the life of Akram Affandi:
“… The sheep had taught him something even more important, that there was a language in the world that every one understands ……. It was the language of enthusiasm of things accomplished with love and purpose and as part of a search for something believed in and desired …. When you want something the entire universe conspires to help you achieve it”.
So, that was the life of a work–enthusiast not a workaholic, a man of honour who responded to his personal calling and found the world bowing in return. Great souls live beyond times and are remembered because of the dreams they followed and the deeds they did.