'Showkat Jan Laut Aao'

At the funeral prayers on Sunday, at Magarmal Bagh, the Imam made a routine announcement before the start of prayers for the deceased. “If Showkat Jan Sahab owed anybody anything he may please inform his family so as to ensure that his debts are repaid.” I was among the people who offered the last prayers for the departed friend. So were many others from the family and a large number of Showkat Jan’s friends, acquaintances and beneficiaries. This was one departed soul who I am sure owed nobody anything and each one of those present or had ever come in contact with him were actually the recipients of his unlimited favours. And they included the most affluent, the most influential and the most privileged members of the society.

Showkat Jan was none of this. He actually was an enigma. A mystery to even his closest friends. He was an essential human being. Goodness was in his crane because goodness is giving, sharing. He was love personified. Because love is giving, sharing.

Nobody ever knew what Showkat Jan did for a living but he always insisted and did pay for the bills of his friends, whether at Ahdoos, his favourite haunt or at a dress shop or wherever. He would insist at the end of every conversation with me over telephone, should I have you sent something and, I am sure that was his standard with all his friends and acquaintances.

He was the fulcrum of his extended family and even though his brothers did very well in life, they were all known as Showkat’s brothers. His friends were known as Showkat’s friends. I found him as the most selfless person to have come into my life ever. For any of his legion of friends, he was the metaphorical “main hoon na”.

Showkat maintained an exclusive relation with everybody he treated as a friend. And that exclusive relationship was marked by bluntness, straightforwardness, hard talk and a complete absence of hypocrisy. If he liked you, he liked you to the hilt. If he dropped you from his favours, you were a nobody to him.

Showkat Jan had become a habit for his friends. I do not know how life will be without him, even though I did not see him everyday like others in his close circle. Long years back when I used to be part of the Greater Kashmir evenings at its office, Showkat too came and became a part of the scenario. Once he decided to boycott us. He had become extremely informal with Fayaz Kaloo. They would fight and make peace. But the sensitive person that he was, he suddenly disappeared and refused any contact for a month or so. Neither would he express what hurt him. Leaving us no way to know how to get him back, we hit upon an idea of publishing a public notice in the next issue of Greater Kashmir. Titled ‘Showkat Jan laut aao ‘, we gave his description as in a usual disappearance note and it created a bit of a sensation among his friends. Next day, Showkat appeared at his usual time, but not before many people had spun stories about his ‘disappearance’ and his leaving his family and home.

How I wish we could again send him this notice and bring him back. Life without you, Showkat, is not the same, and will never be!

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