I knew Jehangir a little before I knew Muddasir. And, like most of the university batch-mates, I came to know much later that Jehangir and Muddasir were actually real brothers: Jehangir Ali, and Muddasir Ali. Until then, there was nothing, not even the physical appearance of the two, to suggest so, let alone a conversation to make it explicit. But as my newly-formed acquaintance with Jahangir grew by the day and gradually changed into friendship at the Kashmir University’s Media Education Research Centre (MERC)—nestled then in the green hutments amid the mighty Chinars of the sprawling Naseem Bagh Campus—this news finally broke once, much to the surprise of many classmates. But that’s probably one quality of certain news snippets we experience on a daily basis: they often surprise. Be that as it is, my association with Muddasir—the young and energetic student who looked minding his own business—too grew during the course of our studies at the MERC, and, eventually, perhaps more than it had grown with Jahangir. And we were now, as they say, friends: shaking hands on a daily basis, hugging each other, gossiping about politics, sipping cups of tea at Hameed’s Canteen (sometimes even at the expense of attending classes), and quite often, discussing with each other as many paragraphs as possible of some of the finest essays of Arundhati Roy, whom we had just come across or discovered. It would be like reviewing Roy’s essays—line by line—over cups of tea or coffee, and sometimes with so eagerness and continuity, as if we had nothing else to discuss, as if she was an integral part of our friendship. The first of many essays we discussed—we would get printouts on those long pages from Iqbal Library—with granular detail was The End of Imagination, almost all of its lines and words, before switching over to The Greater Common Good and The Ladies Have Feelings…So Shall We Leave It To The Experts, andothers. This discussion, most often, would continue at a rented accommodation, just behind the Naseem Bagh Campus at Habak, over more cups of tea, and conversations loaded with humour and everything else that came our way. And all this, while Jahangir tried his hands on recipes for dinner.
On a fine autumn morning in the MERC lawns, I came to know that Muddasir and Jahangir had joined Greater Kashmir as trainee reporters a couple of days earlier. It wasn’t an easy thing to happen. Greater Kashmir newsroom was no ordinary entity to enter and start a career, that too with a byline. While I grew a bit restless—certainly not envious—a question from Muddasir came as a surprise which I struggled to handle instantly. “Hey Boss, why don’t you also come to GK and join as a trainee reporter?” Muddasir asked me that afternoon, perhaps reinforcing his friendship and the fact that our association was not merely friendship for the sake of it but in its truer sense. That is the quality he had, which many lack, or which many forget: valuing friendship. Of course, saying no to his question was not an option. After all, it was about GK, and more importantly, the GK Newsroom. It was something that I would yearn for, even as I had started writing a weekly column “Campus Round-Up” for the newspaper’s Op-Ed page much earlier while contributing to its “Reflections”, a dedicated bottom space for Letters to Editor. And here was the moment the same evening: stepping alongside Muddasir and Jehangir into the GK Newsroom, and right away tasked with filing a story on a happening in the Kashmir University campus, even before I could properly introduce myself. Evenings at the newsroom, I eventually realised, were all about deadlines—THE DAILY DEADLINE in fact. Filing a story those days wasn’t easy at the Newsroom either, for two reasons. One, the space, as they say, was bleeding, and to find a space for a trainee reporter’s raw and incoherent story which required a lot of editing looked next to impossible. And two: there were, without an iota of doubt, far senior journalists in the Newsroom who had mastered the art of news writing and story-telling with immense wit and brevity. But then, luck played in our favour: our stories would appear with fairly good frequency but certainly with better presentation after the ‘cuts’ by some of the immensely-talented editors on the desk, who eventually became a great source of learning as well.
During the course of next few years, myself, Muddasir and Jehangir would finish with our tasks—including translating Urdu press-notes handed over to us by a hard taskmaster—somewhere between 10 pm and 11pm. And thereafter—in absence of any kind of public transport on the roads—it would mostly be a walking journey from Press Enclave to Hazratbal, where I reside, and for Muddasir and Jehangir, to Habak, where they put-up. On some occasions, we were lucky enough to get a lift from good samaritans, while on some other occasions, we never hesitated to board load-carriers with fisherwomen who would pass-by late in the evenings towards Hazratbal from different districts of the Valley. And many times, while we walked towards our residences, tired and drained, Muddasir would often quip: “Az chune kenh load carrier te nazre gasan [Today, not even a load-carrier passes by]”, and quip further: “Yoere Gaswunn Kyasa Chu Godde Batte-Syun Ranun [Have to cook food on reaching home]”. This daily struggle, however, never deterred him from rethinking on his hard-work and pursuing the goal of producing as many fine stories as possible in the interest of the people of Kashmir. Rather, from a distance, one would only see it reinforce in him a sense of fresh vigour to file more and more stories on matters of critical importance to us, as a people—to eventually master the art of writing the news stories in the most professional manner, with fine details and brevity, on matters having wider implications on the society than an ordinary individual would think. And many years into the profession now, he had started writing, very seriously, from the beats that many others would crave to file stories from: power and politics, to name a few key ones. Kashmir, after all, is all about power and politics: the political power and politics as well as the power whose absence pushes millions of us to darkness during winters. Muddasir worked on the POWER BEAT for more than a decade to file stories which rattled the power corridors on countless mornings, while giving the concerned officials sleepless nights thereafter. His nose for news was so sharp that he would sense from a fair distance the coming of a front-page story. And he has, to his credit, countless Leads, Anchors and Bottoms. Amid this enthusiasm, he would often whisper in the ear: “Hey Boss, Az hasa chui khatree maal” [I have got terrible stuff today]”. For him, there was no looking back then, having developed his credibility and reputation, as well as well-informed and reliable sources, beyond the journalistic circles of Kashmir, purely with his professional reporting, and then, the page-editing which he did with even much greater finesse until the day.
Today, as I find Muddasir, a very competent journalist, having left this material world, I shiver to write this obituary. I can’t believe he’s no more. The man who strived to illuminate a million homes with his power(ful) stories has, suddenly, left us to search for him in the darkness all around. May God grant him the best place in heaven (ameen).
PS: To write a friend’s obituary is a tragedy equal in measure and intensity as his departure. As I look at his smiling pictures all across the social media, I have only one question for him: “Hey Boss, Kot Sa Gokh (Where Have You Gone?)”.
Farewell to thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.