I can’t forget the moment when she met me at Hazratbal school. I had come from Baramulla district to join here. When I submitted my joining report, the head of the Institute refused to accept it and sent me back to the Direction Office. Naseem Akhter requested her to allow me to join. It was 14th December and schools were about to be closed for winter break. I had a ten-month old baby in my lap and Naseem Akhter took my baby in her lap. She gave me a warm welcome. I was very humbled by her attitude and this was the beginning of our friendship. After the winter break Naseem Akhter would help me in managing my classes. She framed the time table according to my convenience as she would hold my baby while I took the my classes. She was a senior colleague whose warmth as a human being I will always remember. One great lesson I learnt from her is that she would always tell me not to be emotional. `There is no market for your emotions, so never advertise your feelings’. Today her words echo within me as I recall the time I spent with her. She would never hurt the person who would hurt her.
Whenever I would thank her after the end of my class, she would respond `please don’t thank me it is just a matter of time. If I am helping someone expecting something in return, then it is a business not kindness’. She was all about trust, and trust, as she would say, is a fabric which once torn can never be repaired. No relationship can live without trust. She told me `your present situation is not your final destination, the best is yet to come. Never leave a true relation for few faults. Stop expecting loyalty from people.’ In her I have lost such a rich source of wisdom and maturity.
One day a junior teacher hurt her but she gave her a nice smile in return. When I asked her why she remained calm, she told me nobody is perfect, nobody is correct. Affection is always greater than perfection, never reply when you are angry. Never make a promise when you are happy, never make a decision when you are sad. She was a pearl on lotus, she tolerated every pain while her illness, and never complained any one. She would always make us enjoy when there was a picnic. She would sing Kashmiri ghazals of Rasool Mir and other Kashmiri poets. Life is short, time is fast. There is no rewind button. So enjoy every moment. That summed up the philosophy of her life.
It was 29th March, 2019 when I tried to call her from a different number from California. As she learnt that I am also in the United States, she was so excited and told me that she is not well. I told her `I will come to see you to Los Angeles, but she told me not to come because of the COVID threat that had caged the whole world in general and the US in particular. I craved to see her in America but there was the Covid wall which kept us apart and which we could not break. The only way was to talk on phone and revisit the sweet memories we had shared together. On 19th September I came back to Kashmir and she expressed her relief that I was back home after about a year in America and going through the lockdown in California where virus had gone mad and people had locked themselves in their apartments. After that we just talked once.
A little over forty days back, her close friend Arifa Khan informed me that Naseem is not well and she is in the hospital. Still I tried to call her but there was no response. As we received the news that she has left us, we were shocked. All the six friends including me, Arifa Khan, Mehbooba Malik, Parveen Qazi, Shugufta Banday, Talat Parveen could do nothing except to share the shock together and pray for her departed soul. As I shared this sad news with a student of ours who works in JK Bank he cried out loud as if he had lost someone close to his heart.
She was a dedicated teacher who cared for all and more-so for orphans and the needy. She would help her students in whatever way she could.
Though Naseem belonged to a royal family but the greatest wealth she had was her humility. It surpassed everything. Our group was like beads in a string. As we have lost Naseem, the string has loosened, the thread has gone weaker and beads seem to be scattered. She loved flowers and she was buried in a very beautiful garden in Los Angeles.
She is gone, but the music of her voice, the beauty of her behavior, the warmth of her human touch, and the grace of her personality will always refresh us. Goodbye Naseem……