Like any other morning, I thought this week's Friday will be no different than my usual working days. I had thought the day would go on, as usual, pitching a fresh story idea, making some calls, typing a few hundred words, and filing a story by evening. I woke up, as usual; to read the Greater Kashmir newspaper, go through WhatsApp newsgroups until I noticed that I have missed over a dozen calls and the worst news of my life.
The early morning news which sent shockwaves across the journalist fraternity froze me. For the first time, I saw our Greater Kashmir WhatsApp group completely silent which would usually flood with condolence messages when some known person would pass away. I believe like me, most of my colleagues could not process this shock, let alone write down a condolence message.
Muddasir Sir, as I would most of the times call him, guided my first steps as a cub reporter with his guidance and compassion.
I feel I owe him this one, to tell everyone how hhe impacted my life and helped me take the first steps of my reporting career. I had known Muddasir Ali by his by-line as a college student, as I was an avid reader of Greater Kashmir before I joined the organization as a trainee reporter in mid-2017. This was the first time I met him in person as I applied for an internship. I remember him sitting in the newsroom calmly immersed in the monitor, typing more than talking. As a PG student, sitting in presence of a seasoned reporter was intimidating, yet his gestures made me feel at home.
I remember how I had to move from desktop to desktop when other senior reporters would arrive to do their story. One day he called me and said, "Auqib, do one thing, from today onwards you sit on my chair, till I come back and I will sit opposite to you," That day on, he would sit on the chair opposite to me, knowing that he won't be asked to move unlike me. This noble gesture made it possible for me to sit among the seasoned reporters of GK, listen to their ideas, and know, how to write good stories. As our newsroom was shifted to the first floor in 2018, I asked him where should I sit now? "Of course on my desktop next to me," He got a new place next to me but kept his previous desktop with me, which was now mine but I never stopped to call the spot, Mudasir sir's place.
By mid-2018 I was becoming part of the newsroom, staying there throughout the day, attending delegations, covering events in the city center. Although he would talk very little but when he did it always encouraged me and made me learn new things. I remember one late evening in 2018 he said "Auqib you have now become a part of us, don't worry kid, you are going to stay," These words of encouragement coming from an able journalist who I admired made me believe in myself.
It is not that he kept everything to words only, he helped with his actions throughout. Where it came to giving new story ideas, editing my copies, and making few calls for me, he would try to go the extra mile. He would often tell me to use my work to help the downtrodden and speak for the truth. He taught me by love, scolding, rejecting my copies, and making me rewrite them.
Once attending a delegation, I discussed an idea with him and asked him if the story can be weaved differently. He would never reject the idea right away, rather suggest trying to make it better. Acting upon his suggestions, I started to work on the story. Late that night he checked on me and asked me to mail the first draft for editing. The story appeared as a bottom line on page one, which was the first front-page bottom line of my career.
Whenever I ventured into new beat he was there to help me out. During my first ever election coverage in 2019, he was my first stop. I asked him to give some tips, he smilingly said, "by now you should know what to do". But later calling me and not hanging up the phone without teaching me how to cover the election. This was the way to make me realize I have to work hard with each passing day.
One and a half years on as I was still interning at GK, he was the one who stepped up and recommended me as a staff reporter. Had it not been for his recommendation, it could have been an entirely different story for me. After all the support he would always say, "You have been consistent and you have earned it, don't let anyone convince you otherwise." He was the first one to congratulate me over the phone, the night when I was taken in as a staff reporter. He would jokingly say, "you owe me a treat for this one," but whenever I would mention it in person, he would respond with a beaming smile on his face, "You are a younger sibling, be a good reporter first, the treat can wait".
Given my computer science background in college, he always used to say that I'm his go-to person whenever he faced any IT related issue in a gadget. I remember a few weeks back our last conversation over the phone was about the same, and it always excited me that there is something I could do in return. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation.
At times, you never realize that someone's absence will hugely impact you and create an irreplaceable void deep inside your heart. On Saturday, I visited Mudasir Sir's home to pay my condolences to his family. As I was discussing with his elder brother, Jahangir Ali, about how I dreamed about Mudasir Sir on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, we both broke down. I traveled around 50 Kms to offer my heartfelt condolence and console his brother, but in turn, he ended up consoling me.