Breaking the Shell of Pain

Nusrat Andrabi’s death was too painful; as a friend, overwhelmed with grief my brain took a hit
Breaking the Shell of Pain
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When God saw you getting tired

And cure was not to be

He put his arms around you

And whispered come to me.

Life is short and unpredictable like the April rain; in autumn it does not shower silver drops on the head but falling leaves reminding us about life being so transient and ephemeral. The human species under the influence of selective amnesia try to forget about death and keep on living without thinking that sometimes death may come as unexpectedly as not to allow a second breath. When that happens, the people around feel paralyzed in a whirlwind of emotions. Such deaths play havoc with psycho-physical systems making it a complicated procedure to shift normal brain to grief brain associated with loss or death of a loved one. Denial of death to its acceptance is a painful process, complicated as well; followed by disbelief, shock, anger, and ultimately a prolonged sadness. We may think about pleasure and pain as two sides of the same coin but the brain manages happiness and sadness in different centers, and during shifting from one center to another, a flood of neurochemicals and hormones dance around the head, interrupting normal life in a complicated way.

Nusrat Andrabi’s death was one such incident, abrupt and painful; as a friend, overwhelmed with grief my brain took a hit, I couldn’t think straight for several days, and in that state of mind remembered seeing her first time in our college. She had come to pick two students from class first year to participate in a quiz competition organized by Kashmir University’s Urdu Department where she was pursuing her Ph.D. under the superb guidance of Ale Ahmad Suroor, the renowned scholar, and literary criticism writer. Mrs. Hamidi, our Urdu teacher had already selected me and one more student for the competition. A flag car from the University was waiting outside to pick us up and to our surprise, Suroor Sahab was comfortably occupying the front seat. The moment we started our journey, they both got engaged in a very highbrow cerebral discussion that reflected the scholarly capability of Nusrat Andrabi to carry on a debate without any inhibitions with her guide, I got swayed at first sight because I too was in love with Urdu literature. Like a magnetic force, she pulled me up and kept me engaged forever. Later in life, I had a chance to record a conversation with Ale Ahmad Saroor for Radio Kashmir; till then our friendship had bloomed into a strong bond, with Suroor Sahib as a writer, a common literary interest for both.

Nus Lala, as I would call her with love and respect was a beautiful soul wrapped in a wise brain-body equation. She never believed in superficial honesty or distorted truth, was bold enough to fight and settle scores her life had challenged her with. She didn’t lose her laughter or smile in the hardest of times, could laugh loud at her mistakes, and provide the best of humor targeting her cavity in conduct. She had that cheery smile attitude to fight battles in life and won. I adored her on many accounts, for not indulging in any gossip or backbiting, not enjoying the spicy scandals, the moment she sensed something like that, she would cut it quick, change the topic, making the other person awkward and introspective. When people talk about her serene and gentle death, I suppose those qualities in her proved the qualifying scores for her total salvation.

We had unusual episodes that made our friendship ever durable. She had extended her bond of friendship to my husband and would ask advice when and where she needed it. She would often tell me that she felt more connected to him because her son Tufil Ji and my mother- in- law shared the same graveyard in Delhi’s Khanpur area. She had a solid reason, two graves were one after the other, next to each other, and visiting one would automatically make a connection to the other by offering Al-Fatiha for both.

Nusrat Andrabi was well versed in her subject and sometimes I would call her in the middle of the night to ask some technical points while writing all those scripts for Radio Kashmir, she would ask me to wait till she made it clear and authentic. For me, her word would stand final.

Her death proved more throbbing than normal because on that day we had invited her for lunch along with other friends, earlier we had postponed it due to her growing health issues related to uncontrollable hypertension and heart problems, she was not keeping well but she called me and told me that she was feeling better and I can go ahead, she was desperate to meet her friends, we selected Sunday for the event. When she confirmed the date, I informed her that we had invited some writer-friends, including Abdul Ahad, the brilliant historian and Shakoor Rather the fiction writer of The Life in the Clock Tower Valley fame. She was excited to have history and fiction to enjoy the day and with a dash of literature to relish

But that was not destined, it didn’t happen.

Nusrat Andrabi died before the dawn of that day.

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