Friday May 24, 2024

Remembering a gentle soul

By Dr Murad Ali
September 21, 2021

“Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing”

These words by the immortal Shakespeare are exceptionally apt observations about life and its transience. Our life is fleeting and unbelievably uncertain.

And us mortals are like Shakespeare’s ‘players’ who act on the stage of life – performing our roles, short or long, good or bad and then disappearing into oblivion or forever enshrined in the memories of others. What we leave behind are only our memories, based on our deeds: how we spent our days and nights.

I had never even imagined that I would be penning an obituary, my first one – and that too on the death of my great uncle and veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, who himself was a master in this genre. But many things are uncertain, unplanned and coincidental in life.

Our beloved uncle – how the world looks empty without you. The very thought that we will never see our tall, handsome, humble and neatly attired uncle again on Eid, at family functions, in our hujra, in the village. We have never spent an Eid without him in our whole life. Now that he has gone forever, who will entertain the innumerable guests that usually visit the hujra on such occasions? How will we celebrate any Eid or family functions without him; there has never been any such occasion where he has not been present.

The hujra, the home and the village all give a deserted look. It looks like a barren place, as if a mighty storm has hit it. I wish I could tell my dear uncle that his family members are in a state of immense shock, full of pain and grief – a strange sense of loneliness prevails.

“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain”, as exclaimed by Thomas Hardy. My uncle’s life was full of many monumental achievements, but it was also full of struggle and hard work as the responsibility of looking after the family fell on his shoulders very early after our grandfather became a prisoner of war in the 1971 Pakistan-India War.

Many people have written on Rahimullah Yusufzai’s dedication to the profession, his accomplishments, his honesty and truthfulness and his great qualities of head and heart. Being my dearest uncle as well as father-in-law, I must highlight how his relationship was with the people of our area and how he loved his close relatives. He was always very kind and soft-spoken. We never heard him using foul language or abusive words in his whole life. He never spoke ill of other people. He had never spoken harshly to anyone. He had unparalleled stamina and patience to listen calmly to countless people who would visit him for some work or the other.

My uncle would give tremendous respect to everyone irrespective of their age, profession, and social status. He maintained a strong association with his village and its residents and would always play an active role to resolve the problems of our area. It was because of his love for the people of the area and vice versa that thousands of people attended his funeral prayers and Qul.

We have observed that in most cases, many people who migrate to urban centers gradually lose their connection with their relatives, their village and their people. Uncle was very different. He would regularly visit the village for Eid, family functions and would support and fund welfare activities there.

Regarding his relationship within the family, I have never seen a person with so much affection and love for his extended family members. And indeed, love begets love. Uncle has left behind a brother, five sisters and several nephews and nieces, besides four sons and two daughters to mourn his death.

My mother is the eldest in the family and there was a unique bond of care and love between the two. Arshad Yusufzai, his eldest son, called me on Wednesday to come to Peshawar as ‘Abba Ji’, as he would call him, was not feeling well.

I, along with my mother, wife and kids left for Peshawar. During the whole journey, my mother was crying like a child. I have never seen and observed the intensity of love and care that Uncle and his sisters and our cousins had for each other. Uncle was really fortunate that he was immeasurably loved by all his family members.

“In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for parents who lose a child”, stated by American writer Jodi Picoult. I would add: there are no words for brothers and sisters who lose their siblings.

Uncle was a patriotic Pakistani, a true Pashtun who loved our traditions of hospitality, generosity and was always prepared to help others who needed his support. He was a pious man and a God-fearing practising Muslim who never missed his prayers even during his extreme illness. He lived a very satisfied life and never complained during trials and tribulations.

In our last meeting in August, seeing him quite weak, there were tears in our eyes. He consoled us that one day we all have to leave; this world is a transit station. He said his was a satisfied soul as he had never wronged anyone in his life. What a way to live.

George Eliot has said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”. We will try to follow in our uncle's footsteps – in steadfastness, honesty, truthfulness, selflessness, hard work and generosity. May Allah bless him and give us strength to bear this immense loss.

The writer holds a PhD from Massey University, New Zealand. He teaches at the University of Malakand.