“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Ashraf recalls a helper who loved BBC Radio and Vajpayee

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 69, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Hassan Kaka, the unforgettable

The word Kaka has diverse meaning. In Kashmiri ‘Kak’ is a respectful way of addressing an elder brother, an uncle or a helper at home. While in Dogri and Punjabi ‘Kaka’ is a loving youngster irrespective of his relationship with you or his social status.

Hassan Kak was born in the mountains of Himalayas at Udhyanpore Doda where people still tread on foot or use livestock as a means of transport. His mother hailed from the reputed family of Maliks of Narwaw Kulgam and his paternal genes came from ‘Wanis’; a successful business family of Udhyan pore in Doda. I am talking of the days when pedigree was given a lot of importance for matchmaking. People would travel hazardous routes to find an appropriate life partner and the relationships were not disposable as today.

As said,

‘Time you old gypsy man where have you been
Last week in Rome and last week in Babylon.’

After the fall of the business empire of his forefathers in Udhyanpore Hassan Kaka left his birth place in search of his maternal lands in Narwaw Kulgam just in his childhood. The quest for his roots landed him in our house when my father Mirza Gulam Qadir Beg had been released on parole facing trial in Kashmir conspiracy case at Canal road Jammu. Though he never got his lands but a great fighter Hassan Kaka didn’t give up his struggle against the deep rooted corruption in the prevailing system. Thus Hassan Kaka grew up with my younger brothers as one of the siblings of our family. His long stay of half a century made the bonds deep rooted and he got genuinely associated with the younger generation in our home. Whenever I would call him to listen to an e mail from Nimmer from Malaysia he would innocently ask, ‘Tell me how his hand is writing,’ hardly realising the power of the present day information technology! At the same time as a true son of the soil he never forgot his roots in Udhyanpore or Narwaw and stayed closely in touch with his pedigree as if he had taken a lesson from Socrates’ advice to Alexander the great. “Your desire to conquer the world will take you to different lands but never forget that you are a Greek.” Being extremely hospitable he would attend to guests personally but gifted with keen observation he would grade the visitors on their performance rather than their art of gossip.

During my internship and house job in SMHS hospital in Srinagar Hassan Kaka was my house keeper and whenever I was on twenty four hours duty in the hospital Hassan Kaka would deliver my lunch box in the house surgeons room in ward sixteen. Alien to the system of men and women working together he hardly liked my liking of sharing my modest meals with female colleagues in the hospital. As an orthodox conscience keeper he would warn me against the temptations of a youth but a prodigal youngster I would recklessly violate his rules.

At home in Sarnal we would generally share a common ‘dastarkhan’ and would have the same vitamins and glucosamine for our knee pains but of late he had developed a fascination for liquid form of vitamins. So I had to ask Heemu a dutiful pharmacist to supply him Mecalvit regularly. Hassan Kaka always refused to undergo blood tests for his increasing general weakness and would insist that ignorance is a blessing. He would argue while there is no cure for the diagnosed ailments, so better stay in ignorance and wait for the divine judgment.

Besides being a great fan of Kashmiri music Hassan Kaka was religiously regular for the news from BBC, Radio Pakistan and radio Kashmir. He hated the gossip about Hartals, declared and undeclared curfews as he detested sitting indoors. A great lover of peace he disliked the news of wars and conflicts. Despite the fact he had a great abhorrence for BJP at the same time he was a fan of Atal Behari Vajpayee for his peace mission to Lahore. Having grown up in the house during the times when my father was sometimes arrested under preventive detention act and at times for concocted Kashmir conspiracy case or Hazratbal murder case Hassan Kaka had developed a natural aversion for men in uniform roaming aimlessly in the streets. In the heart of his hearts he would want them to go back to the boarders or their barracks. A pro literacy intellect having just his basic schooling he always hailed the government decision of having south campus of Kashmir University at Karewa (called as high ground in the terminology of armed forces.) However he was apprehensive of having men in uniform dangerously close to a coeducational institution.

As a practicing physician one sees death in different forms. Sometimes it is sudden and accidental while at times it comes with chronic and prolonged ailments but this time it had a totally different modus operandi. August 2nd; Hassan Kaka decided to visit his native place. Accompanied by two of his nephews who had traveled to escort him to Udhyanpore, he came to my room to ask my consent. Focusing his eyes on the mother-earth under the feet he did not exchange glances with me, perhaps knowing well that he could not keep his word to come back. Though he said he will return after Ramdhan hardly realising ‘Ids’ will come but he will not. Two days after his departure when I called his brother at 9.30 pm I was told Hassan Kaka had just breathed his last– 5th; August the date coincided with the death anniversary of my father and Shabi Barat. Despite the fact Quran Khani was arranged at home at Sarnal, the son of the soil seems to have planned his final abode and was laid to rest at his native place in Udhyanpore.