Abba was the only grandparent I ever knew. And he never felt inadequate.
My first memories of Abba are of his Karakuli, and his soft hands. The mark on his forehead developed over the years by prostrating in namaaz. As a husband, as a parent, as a brother and as a grandparent, Abba had seen the worse side of life far too many times. Having lost a spouse, a child, a grandchild, and more, Abba took it all in his stride, remaining the solid and sturdy head of the family. With so much going on with him emotionally, it was no surprise, that he spent his days talking to imaginary people and arguing with them. Every single time I passed by his overflowing little shop, he would be busy arguing, using his hands to make a point to some imaginary person in front of him. And I would just stop and stand there until he would notice me, smile and spread his arms wide enough to hug me. Then came the deal. I would either get a candy out of the coconut candy jar or I would be given one rupee and sent off to fetch something for myself. Most times, nadermonjis from the very famous street-food vendor in the alleys of Downtown Srinagar. As a kid, I’d feel embarrassed to purchase something for so little an amount. And as if almost sensing my hesitation, he would tell me, “Daepzes Noor Saeban suznas”. And I would run off with the one rupee locked away in the palm of my hand, to buy stuff with the rewarding knowledge of being Noor Sahab’s granddaughter. Because that was the kind of respect he commanded everywhere. Having Noor Sahab’s name equipped you with a strange sense of privilege that could get you anything in the world.
My mother tells me, that back when none of us children were born, the entire community of the area would come to my grandfather for basically every problem ranging from domestic disputes to health scares, from ghostbusting to matchmaking. From asking him to pronounce sentences on how thieves were to be dealt with, to valuing his opinion on the quality of tea, spices and cloth. People came to him with all sorts of questions. He was the wisest person they knew. He was the wisest person I knew.
On every Eid, as I made my way to hug him and greet him, he would take out a fifty rupees note from his pocket. Holding the note straight, he would tell me that I was supposed to give half of it to my sister. I would reluctantly take it, but he sure did always follow up with my sister. He was very smart that way.
On cold winter nights, as children, we would all huddle around him, and he would tell us Kashmiri fables, legends and folk tales. We would creep out when he told us about the Dev that ate children up and giggle endlessly when he told us how the children got rid of the Dev.
Abba was a very sharp-witted man. Although he only had a little formal education in English, there were moments, when he would randomly start talking in impeccable English, and shock us all beyond measure. We would be both startled and impressed.
Abba would scold us. We’d hide. He would say “peyi rasser” which means may hot boiling water fall on you. And we would giggle because we knew he meant that as a term of endearment rather than anything else.
Abba would know how to mend everything. Make everything look as good as new.
In his last years, when he no more went outside, he would evaluate our shopping skills by asking us the price of things we’d got from the market. We’d very conveniently reduce the price to half and then quote it, and he’d still shake his head and say, “yi chu droug, variyah droug”.
Abba was a smart shopper. He would buy top quality stuff at half the rate and also deliver a lecture on selling skills to the shopkeeper as a bonus.
Walking with him, hand in hand, through the lanes and bylanes of Downtown meant walking with a celebrity. When people looked at him, you could see the respect and admiration they had for him and it made you feel like a star too.
The way he said “Ba-Khoda” or “Kalaamullah’s pathh” still rings in my ears every time I think of him.
It’s been 6 years since Abba left us. I’m yet to meet a man so wise, so loving and so right. I know he’s probably looking down on us all, shaking his head at our shopping skills and health statuses. Yes, we could do a lot better with him here. We know it more than him.
Abba. I dreamed of him today. It was as if I was literally seeing him after six years. I asked him if he recognized me. He paused for a little while but then smiled and said he did.
Here’s to Abba. The coolest grandfather and the kindest and wisest human I’ve ever known.
We miss you ❤