The Centenarian

by Zahid Husain

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As we alighted from our vehicle, the folks who had been waiting to meet my friend gathered round to welcome each of us having finally got there after a delay of over an hour due to the traffic jams caused by the vehicles at the 2nd session of the Raiwind congregation; We began shaking every ones hand, each one eyeing us with some circumspection, as I took in the looks and facial expressions of curiosity.

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He slowly shuffled up to me and welcomed me with a salaam and we shook hands, I returned his greeting, he quietly moved away from the rest of the people who had gathered to welcome my friend Ahmad Kamal, whose land it was that we were visiting.

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I watched him as he sat there in the benign winter sun basking and straining to listen to the exchanges between the owner and the tenants of the fruit orchards located in the vicinity of Kot Radha krishan.

 

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We then wandered over to review the developments that were taking place in the village, Ahmad’s family had built a school for the the locals first, before the Mosque was started, (they have their priorities right) religion without education has proved to be a concern for us all!

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Lunch was in the form of the seasonal Sarsoon ka Saag, Makaee ki roti and daysee mukhan accompanied by buttermilk lassi, and to end, we has dood key chai, and it was rich dood and not any diluted form of it!

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The village had been established by Ahmad’s great grandfather and the ancestors of the folks around us! While chatting of the earlier days, ages were being discussed, and someone in passing mentioned Mohammad Sharif, as probably being the oldest living person around! His ID card was sent for from his home and checked! 1898 it read! That’s when I decided to include him in my photo session.

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I first checked with Ahmad if it was ok to give him some money for having modeled for me, after having suggested that Sharif should be put on a stipend for the rest of his living days; he appeared unmoved with his days earnings from a 15 minute photo shoot!!

As we departed, my last words to him were, “Baba jee, Rabb Rakha!”

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