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Bab Lived Life King-Size
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Bab Lived Life King-Size

It was a pleasant day and his funeral cortege faced no inconvenience. Even the wake and bereavement continued without weather playing any spoilsport.

I lost my snow-white beard-man in the winter of my homeland.

On the day of his departing, the nip in the air shuddered mourners. But in the backdrop of Tangmarg’s snow-draped peaks and towering pines, they arrived wearing long faces and praying lips, to pay homage to the man who touched many lives during his lively lifetime.

Ever since I come of age, I had witnessed his health deteriorating precisely in winters due to chest-related ailments. Incessant wheezing and fitful coughs characterize his life in winters. But in the last few weeks before his death, he would cough very less and sleep fitfully in the day.

But with too many ailments of late, a premonition was that he was running out of time and it metamorphosed into reality when his sprightful soul left his shrivelled shell even before the arrival of winter.

At the fag-end of the plagued year of 2020, my grandfather, Haji Habibullah Magrey—we fondly called Bab—wrung down the curtains and flew to the hereafter at his home in his hometown, Tangmarg. He was 73. He is survived by his children and grandchildren who are all proud of him as a father and grandfather.

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His mortal remains were neatly lowered in the local graveyard. A peek into those last moments looks like wistfully reliving his life until he bade adieu. A last stroll from the corridor to his bedding, slouching down and reclining on his back.

Thus creation met his creator. An angel of death discharged his duty and left humans to weep and cry. I grope for his remnants in his room but I smell his deafening absence amidst choking back my tears.

Bab is my history. My memoir. The background music to my life’s beautiful moments and cushion in times of distress. His life carries a chequered history that is worth to recall and remember.

He will be my souvenir cautiously kept in the cupboards of my memory. He will be the repository of lullabies he sang to lull me to sleep. He was all that a typical grandfather was supposed to be to his grandchildren.

Bab lost his wife when he was a young man with five children to take care of. He could have remarried to fill the lacunae in his life. He did otherwise. He took it upon himself to wear different hats- both of father and mother.

He was enrolled in a school for a few years before abject poverty cut his journey short. He stood for the education of his children and made sure his kids receive education to pursue a better life. He was a tough master who knew how to make his kids work.

At the crucial moments in life, he would play his cards well, resulting in all his children got adjusted in their lives. He was short-tempered in some ways sometimes and anyone could be at receiving end on his day.

But mostly, Bab was cool as a cucumber. He would cherish the happy moments and keep patience in distressing times. He had steely resolve which didn’t get rusty till his last breath.

Bab lived life king-size.

He was a contractor for some time. At other times, he would work in fields as labour to keep the hearth going. But for the larger part of his life, he was a shopkeeper in his idyllic village that smacks of pastoral life. To supplement his income, he would dabble in other fields as well.

Having a judicious head over his shoulders, disputed parties would make a beeline at his door to solve their disputes. And he would duly nod.



Fear was not in his lexicon. He had the gumption to call spade a spade. He was acerbic with his tongue which most of the times wouldn’t go down well with the people. His heart was in symphony with his plain-speaking.

Bab wouldn’t hold anything back. He would not give two hoots to those who poke fun of him behind his back and would quip. “Badshahas te che pateh pateh gaebat asaan,” he would say. People even gossip about the king behind his back.

Many a time he would fire a salvo at government officers in their own den when he was unnecessarily forced to grease their palms during his contractor days. He was a hard nut to crack and eventually officers would give in to his legitimate demands.

My old man was fond of cleanliness and clipping nails on Fridays was his norm. All my life I have seen him clad in different typical Shalwar Kameez complemented by a waistcoat with a free-flowing beard. In the last leg of his life, he would ensure he wears an ironed dress when visiting a doctor.

Bab made a pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj more than a decade back. He joined Tableegi Jamaat for some time that helped him to memorize some chapters from the holy book. He would profusely thank them for making him aware of many facets of Islam. But he wouldn’t keep his religion on his sleeves. As a silent faithful, he would often move the beads of his rosary while lipping incantations.

During his last days, one of his kidneys had gone defunct. Such ailments forced the doctors to prescribe 15 tablets for him to survive which were later on reduced to 9.

Despite all this, grandpa would not waver. When in a mood, he would crack a joke or two, to entertain his family. He kept on using ‘naswar’ which had encrusted his teeth with yellow deposits despite the doctor’s disapproval. No matter what, he kept on taking a pinch of it gingerly while avoiding family attention and then spit that blob into the spittoon.

After living life king-size, his prayers were answered by Allah. It was pleasant weather and his funeral cortege faced no inconvenience. Even the wake and bereavement continued without weather playing any spoilsport.

I won’t say goodbye because I am of the firm belief that we shall meet hereafter – a bound to happen promise.

(This Profile appeared was published in the March 2021 print issue of the Mountain Ink.)

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