As the usual round of Patta Tikka, followed by Chicken Tikka other goodies including those tastiest of pastries finished I hit a desolate corner to enjoy my cup of tea. That’s when I saw a familiar face I had seen some 29 years back, neatly attired in a business suit, smiling and with a cup of tea in his hand. A flashback took me to the era when we used to see him with a hoe or a spade in his hands busy tilling the soil, while we went for games. The man would be covered in sweat from head to toes and quite often my not so adolescent mind would be perturbed as to why was he so much in to gardening. This is the Gul Khan sb I remember.
Slowly, I made my way through the crowd and greeted him. The man smiled, replied my greetings and on being told that I had studied in Cadet College Kohat beamed a beautiful smile at me followed by a bear hug. (For the three years and a few months that I studied in CCK, I was taught my Mr Mukhtar ul Mulk and Mr Naseem Akhtar, but I had heard so much about Mr Gul Khan. I do remember reading a couplet or two (almost daily) in the Frontier Post, translated by him from Pashto to English.) I asked him if he was still in to gardening? And he politely said “No”. I told him how much I enjoyed reading the couplets of Rahman Baba, translated by him. Sure enough the next day I was gifted two books by him, one a complete translation of Rahman Baba and another titled “The making and breaking of a Principal”. Both books still sit on my book shelf, a sorry reminder of the time he gifted me those books. That’s when our association started, a little chit chat later phone numbers were exchanged and we got talking for what was to be a short but memorable affiliation, only cut short by his sad transition.
Over a period of next three years I remained in contact with Gul Khan sb. It was mostly a call or a long text message asking about my well being, choosing the kindest of words and loaded with prayers or at other times asking for a small favour which I would be obliged to do. Gul Khan sb I came to know as a very kind hearted, gentle and courteous person. He would call me and right form the outset apologize for the untimely intrusion (even though if it were or weren’t). He would extol me, thank me for a favour and talk in the most polite of tones. He was a gentleman! And one of a good stock. A man who came to be known for his principles. For the last two years (a little before his demise) he had been teaching in Scouts Children Academy, Hayatabad. The man was known for standing by principles and known to be a thorough disciplinarian, where he would not mind admonishing even the senior most teachers for being late or for any lapses. This, at times put him in difficult situations, but the man prevailed. Deep down, he was a loving soul, one who was as soft as wool.
I still have some of his text messages in my cellphone! Try as I may, I found it hard to delete them. Then one evening I got his call, which I could not take as I was driving. This was followed by a text message, telling me that he had been hospitalized and after a successful procedure now had a pacemaker in his chest. The man wanted a favour and I was bound to help him in some small way that I could. I called him up the next day and apologized for the delay, asked about his well being and we talked for a while. Little did I know this was to be my last conversation with him. For sadly, he expired a week after that. The news left me dumbstruck for sometime, and a little misty eyed. Life, is very strange. Each day is different and as we age and more and more acquaintances join the final journey to afterlife one is left thinking more and more about it. I still regret not having called him one more time. But then I guess it was destined. May Allah his soul! Ameen.