‘Saify Phuppa’, said Mustafa bhai, warmly smiling like his father as I gave him my condolences on the great loss, and I could say nothing more except, ‘Sabar kijyega’, while my eyes were filled with tears remembering the kindered soul.
When my friends learned about it they all had the same question for me, ‘were you close to your uncle?’ I believe they asked me this because at times people aren’t attached to their aunt’s husband as they are to their aunt and I was not offended by it and replied that, after my aunt’s demise, it was his presence that reminded me of her and consoled that someone is there to represent her even when she is not physically among us. But, as I thought through, I realized that’s not the only reason why I adored my uncle, to say the least, he was a complete gentleman with a warm and kind smile always there, like a priceless jewel spread from ear to ear. Whenever anyone asked him how he was he had the same words like a beaded tasbeeh to his tongue, ‘Shukar hai Parwardigaar ka’. Never have I ever heard him being ungrateful or speaking of his troubles and I was always left with the thought that how could a person’s life be so calm and composed at all times. Never have I ever heard him being loud, or being irritated by someone, his nature becoming so difficult for me to understand that why does he never get angry on us being unruly, like other elders do?
While leaving the premises of the Masjid after giving condolences, an aunty asked me about who passed away and I said Saifuddin Cyclewala, but she couldn’t recall so I said, ‘do you know Mexico dry cleaners?’ And she immediately realized who I spoke of, and this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced explaining my Phuppa to anyone, most people know him by that in Sadar because he was so dedicated to his work, but to what degree, that I learnt it on the day of his demise. My cousin told me that he took the expensive and sensitive clothes that came for dry cleaning to home and would wash by himself in this harsh and cold weather, and I was awestruck, a man in his 80s, facing so many issues with illness could be so thoughtful for his customers.
But that was my Phuppa, who through his optimistic approach was liked by so many people that the Masjid was full when I arrived to recite the last verses for him, it is often said that a person is known by how many people appear for his funeral, and I knew that was right, for a cold morning like this, at 9 am, one could only come out for a loved one.
When Phuppi passed away he was sitting silently, and in a low but strong voice he said, ‘Zulekha (my aunt) looked like a bride, like how I married her, in the white kafan’. As much as I am broken by his death, I’m comforted that Phuppi will be reunited with him in Jannah and I only pray for both of them to receive the highest ranks in Heaven.
While I get flashbacks of the times I’ve met him, I can mostly think of me passing by his store and doing my greetings and he smiling and saying, ‘beta ghar pe upar ao na’, and I refusing to do so like every time saying, ‘phir kabhi aungi’ and leave his shop. What did I know there would be no phir kabhi and I’ll find his shop empty the next time I arrive.
Your ungrateful yet loving bhatiji,