Obituary: Rahul Jalali

    He was so happy on the peaceful conduct of Panchayat polls in 2011 without any violence and thought that this rebuilding of grass roots democracy would finally bring long cherished peace through development and grass roots democracy.

    Sushil Kumar

    R.I.P. Dear friend Rahul Jalali.

    You’d live in minds of souls of not only family and friends but of every soul that wants peace and old world charm return to Kashmir valley. He died pining for peace and prosperity to return to Kashmir and bore no grudge and blamed anyone or showed any extreme streak to strike back in revenge. He felt that finally understanding would prevail and people and politics would change.

    I can’t forget the first image of him in JNU in seventies when I saw him first. His lean lanky demeanour and light brown khadi kurta over jeans typified amalgamof bestof theEastern and Western thought. His reddish ovalvisage, prominent eyes, longish hair,half thrown across his face weakened his deep gazebut couldn’t hide his inner intensity. His faint smile added to his charm.His smoking addedtimbre,accentuating his already deep throated voice. And the inseparable ‘jhola’ that had one big knot at top to shorten the hang as if to ensure that his papers were under his possession. His intensity led to his deepest emotive involvement with politics and passionate personal involvement.With age, his look changed to bald pate but with that his eyes appeared bigger and gaze more intense.

    He lived ‘down under’ for few years but ‘Outback’ can’t outdo magnetic pull of Kashmir that is compared to heaven on earth. Remember every Kashmir quotes these Jahangir words : “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast” and Rahul was no exception.He described several times the beauty of Chinar in Autumn and must see visit to the University during this period and how former PM always spent a day or two there. The image of Chinar trees and appearance of golden fire due to golden leaves would live in my memory and Inshallah I shall go there just to absorb that image.

    Only later did I find the root cause behind his secular, syncreticand lifelong attempt to find that elusive union amongst all available opposites. This came from his parentage and past trysts with building the best of Kashmir while growing up in Kashmir. Only later after learning the Bengali language myself, did I learn that his mother was a Bengali married to a Kashmiri; and that combination added to the fiery passion that didn’t die down but only ebbed away in early morning hours of 27th July, 2009. He inherited the free spirit and commitment to live and die for a cause from his parents.

    For me, he defined the insaniyat and humanism that was , is and will remain touchstone that makes a man and a society. I have listened his discussions on radio and TV and read his pieces in papers and none had his sense of proportion failing the test despite all cries of extreme views on his favourite Kashmir. He rued the chance when India and Pakistan came close to signing a deal during Vajpayee’s time.

    He was so happy on the peaceful conduct of Panchayat polls in 2011 without any violence and thought that this rebuilding of grass roots democracy would finally bring long cherished peace through development and grass roots democracy. I remember him spending days in Srinagar setting up meetings of Ministers and bureaucrats with head of elected Panchayat body to help get powers and funds . His undying commitment to do anything to help Kashmir return to that idyll world existence defined his thought and deed.

    Don’t know whether his longing to go back to Srinagar was due to the beauty only or for the rarefied oxygen because Delhi’s polluted air actually befell him. Hewent to Himachal with his wife Radha too to breathethe same air but I think longing to return and breathe pure oxygen of Kashmir never left him.

    Like all Kashmiris, he was a gourmet and gorged all great Kashmiri delicacies. Like many Kashmiris, he died longing for his beautiful Kashmir.

    Earlier I didn’t understand but now while nearing sixty, one does:  why people return to their roots before taking their last journey. The familiarity with family, friends and environment may help if that transition into the unknown turns out to be tough. Yes, one knows that the final journey would be lonely and one can’t return for a reunion for sure . Maybe few memories may help if mind subsists in the other world.

    In evening of 28 July, his body was consigned to electric flames. And we all returned gutted to live in the world without our free spirited , bohemian buddy.

    RIP my dear friend. Existence was so much enriched by your brief visit.