Nishrin Jafri Hussain
Witnesses to my Abba, Ahsan Jafri’s killings were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Narayan Desai, Anne Frank, Karl Marx, Dostoyevsky, A. M Zaidi, Oscar Wilde,Zafar Iqbal and many more.
Yes, fourteen years ago they watched in silence from the book shelves of his library when he and his fellow Muslim neighbors were being butchered on February 28th, 2002 in broad daylight by the Hindutva gang under the BJP government in Gujarat.
On the second floor of my brother’s house in Surat they lay in silence now, some of them carry the original dust and his ashes on them from his house when they watched the naked dance of his brutal killing on that awful day.
These few survived the massive fire on the second floor, later my brother moved them to his house in Surat. On my recent visit to Surat in 2015 I stood for hours in front of the book shelf looking at them and a sea of memories flashed by.
If I close my eyes and think of him, two images come to mind, him lying on his bed reading or listening to Begum Akhtar with his eyes closed and humming. He was a born reader. All my time that I spent with him at 19 Gulberg Society was spent arranging his books with him. I would climb on the high stool and put them back on their designated spot when he finished. I would sit with a soft cloth and dust both ends of the books on weekends. I was the one he would call when he wanted to search for a missing book. When the new books arrived I was the one who brought them in, I would turn them around, read the titles and read the contents and the introductions. I would lie next to him for hours while he read them doing my home-work. I never read any of his books, but I know them all, I recognize them when I see them in the book store and I touch them and I feel him.
In November 2001 when I was visiting India my elder son Seif handed me a book nicely wrapped to give to his grandfather as a gift. A year after Abba’s death Seif told me the book he gifted Abba was “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I will never know if Abba read the book or not but I do know that Harper Lee was a witness to his killings