Kaifi & I – Epilogue

Kaifi & I – Epilogue

Shabana has just returned from Mijwan full of excitement at the rapid steps of progress Mijwan has taken ….. Namrata Goyal, the 20 year old daughter of Jet Airways owners Naresh and Neeta Goyal has now taken over as President MWS Youth. Namrata has brought on board with her many young people from all over the world on face book, twitter .. etc I don’t even know what that means but when I see her radiant face bursting with enthusiasm at all the future plans she has for Mijwan, I feel fulfilled…

I remember 31st Dec 2002, the last New Years Eve that I spent with Kaifi in Mijwan. Shabana and Javed were with us. It was a far cry from the boisterous New Year celebrations we used to have in Mumbai. There were just a couple of people from the village gathered around the bonfire in the freezing winter’s cold. I cajoled the shy villagers to sing songs, by boisterously taking the lead… Soon the others joined in… someone sang a folk song out of key much to the amusement of the others, Javed cracked jokes which made everyone scream with delight. The shyest person of the lot, suddenly opened up and regaled us with the most amazing mimicry. Kaifi who was too ill to join us sent a message with his nurse Maria to Javed “ Please sing Ai Meri Zohra Jabeen” from the film ‘Waqt’ for my wife from me” ( This is a song that Balraj Sahni sings for his wife Achala Sachdev in the film which has become the hallmark for older people expressing sentiments of romantic love ).

Trust Kaifi, to always hit the right note even when seriously ill….

I have visited Mijwan only once after Kaifi passed away. The government was releasing a first day cover envelope ( postage stamp ) on him in Azamgarh and I mustered enough courage to go. Its been six years since but I find it very difficult to travel now… I only bask in the knowledge that the dream Kaifi had for Mijwan is being carried forward…

I have made peace with my surroundings … I now live with Shabana and Javed but Janki Kutir is still my home. We continue to celebrate Holi there …

My life is set in routine. Every morning I have tea in the drawing room with Shabana and Javed. We read the papers, argue about the headlines, I protest at the raising prices as I stitch my sari blouses with my own hands. At 81 I am still able to threadle the needle myself. Shabana keeps teasing me at my abiding passion for saris but I feel happy when her friends exclaim how well dressed I am.. I think it is very important for senior citizens to be well groomed and look presentable… It enhances your self esteem and makes you attractive for younger people.

I go for a walk in the evenings where l’ve made a set of new friends with whom I discuss mundane things. On Sundays I play cards with Bijon Das Gupta ( whom I think of as my own son – he is Baba’s close friend ) at Tanvi’s house on her behest.

I’m addicted to the TV as all old people are … one has to fill in the day somehow. I think older people get so addicted to routine because it is important for them to divide their day into byte sizes so that the long day doesn’t loom ahead interminably.

I am content that I have earned the respect of those around me. It is in part due to their generosity but it is also in good measure I think because I make the effort to be of interest to them. I participate in the love interests of young people who could easily be of my grand children’s age and am a bit of a maverick when it comes to advising them … I believe in love as the single most nurturing of all human relations. People around me are always complaining about the alarming rate of divorce growing amongst our young people … “Look at her just two years into marriage and she has left everything and come back home. Such shame she has brought on us!” I beg to disagree. Of course divorce is a painful thing for both partners but I don’t think that getting divorced is a matter of shame for the parents. I believe parents must keep their doors open for their daughters as they would for their sons- only then can a daughter have the strength to walk out of a bad marriage.

Today girls are negotiating more space for themselves A word of caution for them though; when we talk of rights we must not forsake responsibility. Marriage is a process of constant adjustment. Compromise is not a bad word. It is the oil that lubricates any relationship. When we empower our daughters we must also work to empower our sons so they find the strength to break out of their patriarchal mind set and learn to respect their wives as equal partners. Young women are no longer willing to be treated as appendages to their husbands; they want to be individuals in their own rights. Only then can marriage become the most fruitful of all relationships. A good marriage makes space for differences, arguments and disagreements as a healthy sign because underneath it rests a bed rock of love, trust and true friendship… which is what I shared with Kaifi.

Shaukat Kaifi

January 2010