I don’t believe in a soul , but there are times when the body is in so much of trouble and in so much of pain and so restless that a temptation to believe in a stupid thing like a soul creeps in and refuses to leave try what I may – Ali Peter John
This was exactly my feeling when I woke up this morning , but it was only when I realised my responsibility to visit Abbas Sahab at his plaque that all the negative feelings and pains slowly left me and I didn’t need the help of the so called aatma , rooh or soul , one Abbas Sahab and his undying spirit was more than all the powers of the world for me , even the power of God or the many gods people believe in out of fear or cowardice .
As I touched the plaque after trying to clean it with my hands and with the help of my new caretaker Ram Bahadur who is from Nepal and who knew nothing about the greatness of Abbas Sahab and for whom helping me was only a part of his job he was doing for a salary I received only after slogging for more than twenty five years ( I am not grudging him his salary , but only commenting on the changing times ).
As we struggled to place the huge garland , I realised that it was November 14 , the birth anniversary of the first Prime Minister Of India , Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru which was also observed as Children’s Day all over India .
I stepped back and bowed in reverence to the memory of the great leader who Abbas Sahab considered as the builder of modern India and who Nehru respected as one of the intellectuals of modern India and was such a close friend that he found time to see “Munna ” , the film made by Abbas Sahab with children as the focus and which was the first Indian film without a song .
Nehru who was the most busy Prime Minister found time to sit through the entire film and later he also made sure that Abbas Sahab was honoured with the Padmashri at a time when these Padma awards were not given to any Tom ,Dick ,land stupid Julie ( read Kangana Ranaut if your mind is going wild with anger and anguish ) .
It is difficult to imagine how any singer who has not even found his voice is honoured with a Padmabhushan , a crazy and controversial young woman is given a Padmashri and even writers and poets like Abbas Sahab , Sahir Ludhianvi , Rainder Singh Bedi and Kaifi Azmi are also considered worthy of a Padmashri in the land of liberty , equality , fraternity and justice . But that is diverting away from my soulful subject for Sunday , my Abbas Sahab …..
And as I was finishing garlanding the plaque I had helped in electing in his honour twenty years ago , I managed to have a peep at the little room in Philomena Apartments ( it was Philomena Cottage fifty years ago when he lived there with his sister and her son Anwar ) and I remembered how he lived a very simple life even though presidents , prime ministers , governors and other eminent men and women bowed before him .
He had a simple and small bedroom in which he slept on a wooden bed for only four hours and woke up at 4 am to start reading .
His sister gave him his first cup of tea and after having a breakfast of just a toast and a banana , he went through all the newspapers of the day and left for his office on the fifth floor of the nearby north Bombay Housing Society , where he had to climb all the five floors and after another banana and a cup of tea , he got down to writing on a huge wooden and iron table with a glass top and wrote with a black fountain pen which he kept dipping in a bottle of Quink ink and he kept writing till one pm after which he went home for a frugal lunch of just rice and daal except for a few pieces of mutton or chicken on Eid .
He took a break till three pm and then went back to his office and wrote till nine pm and returned home only after he had finished all his work for the day .
And by eleven pm , he was in bed to wake up at four and get back to reading and writing .
His working schedule used to change when he used to shoot for one of his many films , documentary films and ad films . He worked till he was eighty five .
He worked even after his leg was crushed at the Moscow Airport and he couldn’t walk for several months .
He was dubbing for his last film ” Ek Aadmi ” when he had two heart attacks and was rushed to hospital only when he had his third attack after which he never returned from the Irla Nursing Home.
His funeral procession was halted outside the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Juhu Beach and he was buried in the most ordinary grave in one corner of the Juhu Kabristan where he was later joined by his friends like Sahir Ludhianvi , Majrooh Sultanpuri , Kamal Amrohi and only recently by the greatest of them all , Dilip Kumar .
Life is such a temporary game , it is all here today and gone tomorrow and yet we cling to it like children cling to their favourite toys without knowing that toys can never be forever .
I returned from the plaque for Abbas Sahab and could have gone into some kind of depression , but writing this piece has saved my life . Thank you again , Abbas Sahab