Earlier this month, I lost my uncle – my bhua’s husband, Rauf Ahmed. Though he was her second husband after she was widowed at a very young age, he adopted her two daughters both in name and in life, and was an exemplary father. He was also an uncle of whom I was personally very fond. It was an inter-faith marriage and you can imagine the furore that fact caused back in the 1980s, but his gentle personality eventually won the heart of everyone in the family. As one of the most well-known and senior film journalists in Bollywood, he had been the Editor of renowned magazines like Filmfare and Movie. This made him the most glamorous person in our lives, and our connection to the film industry. My bond with him became stronger in later years when I was the only person in the family to follow his footsteps into journalism. On the occasion of his memorial service, where we celebrated his life, I read out this piece on behalf of our family in the August company of film stars like Poonam Dhillon and Zeenat Aman who were his friends and colleagues. Now I’m reproducing it here to pay ode to this wonderful man – my Rauf Uncle.
Hi, I’m Noor, Rauf Uncle’s (or Phupha, as I called him when I was younger), niece by relation and his friend by choice. His daughter Namrata asked me to represent the family on the dais today, finding herself unable to speak for the well of emotion she feels every time his name is mentioned. But honestly, even if she hadn’t asked me to speak, I would’ve gladly volunteered to share my thoughts on this wonderful human being who left a lasting impression on all of us present.
My father, Hardeep tells me that Rauf Uncle entered our lives sometime in the 1980s, when my aunt, Jasmeet Bhua, who was dealing with the death of her first husband in a car accident, moved to Bombay for a fresh lease on life. She landed a job with Movie magazine, of which Rauf Uncle was the Editor and a soft, respectful and rare sort of love blossomed between these two, some might say troubled, souls. Even now a rarity, 35+ years ago, this inter-faith match was considered absurd and impossible, especially by my traditional and staunch Sikh grandparents. Here I’ll quote my father who narrates, “There was trepidation from my side, and consternation and perhaps opposition from my parents and most of the family. Yet, Rauf and Jasmeet had a quiet court wedding in January ’86. Your mother and I visited them in Bombay soon after the wedding and perhaps broke the thaw when Cookie and I gave glowing feedback of Rauf as a person. His gentle, caring and soft personality soon won over our parents, and he eventually became a welcomed and well-loved son-in-law for our entire family and friends circle.” In fact, later my grandmother, Dadiji, even told Jasmeet Bhua that marrying Rauf was the best decision she made…
This quick change of heart is certainly a testament to Rauf Uncle’s gentle, kind, patient and soft-spoken nature. One should see the outpour of grief on social media that his death provoked, for proof of his lasting legacy. Industry stalwarts remember him as the gentlest of souls and the kindest of hearts. The overall sentiment seems to be that Rauf Uncle was truly ‘special’, cut from a cloth they don’t make anymore.
Just take it from his wife and most of all his daughter, for whom he played the role of best friend, mentor, guide and nurturer right till the end… To quote Namrata, “What do I say about Paa? Nothing I say can really explain what our relationship was…
He was a pure energy of love and kindness.. And that’s what I learnt from him.. He is easily the gentlest and softest human being I know…
He brought me up with absolute unconditional love, freedom and sensitivity… There was a point in time when he was my mother, father, and best friend… I truly believe I am who I am because of who he was… in fact, is and will always be!!”
Anyone who knew Rauf Uncle would attest to his being a firm friend, a generous mentor, a raconteur par excellence, an articulate gentleman and a person blessed with a sharp intelligence and a creative soul. His straightforward and engaging style of writing had the ability to pull the reader in from the word go, a style that as a young journalist myself, I readily draw inspiration from and attempt to emulate. Rauf Uncle was also known for his wonderful storytelling skills. I remember being regaled with his insightful tales and often hilarious retellings late into the night, every time we vacationed together, which I’m happy to say was quite frequently in my growing years. These family holidays in themselves were repositories of amazing memories. Whether it was precious cargo erroneously discarded in the hills of Uttarakhand or our large group collectively running after a train at midnight at the border of Singapore and Malaysia, Rauf Uncle was an essential part of many family memories. In fact, his ability to make light of difficult situations often brought the much-needed levity to help us ride the seemingly tough situation. Here I’ll quote my mother, Cookie, whom he shared a special bond with, to summarise this sentiment, “The endless conversations with him and the fun stories he had to share will always remain close to my heart.”
In his personal life too, his ability to hold his head high despite adversity, stood him in good stead, as he weathered many challenges both personally and professionally. He overcame it all with silent integrity and a winning smile borne of the innate belief in the goodness of humanity as a whole.
Today, as we are all gathered here to celebrate his life, I will end with some beautiful lines he wrote as a testimonial for me, just before falling into the depths of his illness. Lines that move me to this day and will stay with me for the rest of my life. And so, in the words of Rauf Phupha, “Noor is one of my favourite nieces. Besides being beautiful she is so many other things…An LL.M from London, was a practicing lawyer when she ran into a brilliant (besides being handsome and dashing) young Sardar and decided to take a break. After a quick marriage and a leisurely 18-month honeymoon across the world, Noora (as we love calling her) is back into action full-steam…somewhat controlled by a live-wire little brat! When she introduced him to us he was in a tiny Tee proclaiming, “Here Comes Trouble!!!”. But Noor was characteristically well-prepared…she is currently writing on people and events in and around the Capital…quite brilliantly… Time for professionals to watch out!!! All the best Noora!”
May this heartfelt connection we all have with Rauf Uncle continue even as he now dwells in the spiritual plane.
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