Alvida, Pita Ji!

by Ashutosh Sharma

In his words, he was living on ‘borrowed time’ when I coincidently met him four years ago. He was 80, I was 23. Over the years the grand old man and eminent Dogri poet, Yash Sharma, became my mentor and best friend. Such was his paternal divinity that like many others he was “Pita Ji” to me too.

Quite witty and a convincing orator as he was, he had a childlike innocence and saintly demeanour. Six months ago, when he was discharged from CCU, medical staff attending on him burst into tears at the time of parting. He could easily connect with everyone.

After my office, I used to go straight to him every evening. While massaging his feet, I would discuss literature with him for hours together. Thereafter, he would religiously say “Alvida” with a couplet of Momin as a parting note:

Tu kahaan jaayegi kuchh apanaa thikaanaa kar le,
Ham to kal khvaab-e-adam mein shab-e-hijaraan honge!

“When you meet someone, always bear it in mind that you are destined to separate one day,” he would say and quote from Mahabharata: “As two pieces of wood floating on the ocean come together at one time or get separated in the same way, even such is the union of living creatures in this world.”

“Who is our own, who is alien? Nobody knows with certainty. Otherwise what is my relation to you?” he would ask with a pat on the back.

He was fitted with a ‘pacemaker’ for more than 10 years. But he never allowed this hidden pain to become visible. While reciting Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, the death conquering mantra, he would add in the same breath, “I do not want to die.”

“Are you afraid of death?’’ I would ask sharply.

“Am I Bhagat Singh?’’ He would laugh it off, saying, “Life is so beautiful….I have learnt it very late.”

Occasionally, he would complain poetically: “This pacemaker hurts me like a smouldering ember, like a dagger thrust in my chest.”

In a letter, he wrote to me: “The mountains bathed in moonlight, a meandering river and a flight of cranes do not please human heart every time. At times black, gloomy nights also impart solace and peace to heart. Entire Mumbai is swaying to Shakira tonight but the advanced age and frail health have left my heart extinguished. The entire game called life is about state of heart.”

Recently, I wrote a feature on him and showed it to him on my laptop. “You have tried to make me high priest of poetry,” he said sarcastically and predicted prophetically, “Time is running out, I will not read it in the print.” I was not convinced.

Almost a week before his death, he gave me a bundle of books and a letter describing it a “Tabeez” which would guide me in life. Nothing will happen to you, was my response. I was again wrong. He breathed his last on the early morning of September 5 at his residence. “It’s a pleasure to die under your own roof…I do not want to die in hospital,” he used to say. He will continue to live in million hearts through his immortal songs and poems..!

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