Ghulam Ahmad Vaid, 79, breaks into tears, each time when one asks him about Mufti. “What and how much shall I tell you. His life and mine were weaved into one,” he says.
At Baba Mohalla in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, people remember Vaid as the man with whom Mufti would often smoke the hookah over rounds of discussion on politics.
Vaid, locally known as Ama Joo, was Mufti’s childhood friend. They started their education at a local school together.
“We would pull the whole bag of snacks from the street vendor and run away into the field,” he says, racing down the memory lane, as mourners keep pouring into Mufti’s home.
Vaid, a farmer, still remembers how one day they stole a cart seller during the Urs of local sufi saint Sheikh Naseebuddin Gazi.
But he’s proud that destiny had something better in store for his friend. “I remember once he ran away from school. His maternal uncle took him to a local saint, Rahim sahib. The saint there tied a turban on Mufti’s head and told his uncle ‘wait to see him as the king of Kashmir,” Vaid says.
In their early days, Vaid had soon dropped out school, while Mufti continued. But politics bound them, then and later, until Mufti departed.
“Politically we were both active... when he was in Class 9 he would write Quit Kashmir posters and I would go in the middle of night to paste them on walls and poles in the neighbourhood,” Vaid says.
Vaid says Mufti become “serious” about politics after completing his Law degree from the Aligarh Muslim University.
“When he returned, the political scene was hot.... we would have unending discussions over what one should do about it,” he says. “The hookah was our favourite partner those days.”
‘He took revenge’
Mufti later plunged into politics and joined the Democratic National Conference led by Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq, who later became Prime Minister, in the late 1950s. Vaid says he remembers how he would boost Mufti’s confidence “as he was a novice in public oratory”.
“We would arrange small public gatherings in rooms to boost his confidence as an orator,” Vaid says.
Days before Mufti’s health deteriorated, Vaid says the late chief minister visited him and told him to quit smoking.
“I told him I will not leave my childhood friend, but look how Mufti took revenge on me. He left me today,” he says, tears rolling down his wrinkled cheek.