To far too many of us he has become suddenly larger now that we’ve lost him. Farzand Saheb was so gentle and effacing of presence, his encouragement and blessing dropped upon us without us even realising. The first time I met him was when I was a schoolboy, 45 or so years ago; I had accompanied my father to the offices of UNI in a narrow lane off Patna’s Fraser Road. I found him tapping away on a teleprinter machine, almost like a pianist at work, cigarette stuck in his tapered lips, eyes screwed up to keep out the smoke, his locks fallen low over his forehead on either side of that signature middle parting.
There was also there, that evening, DN Jha, the UNI boss, and father to two boys who’ve themselves turned journalists: Manish of NDTV and Sanjay, who has succeeded his father at UNI. The three men made convivial company, and their rugged romance with journalism, and their celebration of each other, which I was fortunate to witness over many succeeding years, may have played a role in nudging me into the profession. All three men have now left us, Farzand Saheb the last of them. I recall the grace and warmth with which Farzand Saheb ushered me when I went to Patna on my first reporting assignment, years later.
He took me, far his junior, into the fold and changed our relationship from uncle-nephew to friend-colleague with such seamless ease it was almost unreal. In succeeding years, Farzand Saheb was an essential, often the first, port of call for me in Patna. Men who wear their weight lightly are rare. For decades Farzand Saheb remained the most connected and informed scribe in Patna and Lucknow, but he never exuded his importance, not once. Often, in winter months, when I’d arrive in the afternoons, he’d despatch one of his boys to Subzi Bagh to fetch the crunchiest bhuja-matar I’ve had.
To his last Farzand Saheb remained to me just as I had first seen him — an ever-smiling and affable man, never unwilling to help and guide, an engaged, informed, and keen journalist, and, dare I say, barely a shave away from the cut of a charming celluloid hero of the retro years. He reminded me of Dev Anand sometimes, the way he smiled that clean smile of his. He fought hard through his life, not merely the killer affliction of his latter years, but many many tough humps.
Farzand Saheb’s departure is a great loss, but many of us know well he will never be gone. May I borrow from Auden on Yeats and say: Earth accept an honoured guest, Farzand Ahmed is laid to rest.
This has been reprinted from a Facebook post.