“You see,” began Christopher with a long sigh. “It’s like sleeping for a long, long time.”
Christopher Robin was surrounded by his friends under his favorite tree. It rested on the top of a hill overlooking the entire Hundred Acre Wood. He was older now, and he knew that he didn’t have much more time left with them.
“But going to sleep means that some day you’ll wake up.” Pooh said with a smile.
“Precisely!” Owl exclaimed.
“And we’ll be here when you do,” Kanga added. “I’ll even make you breakfast.”
Christopher couldn’t help but smile. “I would very much like that. But you all have to understand that it will be a very, very long time.”
“Oh ho ho! We are great at waiting a long time! Rabbit here waits every year for the carrots to grow in the garden.” Tigger chimed in.
“And every year you destroy them!” Rabbit snarled.
“But Christopher!” Roo interjected, jumping into Christopher’s lap. “What are we going to do when you’re gone?”
“Oh I won’t be gone Roo. I’ll be right here.” Christopher placed his finger over Roo’s heart. Roo giggled and scrunched up into a ball.
“We’ll be just fine,” muttered Eeyore. “I’m used to being alone anyways.”
“None of you will be alone! You’re a family now, and while I’m gone you will all take care of each other.”
“B-b-b-ut you will b-b-be back r-r-right Christopher?” Stuttered Piglett.
Christopher let out a soft sigh and looked around at all of his friends. It was going to be difficult to help them to understand. They probably never would…
“Sometimes good things come to an end. But here’s the secret everyone— come close!” They all huddled together underneath the tree to listen to Christopher’s secret.
“Memories. Are. Forever.” He whispered and tapped Pooh on the nose.
“Memories?” Said Pooh. “Well I have plenty of those! Like that time we saved you from the Heffalumps!”
“Or when you helped me fix my garden!” cried Rabbit.
“Or when you organized my library for me!” Exclaimed Owl.
“Or that time you built me a new house out of those sticks you found in the woods.” Eeyore added sullenly. “It didn’t last the night…but I remember it.”
“Yes, yes! All of those are memories and you will have them forever. Just like I will have my memories of all of you.”
Christopher stood up and took one last look over the Hundred Acre Wood. The sun was setting in the orange autumn sky and the trees were beginning to lose their leaves. It was time he went home.
Christopher gathered all of his friends together and began walking back down the hill. They were all busy discussing the memories they had had with each other.
“Christopher?” Pooh said, looking up at Christopher as they walked hand in hand. “You aren’t coming back, are you?”
Christopher looked down at the ground and took a moment before he responded. “No Pooh. I won’t be coming back this time.”
They walked in silence, listening to the sound of the crunching leaves underneath their feet.
Pooh suddenly stopped and looked intently into the ground. “I believe I am going to miss you Christopher,” he said with a soft, broken voice.
Christopher leaned down and took his lifelong friend into his arms.
“I will miss you too Pooh. I will miss you very, very much.”
Found on the internet. This, supposedly, is not from the Winnie-the-Pooh books, but in the same A.A. Milne style nonetheless.
A Richmond Town boy, who lived around the corner, we got acquainted through the youth group Nehru Bal Sangh (NBS) with which I was associated since my school days. I was already in engineering college, and Ahmed was in 1st Pre-Univ, so our paths hadn’t really crossed before that.
Ahmed had attended a national integration camp for school children (generally Std 9-12), organised by the head office of NBS in Delhi in November 1988. I had attended one such camp in 1985-86, and had helped in creating the Bangalore chapter of the group. 1988-89 was the Nehru Centenary Year, and the camp in Delhi was planned on a massive scale. As I was occupied with my engineering studies and balancing this with basketball team trips, I was not much involved in the coordination to get a team from Bangalore ready for this camp.
When the students returned from Delhi after the camp, a meeting was being organised – a sort of reunion and to get them to join the Bangalore chapter. My parents’ home had a lot of space and I had offered it to be the venue for that meeting. (It continued to be the NBS haunt for many years to come.) A few of us wrote the postcards inviting these campers, complete with a hand-drawn map with directions to my house from the main road. Whenever we talked about it, Ahmed would laugh about the detailed directions – he very well knew this house that was hardly 50 metres away from his own!
Living in the same neighbourhood meant that it was easy for us to work together to coordinate the different activities of the group. While there were very capable youngsters to take care of cultural and literary stuff, Ahmed and I would be more on the administrative and financial side. Booking venues, approaching sponsors, maintaining accounts, organising social service visits – experiences that would hold us in good stead in whatever we did in later years. Our group would hold Rainbow, an inter-school painting competition for children/special children every year. In 1991, we started an inter-school festival called Cascade, that went on for over 20 years. We’d visit the underprivileged, old age homes, and raise funds during calamities.
The NBS national integration camp / executive meetings would be held every year or two, in different cities (including Bangalore in 1990), and Ahmed was usually the common factor through the years. Approaching schools to send their students for the camps, talking to parents to clear their doubts and apprehensions about long train rides and staying in tents – we, along with others, did them all. Arranging for train tickets was a major task – school concession forms, railway station queues, confirming tickets. We’d made many trips to the station early in the morning, so that we were among the first in line when the counters opened. Ahmed had a melodious voice and would always be called to lead in the singing at the camps, which he anyway loved to do.
Ahmed started working very young. Uncle Mirza had met with a terrible road accident and he was unable to go back to work at Pacer for a long time. So Ahmed took his place, doing different kinds of work, and eventually playing a key role in the setting up of Highgates Hotel in 1992, owned by the same Pacer gentleman. I remember at one point they urgently needed technical drawings for some approvals. He had seen my engineering drawing stuff, so he brought this to me and we sat up the night completing the drawings so that they were ready the next morning. Sometimes, I’d go to Church Street, to the hotel and restaurant to catch up with Ahmed. Ahmed became the man of the house, taking care of parents, sisters and anyone else who needed support.
More than anything else, Ahmed and I got on very well. Every other day we’d be at each others homes. I’d drop by particularly for the Irani tea that Ahmed’s mom would make. Even if I was not at home, Ahmed would sit and talk to my parents and brother. Every birthday, Ahmed would be at my house with a hanging potted plant, from Indo-American Hybrid that had an outlet at the entrance of the Highgates premises. Several plants received over several years still hang in the garden at mom’s place. In later years, he’d surprise my mom and grandmom with birthday flowers, birthdays that fell on either side of his own.
Ahmed’s ability to get things done was exemplary. “I’ll do it up”, was what he’d say. His voice rings in my ears. Mom and dad wouldn’t hesitate to consult him and seek his help for different things. When dad died in 2003, Ahmed was there to help us with arrangements for the ceremony. Being away from Bangalore, I’d call Ahmed to figure out how small issues at home could be addressed quickly. So it was that we were more or less there for each other at a personal and family level whenever the need arose.
When I got married and moved from Bangalore in 1996, Ahmed took over whatever I’d been doing in the NBS group. Over the years, many of the other members also moved to other places for studies and work. For some, interest shifted to other things. Ahmed, along with a few others who remained in Bangalore, kept up the spirit, bringing in new faces and giving them responsibilities and opportunities, just as we had been fortunate to have in our younger days. He used to keep me posted on the happenings – sending me short letters and pictures of some of the programmes that were being organised, sometimes checking to see if I’d be in Bangalore to attend.
Ahmed continued to be the friend-glue, getting us together whenever possible. During my trips to Bangalore, we’d meet at least once. He’d try to drop by so that he could meet mom too. With his busy schedules, we would plan to have early morning or late night tea. Whenever NBS friends from other cities visited Bangalore, it was Ahmed with whom they would first touch base. He would fix lunch meetings so that he could also join in. And since he was in the restaurant line, we’d get to enjoy the best of cuisine in the city. After cell phones and easier communication, he’d sometimes make fleeting calls, informing me of quick trips he was making to my city, but inability to meet. When I called, he would often be in the middle of something – at work or at the mosque or some place else. So we’d be on Whatsapp, discussing our children and our future plans. And I’d always be pushing him to take a break and get some good exercise.
We last met in Pune in November 2019, for an NBS wedding. With children’s exams in Mumbai, I was unsure about attending, but as always, he called and convinced and got me to go, along with my son. Ahmed was there with Shaheen, Ain and Ali, and we had an enjoyable couple of days with the rest of the gang.
During lockdown, I’d been in touch with Ahmed more than ever. In April, he and Shaheen were helping my mom with her groceries. He had told her not to step out and just call if she needed anything. In early May, he had frantically called when his very best friend Sanjay was in hospital, requesting for a medical opinion from my father-in-law. He was so relieved when Sanjay got discharged and he himself brought him back home.
Over the next few weeks, we’d regularly talk or exchange messages, mostly about Covid – prevention, hospitalisation and our local area updates. Any rumours about Covid in Richmond Town, and Ahmed would be the one I’d call to check. He was in a new job since March and had been working through lockdown. When I last talked to Ahmed, he was surprisingly at home and not at work. He had not been well for a few days, had been to a doctor and taken medication, and said he was feeling fine then. Little did we know that he would succumb to Covid-19 complications a few days later.
Ahmed was the epitome of all that was right with humanity – honourable, humble, hardworking, helpful without expecting anything in return. One in a million.
Memories. Are. Forever. “Well I have plenty of those!” Some in the head, some in photographs that I’ve been rummaging through the past week. Everyone who knew Ahmed will have stories to tell. My brother Nagesh, wrote this a few days ago.
The Inimitable, Unforgettable Mister Mirza (Nagesh’s tribute)
I’ve known Ahmed Mirza since the late 1980’s, from this little group called the Nehru Bal Sangh. He was a friend, a friend to the family, and more. Almost every person who’s known him over the years will have a story to tell.
He was a man with a mission, always there. A mentor to many, enabler, doer, organiser by nature. The real ‘behind the scenes’ man, who, upon hearing an outrageous idea, would say “you focus on what you want to do, I’ll find a way to make it happen”. Mr Dependable, with a deep seated intelligence. Singer-poet, with a great voice. He knew people who knew people who knew people. He was naturally skilled in the art of diplomacy, knowing where lines were drawn. He stood for diversity and tolerance, and he took people as they appeared to him, without the background noise. And he was strong willed enough to invest some of that strength in others.
The most significant influence he had however, was on my professional life. Towards the end of 1998, he coaxed a young Ryan Lobo and me into doing creative work for The Palms, the seafood restaurant of Highgates Hotel, where he was General Manager. He was positive and persuasive, adding tons of courage and form to our uncertain, unstated plans. We were finally working for a business, and a brand. This led to OpusCDM. He showed us how to make a bill, and that first cheque got us to open our bank account on 6th January, 1999 – a day we mark as the OpusCDM anniversary every year. The picture here is from one of those events.
Highgates was already being handled by a small but well-known agency at that time, and Ahmed convinced the Managing Director Rishad Minocher to let us give it a shot. And then there was really no looking back, as we grew at a pace. The Palms work remains some of the best that OpusCDM has done. After that, he was always endorsing us, passing the word around, and even fixing our anniversary parties – both at the BJN group and at HM. In the mid-2000’s he had a novel idea – a tour company for education – Educatours he called it. We did the logo and the little things around it.
Saying that it’s all thanks to the inimitable Ahmed Mirza is just not enough. It’s true, some people guide your path without you even knowing it.
There’s another little story. For a break from my first agency stint, in December, 1997, I came home to Bangalore from Delhi for a few days around the New Year. I had no train ticket back. I called him, and he said, “Let me figure”. He got me a seat with one day to go before I’d hit what they still call LOP. It was on the ticket of a family, because one gent in that family could not travel. I have no idea how he got wind of this, and he grinned, refusing to tell me later, when I asked.
He also pushed me into writing and editing the first NBS film, putting together footage and stills from across time. We converted VHS tapes, did some voice recordings, and we sat together for a few days and nights, editing on Premiere. And that was how I learned the software.
That was his way. Positive and progressive, and there to help, asking for nothing in return – except to design and print the certificates for all the children at Cascade, the inter-school fest we all made happen in the early 90’s. He helped young people survive their mistakes, gave them little pushes when they needed them, and presented opportunities which they didn’t know existed. He’d do hotel bookings, arrange cabs and a whole bunch of other things that nobody had a right to ask of him, self included. During the lockdown, I stupidly asked him if he was staying put, and he said in his straight talking way – “on the move”. He was out at work, doing what had to be done, helping my mother, people in the neighbourhood and beyond. Taking the risk that many would not.
Ahmed and I worked in the same area, on the same street. We were going to catch up and have lunch.
Photos on this post have been taken by different people