Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mourning the death of Jamal Ashraf Ansari

If every birth reminds us God is still hopeful with humanity, perhaps every death reminds us how little time we have to fulfill that hope.

Jamal Ashraf Ansari died in Karachi today.

Although I had the pleasure of briefly meeting soft-spoken Ansari I did not really know him that well--directly. Indirectly I know a lot about him; the source of my indirect information being Ansari's bright son writer, blogger, activist Sabahat Ashraf, more popularly known by his penname iFaqeer.

1970s were a special time in the history of Pakistan. Middle East ready to exploit vast oil reserves opened its doors to skilled and unskilled labor of the subcontinent. It was around the same time that a lot of teaching positions opened up in Nigeria. Pakistani teachers went to West Africa in hordes. Jamal Ashraf Ansari was one of them. Several years later on returning back from Africa Jamal Ansari started teaching at a Karachi college, and that was when the prefix 'Professor' was added to his name.

Long time ago when as a child I heard the expression of a death leaving a hole I conjured up an image of humanity that is made of various shaped blocks butting each other. Every now and then a hand shows up from nowhere and randomly picks up a block, leaving an empty space. Then the whole humanity jostles and squirms and the movement ends up filling up the absent block's space, but in this process the blocks around the hole change their orientation and the whole frame of humanity does change its shape a bit.
That is exactly what Jamal Ashraf Ansari’s death would do too.

[Photo obtained from , Government College for Men's website--Jamal Ashraf Ansari taught at that college.]

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