When we say ‘bye’ how often are we aware of the word? In most of the situations we are prepared for the moment, but not when it is a goodbye forever.
No matter how many ‘forever’ goodbyes one has gone through, it is as painful as any other when it is time to say it again. This week all of a sudden I was jolted and had to say goodbye to ‘Uncle Ahmed.’ I had read about the author Ahmed Ali al Riyami in a local magazine. He also happened to be my friend’s (Abdullah al Rubaiee) father-in-law. Soon had the opportunity to meet as well interview him. I realised he was a person who was overflowing with memories and wisdom.
He taught me there is nothing called retirement and giving up on anything should not be an option in life. I had been reading his writings, but had the opportunity to hear him deliver a speech while he was being honoured in Oman for his writings.
In his speech he had said: “Scholarly speakers are classified in three categories — those who speak briefly to be applauded, those who speak loudly to be heard and those who speak slowly to be understood.”
But he was a scholar who spoke from his heart which expressed his humility. In his acceptance speech he said: “I am honoured to be chosen for this event. While asking myself: are my literary pursuits as an author not over estimated? For they constitute the pretext of today’s award entitlement.”
He went on, “Way back in Zanzibar in the year 1939, the sterling humanitarian donor Sir Tayebali Karimjee Jivanjee handed over a trophy in the form of a huge cup to HH the Sultan Sayyid Khalifa bin Harub — for presentation to the island’s winning cricket team. The Sultan was reported to have told Sir Tayebali — ‘You have to help me lift this beautiful cup, Mr Tayebali; else there might be a disaster!’
“The solidity of that particular award then was visibly heavy. My award, graciously to be presented to me just now has not necessarily to be heavy or bulky. The thought behind this award and what honourary privilege it bestows upon me do count a lot instead!” he added.
Had the opportunity to interview him on Radio Sultanate of Oman for the programme ‘Book of Memories’ which opened up chapters of history of his days in Africa, and being part of Oman’s Renaissance. Every time I had a conversation with ‘Uncle Ahmed’ I was charged with inspiration because it seemed each day was a celebration. He enjoyed meeting people and visiting places and most importantly writing about them. He cherished Al Jabel Al Akhdhar and especially Wadi Bani Habib.
There is so much more to learn from him, but we take life for granted and I did too. Man with immense patience and persistence in staying focused on what he wanted to achieve has been the perfect example to learn from. Yet there are so many unasked questions such as — Did he always wanted to be a writer? Obviously he valued the importance of writing and recording memories for the future generations. He gave importance to traditions and roots. He conversed with the young and elderly with same respect and joy and proud to say he had younger members around him always. He had the ability to make one feel valued. Each day was a celebration of life.
Blessed are the ones who have their loved ones around. As people go distant farther and farther from each other here was a person who could have conversations, connect people and make people relive the good old memories.
‘Uncle Ahmed’ was proud of his roots, his nation, family and friends. He was excited about every body’s achievements. He looked up to his parents and elders and that can be seen in his book about his father, ‘My Hero.’
Recently in his article in the Observer, ‘The Friend Who Grew up to Become a Grand Mufti’, he brings in once again the elements of nostalgia, values and sense of humour.
There was so much more to learn from him but was lucky to have had the opportunity in the first place. The lesson I am taking is to make life purposeful. Let values guide you when in doubt and enjoy life with a sense of humour.
Memory could never fail him because he was busy narrating them, living them with pride and sharing it for the sake of generations to come. He never forgot anyone he met.