‘It is God’s Grace’

In 2007 when Americans refused separatist Syed Ali Geelani a visa because of his alleged contacts with militants, and being opposed to the then Pakistani dictator General Parvez Musharaf’s ‘peace formula’, US mission in Delhi cabled Department of State that his doctors say “he has approximately one year to live due to kidney cancer”.

Syed Ali Geelani

Geelani skipped flying anywhere despite a passport for year-long validity and was treated in Mumbai. He survived and his eighty-second birth anniversary falls this month. “History has seen many people claiming to be the gods but God they are not,” Geelani told Kashmir Life recently. “I am still alive, it is God’s grace.” He said he is perfectly all right but occasionally there are health issues. People around him do admit that given the problems he is unlikely to drive for longer durations and exertion has its impact on his frail health.

During his detention in Jammu jail in 1975 emergency, Geelani suffered a severe attack of the inflammation of the vertebra called spondylitis. It could have been an impact of his remaining too much busy with reading and writing throughout. At one point of time, doctors suggested him a neck-collar that he used for some time but later he did away with it and used certain exercises to manage his neck.

Geelani – an O-negative blood group – started suffering from bleeding gums. Initially, at Batra hospital in Delhi, some root canals were done. However, later during the winter of 2007, almost half of his teeth, mostly in the upper jaw, were replaced in Batra hospital. In 2010, they were again replaced, this time, in Srinagar. All the replaced teeth are fixed ones.

A serious chest problem led him to the Escorts Hospital where Dr Vikram Sarabhai treated his lungs. He suggested him an inhaler which is still in use. Now a local chest specialist is taking care of the problems if any.

Routine follow-up suggested that the only kidney was infected with cancer. The initial suggestion was that it requires laser treatment. A doctor was traced in the US but owing to visa problems he could not fly out of India. The family opted for Tata Cancer Hospital in Mumbai where Dr Tongaonkar, who had operated upon him earlier, removed one-fourth of his only remaining kidney in March 2007. It worked and the surviving three-fourth of the kidney is functioning well with almost no complications. Recent scans suggest that the kidney lacks any indication that it was ever sliced and it is taking the entire body load with no complications, whatsoever.

Prostrate continues to be a regular issue since 1997 that requires constant monitoring and occasional medication.

For many years, Geelani was not comfortable in reading the newspapers. During his winter stay in Delhi, he went to Apollo Hospital where ophthalmologist Dr R K Malhotra operated upon his eyes. One operation was carried out in January and another in March 2010 and contact lenses were planted in both the eyes. This has enabled him to read newspapers without his specs.

Increased palpitations in 1972 led him to Dr Jan who identified the crisis as right bundle block (RBB), a problem that usually impacts 20% of the population. Later, certain tests were carried out at AIIMS with Dr Bhatia suggesting it is nothing serious. As a lawmaker, he carried a recommendatory letter of Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to PGI Chandigarh where Dr Chaturvedi admitted him for a week and later sent him home with the comment that “you will live longer than Shiekh Abdullah”. As it continued, he consulted Dr U Koul in AIIMS who suggested him to treated it or else it could create problems. Finally, on April 25, 1997 angiography was conducted on him.

Dr T S Kelker planted a pacemaker in him at the Escorts Hospital in 1997. The instrument was later replaced on October 15, 2008, by a new pacemaker in Escorts Delhi by the same doctor. At the time of replacement, doctors said the pacemaker is all right but its battery has exhausted despite offering maximum battery life of 11 years. Pacemaker batteries usually have a life of eight years.

During his eight-month detention in Ranchi Jail, he developed some problems. A CT scan at a local hospital traced cancer in the left kidney. The then Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed flew him to Mumbai from Ranchi in a state plane and admitted him to the TATA Cancer Hospital for treatment. Dr Tongaonkar operated upon him on February 11, 2003, and removed the infected kidney.

During a routine check-up, doctors traced stones in his gall bladder. Thinking that it could create problems for a person living on one kidney, doctors at Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi removed his gall bladder in December 2004.

For many decades now, Geelani is continuously going for a work out on daily basis. For 45 minutes, every morning after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayers, he is religiously doing a set of exercises. Exercises are simple and mostly that teenagers do in the schools. Barring the days when he is not doing very well and is bedridden, it is a routine. The schedule is still in vogue. The exercise is helping him to manage some of his orthopaedic problems as well including the neck.

Every evening he takes 45-minutes walk regardless of the place where he is – in the hospital or in jail. After his second kidney surgery, he started walking within the post-op ward taking the pipes in hand and moving around.


Never ever smoked and no record of ever having the mouth-watering wazwaan. In case, there is no way out to avoid while being part of the gathering, he usually prefers a dried kebab. He is very economical with taking medicines. In fact, one of his sons said, doctors at TATA Hospital in Mumbai were amazed in 2007 when he stopped taking antibiotics while he was in the post-operation ward.

Breaks fast with the omelette made of the yoke of two eggs with black pepper and a cup of oats or bulgur (daliya). It is followed by a cup of Kashmiri tea. His lunch comprises two chapattis with soup and vegetables. In the late afternoon, he has a cup of sugary tea. In dinner, he takes rice with vegetable or whatever is available. After dinner, he has a cup of Siwaiyan.

During the whole day, he drinks water eight times which roughly is around two litres. It is rare that he takes tea beyond his schedule – two times a day. He rarely skips timing of food, even not at the marriage of his daughter.

Occasionally, he takes a nap after lunch for 60 to 90 minutes depending on the situation he has around. The family says his day starts at around 4 am with Tehjud and concludes at 10:30 pm after listening to the last Urdu bulletin from BBC and Voice of America (VoA). He rarely watches TV. Every morning he writes his diary on day to day basis.


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