by Tahir Bhat
During wee hours on Friday, November 20, 2020, when Greater Kashmir publisher Rashid Mukhdoomi’s phone peeped too many times, he saw his staffers messaging him about Mudasir Ali’s death. In anger, he rang one of their seniors and told him that the youngsters should behave and not resort to such pranks. Once he concluded, he was politely told it is not a prank. Mudasir has actually died.
“It was an utter shock. It took me some time to gather myself,” Mukhdoomi said. “After all, I have known this young man for years and I used to tell him that he is the only person who is in the best of his health. Even when I saw him in his funeral bath, it was the same Mudasir, not an iota of change barring that he was in his perpetual sleep.”
Mudasir entered Greater Kashmir as an intern somewhere in 2004. Once he completed his masters in media education from the University of Kashmir, he got a job in the same newspaper. Gradually he evolved in the same organisation and reached the level of Associate Editor in almost 13 years. He had started with the newspaper’s business page.
Mudasir was a journalist with a difference. For all these years, he was living for the story – nothing more, nothing less. He would rarely get angry. He was always smiling. Even in the most trying situations, he would retain his calm. A prolific writer, he would chase the major developments. He was a hardworking journalist, investigating every shred of his story. He was part of the GK’s front-page brigade. Mudasir was involved mostly with the economic affairs of Jammu and Kashmir and would routinely write about the power deficit, the energy infrastructure and the politics in it. He would hardly get into the ‘politics’ of media and would invest his energy into the story. He might have rarely missed a sitting of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir assembly and would ensure that every bit of information becomes a piece of news.
In 2015, when Sidharth Vardarajan launched his portal The Wire, Mudasir remained associated with the portal throughout. Off late, he had started freelancing with some offshore news and analysis portals as well.
A senior editor with whom he worked in The Greater Kashmir said he would routinely ask him deciphering and deconstructing a Kashmir phenomenon. Mudasir has grown with the sources he cultivated. He was always in touch with his circle within and outside media. Even when he would not require a quote, he would still call his circle.
A resident of Chrar-e-Sharief, Mudasir was the eldest of a forester’s two sons and two daughters. His younger brother, Jehangir Ali is also a journalist. It was interesting that both the brothers were in the same class at the University of Kashmir, studying journalism.
For the last more than 15 years, Mudasir would usually stay in Srinagar – initially because of his studies and later owing to the late hours’ work. He had rented a flat in Chanpora where he would live, mostly with his colleague and friend, Umer Maqbool. Off late, however, he had started daily up and down from his home. He would normally drive a motorcycle, regardless of the weather conditions. That was the key reason why everybody would say that he is in the best of his health. When his editor suggested him he should now drive a car, Mudasir smiled it away.
At around midnight during last winter when he left the Media Facilitation Centre (MFC), his colleagues failed in convincing him that they will drive him to his Chanpora station. He drove on his bike only.
Mudasir was passionate about cricket and would routinely play the game. Last fortnight, he met a road accident. Initially, he found it nothing much and would remain busy playing cricket. Later, when his leg started aching too much, he visited a doctor who concluded that he had a minor fracture that will be all right. He was advised bed rest. This restricted Mudasir to work from home.
His colleagues said he was in touch with the newsroom till late November 19 night. He had done a series of video calls as well. Around midnight he had a long chat with his mother and by 1 am, he went to his bedroom.
By around 2 am, an inconsolable Jehangir and some other relatives said he woke up the family and told them to alert one of his friends as he was feeling waves of pain in his chest. He was so confident of his health that he actually walked to the car with slight support from his brother. From his residence, it needs negotiating a sharp staircase to reach the road. “We rushed to the sub-district hospital and when we reached there he was not well,” Jehangir said. “I think the doctors also were not as quick as such cases demand.” They were referred to SMHS in Srinagar. Before they reached he was not alive. Seemingly he breathed his last around 3 am.
= Mudasir was the eldest of his siblings. He had decided to raise his family only after all others are settled. His youngest sister was married recently. His friends said he was planning to send his parents to the Mecca pilgrimage. Well before that, destiny had planned something completely different.
Mudasir’s death was widely mourned. He was known to all in politics, social circles and the economic sphere of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the pandemic, Chrar-e-Sharief remained crowded on Friday, initially with his well-attended funeral and later people flocking his home to mourn the death.
Mudasir’s death by cardiac arrest indicates the existence of high levels of stress across Kashmir in general and the media in particular. Journalists usually exhibit indiscipline in life, normally dictated by their jobs. Living between the deadlines, they have compromised social life, usually dictated by their professional requirements. This is a global trend with the media but at places like Kashmir, these things are more visible.
This, however, is not the first death of this nature. On October 1, Javid Ahmad, a reporter with the Rising Kashmir was on his way to the office in a taxi that he collapsed. He was taken by the fellow passengers to the hospital where he was declared brought dead. The first such death involving cardiac arrest was that of Maqbool Sahil, who literally died on his motorcycle.
Rest in peace, Mudasir.