The sad demise of Jafar Abbas Sahab

kaise kaise pyāre sāthī kaisī kaisī bāteñ thiiñ

kis ko kyā ma.alūm thā yaaro kaun kahāñ chhut jā.egā

Verse from Ghazal of Jafar Abbas

After ending all the chores of a hectic Saturday of 31st December 2022, it was around 11.00 pm (Saudi time); I scrolled the heartbreaking voice message of a friend in our “Mir O Ghalib” Whats app group. This was the demise news of Jafar Abbas Sahab. It was unbelievable for all of us. We were expecting that it might turn into false news. But then confirmatory messages came up. Jafar Sahab left this world silently & peacefully at his apartment in Morrisville, North Carolina around 11.00 am US Eastern time on the last day of 2022. His funeral prayers took place at Durham Masjid Cemetery on Jan 02, 2023.

Childhood portrait of Jafar Abbas Sahab, c 1950
Source: Family Album Collection

A gifted painter, literary enthusiast, Urdu Poet & retired IT consultant who had worked with leading software companies in the United States during his professional career of more than four decades. He was born on the historic day of the Indian subcontinent, 15th August 1947 at Rai Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. When he was around four months, his father Syed Abid Abbas Bilgrami left this world at the young age of twenty-five. It was Syed Hasan Abbas Bilgrmi, the elder brother of his father who raised him like a son as Jafar Sahab used to call him Abba. His family has ancestral roots from the Sayyads of Bilgram, a historic town of erstwhile Awadh. It has been said, that somewhere in the 13th Century, their patriarch migrated from Wasit, Iraq & made this small town their abode. Down the centuries this small cline of Bilgrami Sadaats had a reputation for producing many eminent scholars, & Sufis in Subcontinent.

Syed Hasan Abbas, a man from a traditional upbringing & knowledge infused his cultural heritage in the formative stages of Jafar Sahab. From the early days of his upbringing, Jafar Sahab had a quest for learning. At the young age of fourteen, Jafar Sahab wrote his first Nazm, titled “Dil Ka Aangan”. And the second Nazm, “Tishnagii” was compiled by him almost four years later when he entered the graduation from Lucknow University in 1965. “Dil Ka Aangan” was compiled when he was studying in grade IX at Christian College, Lucknow & one can note a huge transformation in the next poem where a young student who had a boundless thirst for learning & felt disappointed at his learning center due to rigid demarcations of superficial learning & bureaucratic educators. The disappointment of young learners is reflected in these verses of Jafar Abbas Sahab.

Ek pur khaar wadi ka Khaab-e-hasiin
Aabla paayi ki daulaton ka junuun
Apne sar me liye ham chale aaye the
Aur haan yeh bhi socha tha hum ne kabhi
Rahbaren adab khizr-e-raah-e-khird
Jo milnge yahaan
Hoonge wadi ke har goshe se aashnaa
Hoke har khaar ki nok se hum zaban
Jab karenge khatak ki woh lizaat bayan
Tez se tez tar hoga tab karvaan
Baj uthenge ke khyalon ke sameen jaras

21st September 1965, Jafar Abbas, Nazm, tishnagii
As a young learner at Lucknow University, c 1965,
Source: Family Album

Yahan woh Pir-e-muGaan Jo Beecha keye
Chand Sikkon ke Khatir yeh Jhoonte nashe
Bik Gaya Saath me jinke unka zameer
Aaj unki parastish hai Doston
Yaan to Mina ki Qulqul ki Pooja hai ab
Ab Hareef e Sharab-e -Kuhan kaun hai
Hai Aqd Kushai ki Mahromiyan
Un ke Nakhoon bhi nazre Hina ho gaye

21st September 1965, Jafar Abbas, Nazm, tishnagii

In these three years, he studied English, Philosophy, and Psychology & completed his graduation in 1968. Then, he moved to Aligarh Muslim University & undertook a master’s in Library sciences. For almost the next six years, he had been affiliated with different organizations in Delhi. Then in 1978, he moved to the United States, for pursuing masters in Information Science & and Computer sciences from Case Western Reserve University. Starting from technical specialist & software engineer to the Director for information system & software development, he had a wide array of roles in thirty-five years of his career in the United States as an Information science expert.

Jafar Abbas Sahab, c 1980s
Source: Family Album

In addition, he was always keen to pursue his hobbies & spreading the values of oriental culture in his neighborhood. His poetic collection Dawate Sang was published in Islamabad & available in Rekhta Collection.  His milestone work, Murraqa e Shuara-e Urdu, is a collection of his handmade paintings of around sixty-two great masters of Urdu literature. Feast of Stones is a collection of Jafar Abbas Sahab’s English poetry & some of his poetic translations. In addition, he was engaged in multiple projects that facilitate language learners in the age of technology such as developing transliteration software for major Indian languages.

A short biographical account of Jafar Abbas Sahab from his instructor’s learning Urdu website
A painting by Jafar Abbas Sahab in dedication for his beloved poet, Mirza Ghalib on his 225th Birthday, Source: Whats app share by Late Jafar Abbas

If you were looking for the real reflection of the phrase “Learning from cradle to grave”, then Jafar Abbas Sahab’s life stands high for this. I got acquainted with him almost two years back, via an online platform centered on deciphering the poetry of Mirza Ghalib. Every week, at the scheduled time, he started the meeting, sharing the link in advance. When someone of us missed the session, he gave a gentle reminder, with his soft eloquent tone, “Janab, yeh rooh ki ghiza hai, do ghante nikal kar yahan tashreef le aaya Karen, aap ke aane se hame bhi bahut achha lagta hai“.

He was a blend of enormous talent, generosity, & modesty, a rare combination in today’s era of protectionism & exhibitionism. Away from the social media counts of Instagram & Twitter, the man was a real educator, an organization of his own who keeps moving the caravan of learners by infusing enthusiasm & himself role played as a novice learner in the group. My other learning interaction with him was in Persian classes. Our polyglot friend, Faiza Zaidi designed this learning Programme under the title of Shirin Zabaan. Here also Jafar Abbas Sahib was always a source of inspiration for all of us. In addition to our instructor, he played a pivotal role in technical designing & facilitating this learning Programme.

We would never forget his smiling face, energetic participation, &  soothing feedback in both of our online forums, Mir O Ghalib, & Shirin Zabaan where we interacted with him almost every week.

Jafar Abbas Sahab reciting his poem, Lams Ka Shehr. Recorded on 25th March 2022
Prominent human right activist & linguist Syeda Arfa Zehra Sahiba, Syed Mansoor Sahab, & Jafar Abbas Sahab, Pic Source: Syed Mansoor Sahab
10th September 2022

Mr. Syed Mansoor, a close friend of Jafar Abbas Sahab from Morrisville, North Carolina shared that he left around a collection of more than four thousand books, four hundred-plus paintings that he made over the last two years, & several unfinished projects related to literary spheres on which he was relentlessly working day & night.

He was rare gem I had ever seen or interacted in my life. Spending a time in his company was like a blessing. A real polymath of the modern world, he had deep insight of arts, literarture, languages, history, sciences & other diverse disciplines. With god-gifted capabilities, he was a rare genius with combination of humility & modesty. Consistency, hard work & motivation were innate traits of Jafar Abbas Sahab. His demise had created a lacuna in our lives. May Almighty bless his soul.

Syed Mansoor Sahab, a close friend of Jafar Abbas Sahab

On 28th December, I received his last voice note. He cheerfully shared his upcoming trip to India that is scheduled for 11th January. His literary friends have organized a series of talks in Bangalore, Hyderabad, & Delhi. In addition, he left a gentle reminder for our upcoming “Mir O Ghalib” session that was scheduled on 04th January 2023. During each session, he used to write & recite his own verses written in alignment with Ghalib’s poetry as tazmin (inclusion of the couplets to the Ghazal of another poet). Mr. Syed Mansoor found verses on the lost time, which he wrote on his notes that seem to be a tazmin for the upcoming session. Alas, this seems to be such a big coincidence.

 میں گیا وقت ہوں، واپس نہیں آتا جو کبھی
بات دکھ کی ہے بہت، اس کو بتا بھی نہ سکوں
Main gaya waqt hun, wapas nahin aata jo kabhi
baat dukh ki hai bahut, is ko bata bhi naa sakun

Jafar Abbas, 27th December, 2022
تا سراپا آرزو گشت و امید،
مرغِ جانش سویِ جانان پر کشید
یادباد آن نیک‌مردِ لکهنوی!
 کز رحیلِ او کمرهامان خمید
لمحه ای هرکس که شد همصحبتش
جز نکویی و هنر از او ندید
جز هنر یا نیکُوی و عقل، کس،
زندگی را حاصلِ دیگر شنید؟
در «زمینِ» غالبِ حیّ آنچه کاشت
گرددش فردا رهایی را کلید!
گرچه بودش سیرِ هندستان مراد 
مرگش اما سویِ هندِ جان کشید
ناکسا مرگا! بسَت خونخوارگی،
شیوه نو کن! سالِ نو چون دررسید
درمیانِ دو عدم، کوته‌دمی‌ست
لاجرم شاد و غمین، باید چمید
علی رضا
A young friend of Jafar Abbas Sahab, Mr. Ali Reza  from Mir O Ghalib group expressed his grief

زمانہ بڑے شوق سے سن رہا تھا
تمہیں سو گئے داستاں کہتے کہتے

جعفر عباس صاحب آپ یوں چلے گئے

آپ جیسی بردبار ، متین اور باوقار شخصیت کا ہمارے درمیان سے اٹھ جانا یقیناً اس قحط الرجال کے دور میں ایک بڑے نقصان اور ایک خلا کا پیدا ہو جانا ہے اور اب ہمارے وقت میں کوئی بھی خلا پر نہیں ہوتا ، صرف پیدا ہوتا ہے اور اب آپ جیسے لوگ ملنے کے نہیں !

میرا جعفر صاحب سے ٹیلوفونک رابطہ رہتا تھا اور اودھ کی قدیم تہذیب و ثقافت کے تعلق سے بات ہوتی رہتی تھی

آپ نے ایک کامیاب زندگی گزاری ، شعر و سخن کی خدمت کی، علم اور اہل علم کی قدر کی ، زندگی کو ایک معنی عطا کئے ، وزن اور وقار پیدا کیا ، ہم سب ناشناس لوگوں کے دلوں میں جگہ پیدا کر کے اپنے مالک کے حضور حاضر ہو گئے

اہسی زندگی کا جشن منایا جانا چاہیے لیکن جعفر صاحب اگلی نشستوں میں آپ کی نشست پہ کون ہوگا یہ سوچ کر کلیجہ منہ کو آتا ہے

خدا رحمت کند ایں عاشقان پاک طینت را

خالد بن عمر
Khalid Bin Umar, a history & literary buff, & friend of Jafar Abbas Sahab from Mir O Ghalib

The unexpected departure of Jafar Abbas sahib is a collective loss for all the members of the “Mir O Ghalib” group, his friends & family members. A great human soul, generous friend, self-directed learner, & benevolent senior, this is how Jafar Abbas Sahib was a rare admixture of great qualities. May Almighty Bless his soul.

این جا به خدا که دل نهادیم
کس را مبر ای خدا از این جا
این جاست که مرگ ره ندارد
مرگست بدن جدا از این جا

Zeeshan Usmani, a close friend of Jafar Abbas Sahab expressed his grief

Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Nida Zehra Sahiba, niece of Jafar Abbas Sahab for the valuable input & sharing archival pics. I am also indebted to Mr. Syed Mansoor Bhai, a friend of Jafar bhai from Morrisville, North Carolina for pictures & valuable input.

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Documenting Heritage, Food & Cultures

Author: Rehan Asad

Documenting Heritage, Food & Cultures

One thought on “The sad demise of Jafar Abbas Sahab”

  1. A poignant portrayal of Jafar Saheb’s life, achievements and his service to the society. Feeling sad on the demise of the star which shone brightly before it extinguished.

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