Two years after he left for eternal abode, the memories of ever-smiling Izhar Wani are still bright and clear, says Wahid Bukhari
The harsh winter had just been over and spring had sprung in the valley as we returned from Maharashtra after an academic trip. Filled with hot air after interacting with the students at the Pune University, we knew something beyond the routine class work needed to be done.
The immediate thought was to do an internship with a media organization but neither my close pals nor I knew any journalists so closely – and at this point one of the friends proposed his name.
The next day we landed at the AFP office; then located at a run-down wooden building in Lambert lane, near the shade of a big Chinar tree. AFP is a big name and we obviously were nervous to meet the man who looked after its coverage of Kashmir – one of the oldest unresolved conflicts in the world.
I didn’t know much about my friends but I was damn sure that the person wouldn’t give us too much hearing. His ego must be as big as the name of the organization he represents, I thought. Obviously his persona was bigger than the AFP yet he was sweet and unshowy.
The staircase leading up to the office could accommodate only one person at a time so queuing up and watching our steps, we were finally there – the first word ‘jaana’ (dearest) is something that Izhar Bhai started with, referring to us and I don’t know a single moment since that day till he left for the eternal world, he always addressed us by that name.
The man with a shiny beard and sharp eyes, sitting on a modest chair knew what we were there for and without wasting a second he suggested that we join a daily newspaper – since we were knew to the profession and a daily newspaper would have obviously exposed us to better opportunities. But he was quick to add that he was always at our disposal – since he wrote only few reports in a week so wouldn’t be of much help to us. But he made sure to call one of his newspaper friends and told him about three of us.
The man on the other side of phone – as we found out later is ‘sweetest’ when it comes to meeting in the Press Enclave, though he masters the art of making sweet (rather false) promises. He told Izhar Bhai that we could drop in at his office anytime – though it is a separate story that we never worked in that newspaper.
March rains cooled us off and working in a media organization was unwittingly put on hold but class work became a casualty– not a surprise when you have Naseem Bagh just a jump away from classrooms and sitting under the shade of chinars with endless cups of chai, days would end serenely.
As we were about to finish our University Course, it was time to start our 15-day internship – mandatory for the course. AFP was always an option at hand, given Izhar’s generous nature and all of us opted for various choices and I opted for the BBC, since it was a dream organization to work with.
I remember Izhar Bhai telling me one day that I was learning the skills with the best journalist in the valley – not only intricacies of reporting but also lessons of ‘ethics and uprightness’.
Whenever another journalist friend and I faced any kind of frustration with the profession, we would drop at Izhar Bhai’s office in Kothibagh lane. We would call him on the way and he was always available for us like an elder brother – many a time he told us that we are like his younger brothers.
‘Wala Jaana’ (come dearest) he would always get up from his chair to greet us with a saccharine smile on his bearded face. Tea would always be served in white porcelain cups with biscuits, followed by regular chats – can you call up this editor. Should I apply for a job there? etc.
I haven’t worked with him but I vividly remember Izhar’s enthusiasm when in 2008, cross-LoC trade started on the Uri –Muzaffarabad route – he along with his close friend from Reuters news agency was holding onions (Pakistani onion) in his hand. Soon after he had filed his copy, he was taking pictures of the panoramic Uri town, tucked away in the lap of mighty mountains. “You are very quick, Jani’ he wrote when I had uploaded those pics on Facebook before he did.
As they say, God calls dearest people to him before others – without an exaggeration I would say that the adage fits perfectly for this father of two-girls. Only a couple of months back when a friend informed that Izhar was diagnosed of cancer, earth shook beneath my feet – how can this deadly disease consume such a great person? I asked myself. Then after calling him, he told me that he was doing fine and I am sure all his acquaintances must have felt relieved after hearing that he was recovering.
But on 3rd April 2012, a friend informed that Izhar has been admitted in the hospital again in a critical condition, and only a day after the same friend informed that this brave journalist has lost his battle to cancer. RIP.
Obviously someone will step in his shoes but surely nobody would take his place – death of the man who groomed young and raw talent coming out from the University of Kashmir’s Mass Communication department for years is a big loss for journalism in Kashmir but a bigger one for newcomers.