Mohib Ali Nasser– a caring friend who looked after the community

Jane wale kabhi nahin aate

Jane wale ki yaad aati hai

(The departed never return Their memory lingers on)

A couple of years ago Mohib Ali Nasser’s wife asked him to compile a list of his five best friends. Nasser, Mohib Bhai to me, put me on top of the list. He was much senior to me but was frank about many things. 

I don’t know how to pay back to that pure love, unalloyed affection, limitless appreciation he had for me. 

Mohib Bhai left for his heavenly abode on Thursday (October 22). He was 73 and is survived by wife, a son and a daughter. 

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It was common friend Aijaz from UNI who introduced me to Mohib Bhai around two decades ago at a function. Tall and clad in his trademark spotlessly white half-sleeved shirt and trousers, his thick hair parted carefully with black goggles hiding a pair of smiling eyes, Mohib Bhai appeared more like a Bollywood star of the 70s than head of a manpower and travel company. In his expensive suits–the wardrobe had dozens to choose from–he looked more a honcho than a senior member of Shia Isna Ashari Jamaat also called Twelvers because they follow the twelve imams of the Shias.

I liked Mohib Bhai for two reasons—his care for the poor and his honesty. Of course he was very consciousness about who he was and honest enough to show his connections. He didn’t throw his weight around. He never bragged about either his wealth or his ‘right’ connections.

If you visited his first floor oval office opposite Metro Cinema in South Mumbai, you would not miss his framed photographs with half a dozen Indian Prime Ministers, including Rajiv Gandhi, and several former and current ministers. His photograph with Amitabh Bachchan and Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray are prominently placed in the room. About the picture with Thackeray, Mohib Bhai told me an anecdote: “When I reached his Bandra home with a friend who knew Balasaheb very well, he was very impressed with my height. Balasaheb asked a servant to bring a small tool, he stood on it and then the photograph was clicked.” 

If I didn’t meet him in a week, he would call to check if everything was okay. Since his office was just a few minutes’ walk away from mine, I would walk down and reach there. 

A notice outside his office door read:”Guests are welcome, relatives only by appointment.” The truth is he met everyone warmly. Among the visitors were many who would seek financial help from a trust at Najafia House at Dongri that he was part of. He never said no to anyone.

Every Friday, even when he had difficulties in walking after a severe fall and hip operation, he would attend the weekly meetings at Najafia House. Nothing could dampen his indefatigable energy, his courage to face odds. 

He loved food and travelling. He would ignore the doctor’s advice on what to eat and what not, especially when his only son Ali was not around. He gorged on ice cream and loved chocolates. Like children, he craved chocolates and kept many bars of them in his cupboard, hidden from his son. Normally parents don’t want their children to get spoiled with things like chocolates. It was the other way round here. 

He loved his son and the son dotted on his father. 

Ever since Ali joined his father in the office, Mohib Bhai substantially cut down on his office work and kept himself busy with jamaat works and other social activities. One day I told him:”Mohib Bhai, you are the luckiest father in the world. Your son earns, and you spend the money travelling to different countries, including Iraq, Iran, UAE and England.” Seized by emotions, he broke down. He called Ali in and asked me to repeat what I had just said. I repeated it and Ali smiled, saying “Alhamdulillah” (Thank God). Khuda aisi aulad sabko de (May God grant such a child to everyone)! 

It was sheer joy to travel with Mohib Bhai. I travelled to Dubai twice with him. The first travel happened because of the tickets that he won in a lucky draw at an Arab country’s national day function in Mumbai. All the guests were asked to put their visiting cards in a bowl. At the function’s end, two cards were picked up in a lucky draw and the winners were given the round trip tickets to Dubai. I had forgotten my visiting card but Mohib Bhai put his card and he was one of the winners. Since the winning ticket was not transferable, he asked the airline company to issue an additional ticket and we travelled together. 

We flew to Dubai and drove to his friend, business man Ghulam Bhai’s beautiful bungalow. Of Indian origin in Kutchch (Gujarat), Ghulam Bhai is a gentleman respected in his community in Dubai and elsewhere. His only son Muntazir (Munna) is loved by the entire family loved. 

For Muntazir’s daughter’s wedding a couple of years ago I saw guests from half of the world–from Dar es Salam to London, Karachi to Toronto–coming down to bless the couple. Senior Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Saddiq sahab too had flown in from Lucknow.

Even when confined to wheelchair, Mohib Bhai would regularly visit shopping malls, attend weddings, jamaat meetings and sessions of Indo-Arab Society which he headed for a couple of years. 

His never-say-die spirit was infectious. For quite sometime his speech remained severely affected. At the meetings, if he was not audible enough, he asked someone to read out his short written speech. 

A fortnight ago I called him. He said he was fine and at home as pandemic didn’t allow him to visit office. I promised to meet him soon after the situation improved. It never happened. I regret I couldn’t attend his funeral due to the Coronavirus-induced restrictions. I hope he will forgive me. 

The Khoja Shias have lost a tall leader. Mumbai has lost one of its finest citizens. I have lost a close, caring friend. I will miss you Mohib Bhai. May you rest in peace. Amen.

Mohammed Wajihuddin, a senior journalist, is associated with The Times of India, Mumbai. This piece has been picked up from his blog.

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