Kirti Chacha

On 13 September 2020 I received a WhatsApp message “Mohsin Kirti Uncle nahin Rahe. Madhu Chachi” (Mohsin, Kirti Uncle is no more. Madhu Chachi). It was from Madhu Chachi, wife of Kirti Chacha. Yes I called him Chacha. Soon after my mother called from Aligarh telling me that “Kirti ka Inteqal ho gaya. Chachi se baat karlena” (Kirti has passed away. Don’t forget to talk to Chachi). The news came as a shock. My family has a long association with the family of Kirti Chacha. So many of our memories are associated with Kirti Chacha and Madhu Chachi.

Professor Kirti Kumar Trivedi retired from Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. Before moving to Delhi, he was associated with Department of History at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). His wife, Madhu Trivedi, is an alumnus of Department of History at AMU. She did her Ph.D in history from AMU. She retired from Department of History, School of Open Learning, University of Delhi. It was at Aligarh that the friendship between my father and Kirti Chacha developed. Abbu called him Kirti while Kirti Chacha always called him Zilli Sahib.

It was year 2006 and I was moving to Muscat to join my new job at the Ministry of Manpower, Sultanate of Oman. My flight was from Indra Gandhi International Airport (popularly known as IGI), Delhi. The flight was early morning so it was decided to go to Delhi one day before so as to avoid travelling at night from Aligarh to Delhi. The importance of Kirti Chacha and family for us can be gauged from the fact that while many members of our family live in Delhi but we all decided to go Kirti Chacha’s place to spend the night. We reached Kirti Chacha’s house at evening. After dinner, all of us went to bed except Kirti Chacha, Madhu Chachi and Abbu (I call my father Abbu). All three just talked and talked whole night without sleeping or taking rest even for a minute. Chachi ensured that the supply of tea was maintained at regular intervals. Chacha used to smoke at that time. He just smoked and had innumerable cups of tea and all three old friends talked like there is no tomorrow. Now when Chacha is not there, all those memories keep coming back.

There is one small incident which Chacha loved to recount quite often. Chacha liked his kebab. Once he came to our house and on the door itself I told him “Chacha aaj kebab nahin baney hain” (Uncle there is no Kebab today). Listening to this he laughed heartily and said “Arrey bhai kabhi kabhi sirf milney bhi ajatey hain” (Sometimes I come just to meet). When I met him few years back in Aligarh he reminded me of that incident and laughed a lot.

One of my childhood memories is going to Delhi to see off my uncle, Professor Ashfaq Ahmad Zilli, who was going to Iraq. His flight was from Palam Airport, now called IGI. He was working as Professor at University of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdistan region of Iraq for some time. That was his last visit to Iraq as he soon came back to India due to Iran-Iraq war. Sulaymaniyah was at border between Iran and Iraq and bore the brunt of war. At that time there was no security protocol at the Airport and relatives of people flying out could go almost up to the Aircraft and could see the passengers boarding the plane. That was first time I saw Aeroplane from close quarters. That was also first time I saw automatic door and had quite fun running in and seeing the door open on its own. It was almost like magic. We stayed at Kirti Chacha’s house in JNU. JNU campus is near Palam Airport. When planes land at the Airport they pass over JNU at very low altitude. Those who live there are habitual but for us coming from quite campus of AMU, we kept waking up at night to the roaring noise of landing Aircrafts . In the day time, as a small child along with Kirti Chacha’s elder son Koshu, I found it quite fascinating to see Aircrafts about to land. In Aligarh I was used to seeing Aircraft almost like a toy up above the sky. Here they seemed so big as they were very near to the ground just before landing. I think I spent a lot of time watching with awe the landing planes. Next day Kirti Chacha, Abbu and me went for a short tour of Delhi. It was then that I first saw Jama Masjid and was fascinated by its sheer size. I remember while my father prayed at the Jama Masjid, me and Kirti Chacha sat and waited in the courtyard of the grand mosque. Next day we visited Mehrauli. Climbing Qutub Minar was so much fun and daunting as well. Visitors were allowed upto first level. Later it was closed due to some incident. If I remember I counted 181 or 183 stairs leading to the first stage. Besides Qutub Minar and Ashok ki Laath I dont remember any other details of Mehrauli visit.

Whenever, Kirti Chacha or Madhu Chachi visited Aligarh, a visit to our house was a must. Abbu also tried to meet them whenever possible while visiting Delhi. For last several years during my annual visits to India, I planned to visit Delhi just to meet Kirti Chacha and Madhu Chachi but due to paucity of time I could not. Last time I talked on phone although Kirti Chacha could not talk much. It was only through Madhu Chachi that I talked to him. Of late he developed throat cancer and after surgery it was difficult for him to talk. Now when he is no more, I wish I had somehow found time and visited him.

There are so many things which I want to share about Kirti Chacha. I leave them for some other day. Dear Kirti Chacha, you were an important part of my life. You will forever live in my memories.