India is a secular country. Ram and Rahim are one. Ishwar Allah tero naam are oft heard statements and assertions. Few practice and fewer imbibe the spirit in others. Ibrahim was an illiterate colleague of my father. A short plump man, Ibrahim was a much revered and eagerly awaited visitor to our home. He always carried an assorted sweetmeat box which would be reverentially handed over to my mother and we were queried on our progress in academics and cultural activities. This taught us the joy of sharing since each sweet had to be divided for every one to savour the taste of it.He would cycle more than 30 kms to my place and would always come up with innovative ideas. He was the one who taught me to cycle and he was the one who identified the cycle to be purchased for me. Later down the years when I decided to part with the cycle, he bought it for his son. May be more as a memento or memoir rather than out of need.
For us he was Idea Ibrahim.In our childhood days when we aspired to be the teacher and the boards were not commercially available in the market for children, Idea Ibrahim put a few planks together, added a coat of cement and painted them in black. A neat blackboard was made available. This is one of the most cherished possessions which we would not part for the world. The blackboard represents fulfilment of aspirations, the fulfilment of desire and most of all a symbol of the undying love for us and the enterprising nature of this man who if nurtured could have made the country proud.
Much later we realised that this man stood for many more values. Integrity and devotion were among them. The man would pray at Udupi, Velankanni and Nagore for the welfare of his family and his well wishers. The concept of Ishwar Allah tero naam was truly in his blood and he imbibed the quality in us that if we pray to any God it was for the humility to the ultimate and not out of the arrogance of the knowledge that we had identified Him.
I was once stationed at Panaji and the man had come on a surprise visit to the Old Goa church. I was on vacation at Bangalore. He caused enquiries about my acquaintances, friends, companions as well as the habits I was privy to. The man exhibited concern which made me a subject matter of ridicule by my peers on my return to Panaji. But Ibrahim could never be faulted. He is one of the few persons who was well above our age whom we respected but addressed by name. He was more an idea(l) to us rather than a colleague of our father.
How many could lay claim to this spirit of secularism? Undoubtedly he is one of the many unsung heroes who remains etched in many a heart.
It was one of those routine days when I returned from office to find my father suddenly making trips to a nearby hospital. I queried about his health. He merely stated a friend of his was in the hospital and he was paying visits. Few days later, my father stopped me at the gate and told me to visit the hospital and see whether Idaa(l) Ibrahim's desire for living could be aroused. I rushed to the hospital only to be told that his family members had settled the bill and claimed his body for the last rites. He gave us the slip but men of all walks of life, creed, religion and class paid tributes. He achieved their unity in his demise too. May his soul rest in peace.