Memories of Azad



Jagan Nath Azad - A Real Human Being
“Rules are Rules. They Apply To Me As Well.“

It was in July 1990. Although rainy season (Monsoon) had started, Jammu was extremely hot and humid. I was posted as Assistant Manager at Canal Road branch of Punjab National Bank. Armed militancy had arrived in Kashmir. Painful migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley had taken place and banks in Jammu were always crowded. People demanding transfer of accounts, people demanding payment of fixed deposits (issued by banks in Kashmir) that had fallen due and people coming in with gold ornaments and seeking (literally begging) a locker. Stories of pain and suffering all around!

Everyday I heard about two or three elderly Kashmiri Pandits dying of heat stroke. Unaware of the deadly heat, they moved about in the midday sun. To survive in the alien land, they had to look for a room, go to Relief Counters, visit schools for admission of their children & banks, shops and other essentials and so many other daytime engagements.

One day, directed by a colleague, a visitor came into my cabin. My colleague knew him as a relative of the proprietor of Seva Medicos, Bakshi Nagar but knew nothing about literature or Urdu poetry or about the literary stature of the person he had recommended to me. The moment I saw him , I recognized him as Prof Jagan Nath Azad. He had an elderly Kashmiri Pandit with him. I do not know where and how they had met. I did not ask these details either. Offering them drinking water, I sought to know as to what he wanted from me. He said, "Do you have locker facility? If yes, would you please give access to this gentleman. He is known to me. is a deserving person who presently lives in Geeta Bhawan. Unfortunately, he goes about the city with his wife’s jewellery in his pocket. There is no security in Geeta Bhawan where the family lives - almost in the open. He has been to various banks for a locker but with no result. I came to know that your bank has been providing lockers to people in distress. Please listen to him. He is a Kashmiri".

Those days , KYC norms were not so stringent. To ascertain credentials of the person, I put three or four questions to him and opened his savings bank account introducing him myself . I got him to sign the Locker Agreement there and then. As per the understanding with my manager, I waived the prerequisite of the fixed deposit for the locker to this deserving case and handed over the key to him. He put the gold ornament packet in the locker. Azad sahib was all smiles. I looked at his face - radiant , smiling and cheerful. He politely declined my offer of a cup of tea.

As another customer was narrating her story of leaving everything in the Valley to save her life and looking for a locker, Azad sahib did not speak much but kept listening.

He then took out a cheque from his pocket and handed it over to me. It was a cheque for something around Rs2,400 drawn in his favour. It was crossed and marked "Payees Account only". The following conversation then took place:
Azad: "This cheque has remained with me for about a month. Can it be encashed now?"
I: "Why not? Right now I can pay you cash for this cheque."
Azad: "But it is marked "Payees Account only". It can not be paid across the counter I have to deposit it in my account with my bankers. They shall collect it."
I: "That is the procedure, but as a special case we can pay the cash to you right this moment. We can purchase this cheque at par and collect it later. We must only be sure about the payee’s credentials. Exceptions are created in banking as well."
Azad: "How are you sure about my credentials?"
I: "Sir, you are Jagan Nath Azad. Scholar and authority on Allama Iqbal. You are a well known poet of the subcontinent. I have seen you many times in Srinagar. You worked in PIB as its Srinagar Bureau chief. And then your nazm on partition … Khudaa ke ghar pey kyaa beeti sanam khaanon pe kyaa guzri…"

Azad sahib smiled at this and said, "I always thought that bankers have nothing to do with literature - least with Urdu. Such things give me hope that Urdu will survive in India."

He picked up the cheque from the table and put it in his pocket. He then got up and shook hands with me. Flinging a warm smile he said, "I had come for this gentleman only. So happy that you helped him. Keep doing this humanitarian work. I shall deposit the cheque in my bank account. Let it get collected in the normal procedure. Rules for payment of "Payees Account" cheques apply to me as well. I can not claim to be an exception. Rules are rules. Thank you."

This brief meeting left a deep impression in my mind. A thinker, a poet, a scholar and an authority on Allama Iqbal accompanying a poor, desperate and hapless individual!

Later I came to know that Azad sahib did not know the man intimately. Only empathy, compassion and human feelings were the key factors for his coming to the bank and seeking a locker for him. He had heard the person narrating his woes per chance. For a man who was respected and admired by all regimes/governments/leaders in the subcontinent, humanity, compassion and sympathy were dearer than any dogmatic religious belief. What a true human being he was!

In 1947, very reluctantly , he left Lahore - left his dear city very late when almost all non-Muslims had moved out. As a sensitive Individual he had felt the pangs of separation from the place of his birth and his beloved city, Lahore. None other than he could understand the woes of a man facing a similar predicament. In that brief visit to my Bank, never did he seek a favour for himself. A job that I was more than ready to do. For his own cheque, he wanted rules to be followed.

After 1947, he kept visiting Lahore for mushairas, literary get togethers and seminars. Let me add lines from a poem that he read in Lahore when he visited the city for first time after 1947:
"Teri mehfil sey jo armaan-o-hasarat ley key niklaa thaa
Voh hasarat ley key aaya hoon, voh armaan ley key aayaa hoon
Tumhaare vaaste aey dosto mein aur kyaa laata
Wattan ki subah tak shaam-e-ghareebaan ley key aaya hoon
Mein apne ghar mein aaya hoon magar andaaz to dekho
Ke apnay aap ko maanind-e-mehmaan ley key aaya hoon"

Autar Mota

Created on 2 February 2016
Layout, design & revision © 2106 Pammi Taylor