KARACHI: Liaquatabad streets mourned on Thursday the loss of the man who once lit them up with his pleasant smile and easy-going personality.
On the day of the funeral of Qawwali maestro Amjad Sabri, the streets in Block 3 were lined with people crying for the man, who was snatched away too soon.
The world will remember him as a singing maestro who carried forward the musical legacy of his father, Ghulam Fareed Sabri. But, for the residents of Liaquatabad, he was an exemplary neighbour, a cricketer, and someone who helped anyone who reached his doorstep. It is, therefore, not surprising that Liaquatabad streets were choked with thousands of people clambering to catch a last glimpse of him.
Sabri was born in the same house in Liaquatabad where he lived till his last. He grew up in this 80-square-yard house built lovingly by his father. From a young age, Sabri’s was a common face on the streets, playing with other children and hanging out in his youth. It is here he played dabbu all night long. The qawwal had no doubts that he belonged to Liaquatabad.
“We went to school together, played cricket on these narrow streets and in a playground nearby,” recalled Sabri’s cousin, Muhammad Farooq. “We have seen each other’s families grow but Amjad’s attitude stayed the same as it was when he was a teenager,” he added.
“He never let us feel that he was a celebrity, for us [his friends] he was our Amjad, our partner in crime, our brother,” said Farooq. Recalling his favourite food, he said that Amjad was fond of khichdi. “He always asked his mother to cook khichdi for him,” he said.
Another friend who lived on the same street as Sabri pointed out how the qawwal was an active participant at every small occasion or celebration taking place in the area. He always helped the girls and motivated the boys to work. “He was the one who led from the front, whether it was making Haleem in Muharram or Qurbani at Bakra Eid,” he said.
It seems Sabri’s friends belonged to all age groups. Ramsha, 12, remembered him to be her mentor in cricket. “He used to play cricket with us in front of our house every Sunday,” said Ramsha, who is also a friend of Sabri’s daughter.
She recalled how the adults would also join their Sunday games. “It was like a family game. Everyone on the street would join,” she said. “No one can replace and recreate those Sundays again because it was him who encouraged all of us to play and enjoy.”
Another neighbour Bano Bibi cried as she remembered how Sabri would distribute food among the poor during Ramazan. “A lot of people who came last night had no idea that he is no more,” she said.
Bano is among several widows in the neighbourhood who Sabri used to help financially. She met him on Monday and he asked about her daughter’s health. “I came to meet him once a week and every time when I told him about my problems, he just told me not to worry. ‘Allah is there to help you’ he would say and give me money,” she recalled, with her face hidden behind a veil. She cried when she realised a lot of widows and elderly people have lost a source of livelihood because he silently helped the needy, she added.
“It was like we lost our dad today, his family is like our family, his father was friends with my father and he was like a brother to us,” said Nargis Asma, daughter of Taya Nisar who owns a famous hotel nearby.
One of Sabri’s relatives recalled fondly how he made people sit with him for a long time, narrating stories of prophets and reciting Naat and qawwali. “My husband came home very late two days ago and when I became angry he told me, ‘When Amjad bhai speaks, one doesn’t feel like leaving his company’,” she said.
Apart from his neighbours, people came to mourn his death from as far away as Landhi, Korangi, Orangi Town, Gulshan-e-Iqbal and Baldia Town. “I never met him personally but whenever I heard his kalam it was like coming straight from the heart,” said a mourner, Farah, who came from Baldia Town.
The heart of Liaquatabad was laid to rest on Thursday afternoon.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2016.