A hero who served the living & dead of all castes

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Last week, Mysore saw the passing away of a man whom most people of any substance will perhaps never miss. But the less fortunate ones amongst us, whose number is legion and who are considered a burden on society, both while they are alive and strangely even after they are dead, will perhaps begin to notice his absence from their midst very soon.

Ghulam Hussain, the nondescript and soft spoken man whom I knew over the past 30 years, bid a silent adieu to this world and to his most humble and thankless existence without me even knowing that he was dead. I discovered that he was not only dead but buried too only when I picked up Star of Mysore on the evening of that fateful day of his departure.

He was perhaps the only person in our midst who served the living and the dead alike, unmindful of who they were or to which caste and community they belonged, as long as they just happened to be the unfortunate ones who belonged to nobody.

I first ‘discovered’ him prowling the dingy and humid wards of K. R. Hospital, way back in the year 1982 when I started my post graduation in medicine. To be very frank and honest even at the risk of inviting the wrath of those who already knew him better, I first saw him only as a pesky nuisance and interference in my work.

He used to walk about in the wards, very often during the non-visiting hours, softly conversing with patients and making enquiries about their ailments with doctors and post-graduate students.

Now, which post-graduate student, especially of a subject as lofty and as hallowed as medicine, who feels he is the absolute lord and master of the ten rickety and ramshackle beds allotted to him, will tolerate the presence, let alone the interference from a miserable looking man in faded clothes and much mended leather chappals during his work?

But very quickly and thankfully the realisation dawned on me and my colleagues too that while we considered our work very noble and noteworthy this man was only making it a little easier for us with his presence by our side.

He would be in our ward, often a little before us and enquire about the poorest of the poor patients who needed some medicines or lab tests that were not available in the hospital.

Incidentally, there was no dearth of the facilities that were then not available in the hospital and so we would sheepishly tell him what would do much good not only to our patients but to our reputations too.

He would write down the requirements on a small scrap of folded paper and walk over to the next block of the hospital only to reappear the next day with a day’s medicine for each one of his beneficiaries that would keep their hearts and hopes ticking.

How he managed to garner funds for this kind of work was beyond our understanding but he was always a beacon of hope for anyone unfortunate enough to fall sick with no one to turn to.

He would always tell me that he was only a social worker of the Jamat-e-Islami-e-Hind which had entrusted him with what he was doing under the president ship of Altaf Ahmed, another silent toiler for the cause of communal harmony and service to the downtrodden, sans communal barriers.

Ghulam Hussain would not only look after the material and medical needs of poor patients but would also visit them after their operations and console them through their periods of anxiety and apprehension if they were seriously ill.

His reputation as an honest and sincere worker had grown so much that many rich and well to do people would immediately agree to extend financial help to needy patients if it was routed through him. In the unfortunate event of the deaths of any destitute in the city he would be the first one to arrive at the scene and arrange for the last rites fully in accordance with the person’s religious affiliations.

That he never saw human life on the basis of baser considerations becomes evident from the fact that once during communal clashes that briefly tore asunder the harmony of our City, he stood between an armed group of Muslims and two young Hindu boys who had been cornered.

He told the threatening goons in no uncertain terms that they would have to first kill him before laying their hands on the two helpless boys. Knowing who he was, they quietly dispersed into the lanes and alleys without a word of argument with him.

His association with the K. R. and Cheluvamba hospitals continued till his own end.

On the sixth of this month when he perhaps for the first time realised that his own end was near, he took his assistant Faiyaz Ahmed to the RMO and introduced him as the man who would henceforth continue his work. Just four day after this, Ghulam Hussain was no more, having died as quietly as he had lived and worked.

The measure of this very poor and modest man’s greatness can be gauged from the fact that at his funeral there was no space for all the mourners to stand in the mosque. The prayer had to be conducted in a big playground alongside. All this, while he himself was perhaps standing in surprise with his head bowed before his maker to get his rightful due.

(With inputs from Prof Riaz Ahmed and Dr Irfan Ahmed Riazi)

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

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24 Responses to “A hero who served the living & dead of all castes”

  1. asha Says:

    May his soul rest in peace….and may his tribe increase

  2. chandrakanthakv65 Says:

    perhaps because of the silent angels like gulam hussain and hopefully his ward faiyaz, we do have the have nots in a little comfort in an otherwise cruel world. May he rest in peace. thanx dr. javeed nayeem

  3. NS Rao Says:

    Ah – such a kind soul !! RIP!! – Never knew for a moment if we had such a kind soul amidst us helping the needy. He should be appreciated that he did not look for fame or money. Hopefully the person carrying his Baton will continue doing the service with same vigour.

    How did all the Media miss this man all these years?

  4. shanoi Says:

    Felt happy to read that such a person and his mentor Mr Altaf Ahmed existed in our Mysore
    As some one has already said May their tribe increase

  5. ERR Says:

    A modern day hero amidst all-pervading selfishness..R.I.P. Altaf Ahmed.Thanks Naeem Saab!

  6. Patrick R Braggs Says:

    They say Deeds Speak Louder Than Words…..Ghulam Hussain has done just that all his life.May his deeds spur us to do just that.

  7. change Says:

    Bravo.
    We need more muslims like this….

  8. dr ramesh Says:

    Mr.javed,
    Thanx for letting us know about a true hero, ghulam hussain. Without publicity, recognition going about serving humanity is the true meaning of NISHKAMA KARMA, And hussain symbolizes it.
    as a thanks giving— honourary doctorate for hussain for his social service .

  9. kris147 Says:

    Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
    Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
    And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
    Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
    An angel writing in a book of gold:—
    Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
    And to the Presence in the room he said
    “What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
    And with a look made of all sweet accord,
    Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
    “And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
    Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
    But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
    Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

    The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
    It came again with a great wakening light,
    And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
    And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

  10. Suresh Panje Says:

    Dear Dr. Nayeem,
    Pardon me for addressing you informally. Indeed, you have profiled a true humanitarian personality that we rarely find in the present world of ‘Your God versus My God’. Earlier I had read another piece scripted by you about a doctor and wish we have more of such worthies in our society.
    By the way, did you know Gopinath (Dr.Gopinath), my classmate from Bangalore who was at the K R Hospital in the Social Medicine Department. After 1963, I met him again in 1982 at Mysore and stayed for a day at his home. Of course, I am guilty for not having communicated with him regularly, say like the formal New Year, B’Day or Yugadi greetings.
    As for Mysore, I happened to be a student of Sri Ramakrsihan Vidya Shala, the famed residential school at VV Mohalla where I learnt a lot about ethical values.
    All said and done, I salute to the humane crusder Ghulam Hussain and may his likes reform our society.

    Suresh Panje
    New Delhi

  11. babuds Says:

    It is heartening to know that such people exist who care for the poor and helpless among us

  12. SV Says:

    Salute the silent hero.

  13. Soumya Says:

    Inspirational soul… may his soul rest in peace.

  14. Mysore Peshva Says:

    Thanks Dr. Nayeem for writing so crisply and so beautifully about Janab Ghulam Hussain’s most amazing life. Hussain lived consistent with Swami Vivekananda’s soaring ideal (which happens to be well expressed in the motto of the wonderful Ramakrishna Mission) — “Aatmano mokshartham jagat hitaaya cha” — that equates doing universal good with self realization as methods of spiritual quest.

    Kris147, thanks for sharing the wise story.

  15. Rajivnaval, London,ky Says:

    I met Mr Gulam Hussein while taking care of a sick poor patient in KR hospital in 95, he was humble down to earth and soft spoken wanting to help buy his medications. I was amazed by his mission in life which he carried with humility and enthusiasm. Seventenn year down the line practicing in Kentucky , USA am yet to meet any one to match Mr Hussein in his service to downtrodden. May lord have a place in heaven for Mr Hussein. RIP

  16. Manivannan Says:

    Dr. Nayeem; Thanks for writing so beautifully about Ghulam Hussain, a noble soul. His life reminds us of the abundant happiness and fulfillment hidden in the pages of our lives, we hardly discover!

  17. Gaampa Says:

    I wept…..

  18. Jothindra Paranji Says:

    Most moving tribute! May there be more such men in Mysore and elsewhere!

  19. Prashanth Says:

    As they say “the real heroes are always far away from publicity”, thanks Dr Javed for introducing us to him though a bit too late.
    This brought tears to my eyes.

  20. Syed Abdul Aleem Says:

    Cant control tears, cant stop praying for this noble soul, May Allah give us strength to serve humanity as Ghulam Hussain saheb served selflessly.

  21. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Ghulam Hussain sounds like a good man but Jamat-e-Islami-e-Hind is another matter. Sorry I had to see through the tears of lament on this one.

  22. Ranjini Kamath Says:

    Goodness still exists….so heartening to read about people like Ghulam Hussain.

  23. SpooPema Says:

    The love you give always returns…. This is an inspiring story to those who require an impetus to continue doing good in a society filled with so much wrong and wrong-doers…

  24. Sanjeeva Says:

    Could not fully know about late Mr. Ghulam Hussain until I read about him in 23rd September’s Prajavani supplement. He was great. I salute him. May his noble soul attain eternal peace.

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