“Success isn’t what I did, success is getting things done to help others” – probably the greatest piece of advice a great man once told me, who sadly departed from this world to meet his maker earlier this week. It is an irony however, that he himself who gave me this valuable advice, lived his entire life through the prism of that particular quote.
I have been fortunate in meeting some very remarkable and inspiring individuals, whether they were leaders of countries, academic geniuses, enlightened scholars or even humble community leaders, but Ahmed Mohammed Patel (Ahmed nana) was an individual who had such a profound impact on my life, second only to my own late grandfather, that he himself stood above the heads of statesmen and leaders, of whom so much was written.
Ahmed nana was not a world leader, or a captain of industry or even great philanthropist, books, titles and eulogies may not be bestowed upon him, because he may have been an average man living an average life, but for the many few his contribution and legacy will outshine and outlive people for generations.
Born in the village of Kankaria in the mid 1920’s, he was born into a wealthy, influential and politically active Patel family. He was born into a family who had immense influence and to live under the shadows of his grandfather, father and uncle’s would be no mean feat, especially as he was the firstborn grandson of Asmalji Patel.
Ahmed nana’s childhood began with tragedy as his father Mohammed Patel had died after being trampled by a stampede of bulls, Ahmed Nana was only a year old, while his mother Amina was expecting their second child (my grandmother, Fatima). Nevertheless both brother and sister were not deprived the love of a father, as their younger uncle, Yusuf Patel married their widowed young mother Amina and provided stability, love and affection to both Ahmed nana and Fatima. I was always reminded by both siblings that the love, care and teachings he provided to them, a real father could not match it for his own children. It is an irony that the death of Ahmed Nana coincided with the 36th anniversary of the death of Yusuf Patel, while one man died on 6/8/2012 (17th Ramadan 1433 AH) the other died on 6/8/1976 (10th Ramadan 1396 AH).
The greatest quality of which I give tribute to Ahmed nana was how his intentions through his actions were executed after he had arrived in the United Kingdom during the early part of the 1960’s determined the future for so many individuals. Like many men of his generation, he arrived without the knowledge of the language, customs or even understanding of what the United Kingdom stood for, but like most men of his generation he quickly adapted to life and rather than just pursue the solace of the Pound and the British passport he started to think how his family, his people and his community can gain from this opportunity from the villages of India to the mill towns of the United Kingdom, where hopefully lives and fortunes can change.
From the onset Ahmed nana himself did not need to be working in the mills of Yorkshire and Lancashire, living in squalid conditions with other men and face the bitter chill of the British winter as he himself was quite wealthy by most standards in India. As at the age of 9 he inherited his father’s share of his grandfather’s huge estate, but while his family were in Bid, his share of the land was in Kankaria, but nevertheless he had spent his childhood in Bid, and only after his marriage in 1949 to Amina Musaji Patel (his uncle’s daughter) did he officially take up residence in Kankaria.
However, as an immigrant worker in the United Kingdom he knew he had a sense duty to his own family. Not only did this man strive to bring his own wife and eight children to the United Kingdom, which was the basic norm that most men had carried out during the 1960’s and 1970’s, he personally undertook the opportunity to look at ways to see how his extended family could also benefit.
A few years ago it was roughly calculated that due to Ahmed nana at least 250 people currently living in the United Kingdom, of whom many are born and bred as British from my family can trace a connection back to Ahmed nana. Here was a man who was responsible for many individual to come to the United Kingdom from India, and thus start a new life with their own families.
Whether it was working in Manchester to acquire vouchers for his younger brother’s and cousins so they can work in the United Kingdom, or looking at how he could ensure his sister and her children could settle in the United Kingdom or whether through marrying of individuals; the future of many homes were enhanced in both countries due to the effort of one man. One such example was of him sponsoring a poor man from the village of Kankaria, who in India could not even manage to have two meals a day, but sponsoring him and even arranging his marriage the fortunes had changed from despair to hope.
Through the endeavours of one man, people who may have ended up being farmers and housewives in India are now successfu Ulama, Hufaaz, businessmen, teachers, lawyers, pharmacists, broadcast journalists and above all content in life. Through the endeavours of one man, people who may have had deep economic problems due to demographic changes within their own family structure in India are now happily living in their own homes across the United Kingdom and beyond. Through the endeavours of one man, his own family not only had contributed to the development of their community in India but many had contributed and still do so in civic life within the United Kingdom.
I, myself enjoyed listening to his stories of family history and his take on the world while he would be making his customary paan, which would be made ready for consumption and then spat out in the old mango tin if there was excessive tobacco within minutes. His hand gestures while he would state an opinion and those stary eyes, which he inherited from his mother, which would be noted if he was displeased (my grandmother herself can use the stare rather well, I must say), were unique traits he would possess.
I recall one incident when he was talking about influence, and he said to me “the Patel of village may have been someone else, but in your grandfather’s home (Hasanji Patel) decisions were made by cups of tea, never assume titles can give influence,” or the time he once had told me “every person has a worth, never think the King is mightier than the beggar.” Profound anecdotes but with clear precise meanings, which would give any master strategic operators like Peter Mandelson or Alistair Campbell a run for their money.
He was a man who held strong beliefs and convictions, he would give out honest statements and hold opinions and yet not fear the consequences, he held immense pride in the name of his family and his heritage and would remind people of their past, their duties and their future.
But he was a man who held deep loyalties and had a share of responsibility towards certain people. He once remarked to me and an uncle of mine, who both had lost our mothers, that it was his duty to look out for us as he’ll one day have to meet his creator and answer for his deeds.
The death of Ahmed nana has brought an unbearable loss, but even though the world and society did not or could not honour his life, the almighty honoured him by taking him to his house of prayer in Ramadan for Umrah, while bringing him back home to his family where he departed during Maghrib to his creator in the auspicious month of Ramadan.
Human beings are mere mortals, their destiny and actions are all determined by the almighty who must have liked something in him Ahmed nana to grant him a noble death.
Ahmed nana’s life, achievements and successes may have gone unnoticed, while for others it will be always remembered, but for those who have mourned his death we need to ask ourselves the question will our lives be remembered on what ‘I’ did or will it be based on getting things done in order to help others? A benchmark, one such pioneer had passed with flying colours that I doubt could be matched or even attempted.
“Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; Establish regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (eternal) home
Gardens of perpetual bliss: they shall enter there, as well as the righteous among their fathers, their spouses, and their offspring: and angels shall enter unto them from every gate (with the salutation)
“Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!”
~ Surah Rad 22-24”