Politics apart, he was a great administrator!
I intended to write this piece on the first death anniversary of Mufti Mohammad Syed, but then I changed my mind lest I may be branded as an unprincipled sycophant. Anyways, facts are facts and we should never distort realities. All my interactions with Mufti Sahib were in the line of my duty or social work.
I have first seen and heard Mufti Muhammad Syed at a public meeting at the remote village of Lalpora, Lolab in Kupwara district, in the late sixties when he was deputy minister for works. A young spotless khadi-clad Mufti Syed dominated most part of the public meeting held in an open space under the shade of huge walnut trees. I was a young boy of seven or eight years and walked several kilometers from Dardhpora village along with the children of my close relation with whom I had come to spend my summer holidays. That time I could not understand the politics, but I enjoyed the trip where people were amused with folk music and dance before public meetings. Ah! That was simple and wonderful Kashmir.
After that I met Mufti Sahib in winter of 2002 at Gulmarg. Mufti Sahib who had assumed office as state’s Chief Minister was staying in a cottage at hotel High Lands Park. That time I was associated with Tourism Department. In the evening a Delhi-based Kashmir journalist was with Mufti Sahib, I along with my colleagues visited Mufti Sahib. There were not enough chairs in the room to accommodate all of us. Mufti Sahib who was deeply involved in a discussion with the journo stopped the conversation and resumed his talk only after all of us were comfortably seated. Then in early summer of 2003 I had another close and evocative interaction with him. Mufti Sahib left for a stroll after having some rest at the beautiful hut of Cable Car Corporation at Kongdori, but within no time he returned back without saying a word to anyone. A young lady had confronted Mufti Sahib for the inconvenience she along with other visitors had to face because of elaborate, but strict arrangements for his visit to Gulmarg. Even while she overreacted, Mufti Sahib’s cool, calm and magnanimous attitude was appreciable. With this unpleasant happening Mufti Sahib canceled his walk, settled himself in a chair silently cherishing the scenic beauty of Gulmarg for hours. It was apparent that Mufti Sahib felt sorry for the inconvenience, but simultaneously he was pleased to see a young lady having enough courage to argue about her legitimate rights. Mufti Sahib’s expressions were as if he was appreciating the aura of empowerment. In the meanwhile, Mufti sahib an ardent admirer of nature asked me to arrange a good frame of the scenic view of Gulmarg visible from there. Which I afterward dutifully did to the best liking of Mufti Sahib, especially through a leading old hand of photography, octogenarian late Prakash Sony of famous ‘Prico studio’. This meeting revealed a lot of multifaceted personality of Mufti Sahib; his calmness, where he would listen more and speak less, cherish and admire the nature and would appreciate the righteousness of one and all. Mufti Sahib loved Gulmarg a lot and his favorite destination to stay at Gulmarg was Hotel High Lands Park and a long walk in the vicinity of Dhobi Ghath (Now Children’s park). During my Gulmarg days there were several occasions where I could read and experience the diverse persona of Mufti Sahib in a much better way.
At another occasion in August 2003 when I was working at Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) Mufti Sahib arrived at the Golf Course without any prior information. He was fed with stories of mismanagement and deteriorating condition of Golf Course and was on a fact-finding mission. He wished me to join him on the Golf cart for inspection of the Course. After covering half of the Course and experiencing the better condition of the Golf Course he revealed the purpose of his visit. However, while boarding the vehicle on his departure he simply conveyed his satisfaction, in few words in a dignified way.
To sum up I should say, political views apart, Mufti Sahib was a great administrator, who would respect every colleague and more importantly listen greatly and speak with authority only when necessary.