By Yoginder Sikand
He was truly a remarkable man – M.A.K. Tayab, who left this world recently. He was more than 30 years older than me, but I felt so much at ease in his presence that I took to calling him ‘Anna’ (‘elder brother’).
We first met perhaps more than a decade ago, and after that we would meet off and on. My mother’s house is close to where he lived, and so we’d meet on occasion.
Anna was a beautiful person”yes, that’s an accurate way of describing him. ‘Noble’ is a good way to describe him, too. ‘Gentle’ is yet another. He had many amazing qualities. It was fun being with him”he had an innocent sense of humour. He loved cracking jokes, even about himself, including his own illness in the last years of his life. Although he had been ill for a while”I heard he had just one functioning kidney left and was suffering from a rare type of blood cancer”he didn’t seem to worry about it at all”at least, never when I asked him about how he was doing. He was the rare sort of person who take whatever may come their way with calm acceptance.
Anna was a really simple man, a man of very simple tastes. He loved reading, even at his age. He’d often discuss books with me, and on occasion we went out book-buying. The last time I met him was at a book-fair. With his passion for reading, I don’t think he could ever have been bored.
Anna was deeply pained about the horrors committed in the name of religion, and he sought to do his bit to help promote more sensible and meaningful understandings of religion. At the same time, he didn’t wear religion on his sleeves. He was the sort of person anyone, irrespective of religion, would feel immediately attracted to”calm, gentle, non-judgmental, non-interfering.
Anna was a man of few words and many smiles. I never once saw him lose his temper. He radiated a sense of peace”and I am sure he is at peace now, too, wherever he may be.