Living in the mountains of north Kashmir’s Uri district, Feroz Mir claims to be the oldest man alive on earth. Born on March 10, 1872, Feroz has been witness to the historical events as they unfolded in the subcontinent, Sameer Yasir reports.
If the certificates are to be believed, Feroz-ud-Din Mir is the world’s oldest man alive. Issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, the certificate declares that Feroz was born on March 10, 1872 in Bijhama village of Uri in north Kashmir which makes him more than 140 year old.
Contrary to the age, Feroz can still walk but he needs the assistance of his family members. He can talk in a broken voice. His eyesight has faded with time but he can recognize his family members and the voices of his great grandchildren.
Donning a traditional Kashmiri Pheran (a winter garment) and a shawl-like cloth which covers his shoulders, the family members surround him every time he comes out on the porch of his house. He has married five times and has more than 10 children who live in Kashmir and Pakistan.
According to the family members of Feroz, he was the eldest son of Matulli Mir. Mir was a small trader of dry fruits who used to supply nuts to traders of Karachi in 1800 to make his living. After he got married, Feroz was born after four years. Matulli would often take his son to Pakistan whenever he would visit for trade purposes, Abdul Rashid, Feroz’s grandson, told Kashmir Life.
Feroz started his business with the help of his father and married for the first time in Pakistan to a local Punjabi girl somewhere in the early 1890’s. “There were no boundaries between India and Pakistan at that time. It was easy to go to Muzaffarbad than to Srinagar. I used to work with a business family in Karachi who would buy nuts from me. I would take nuts from Kashmir which were very famous in Karachi,” Feroz, who speaks in Pahari, says in a broken voice. He started living in Pakistan till the beginning of the 19th century. After his first wife died, he moved back to Bijhama. After sometime, he remarried in Karachi but his second wife died as well; his three wives were from Kashmir. His present wife, Misra, is still alive and more than 80-year-old.
Misra says living with Feroz has been fun. “His experience of life is cruel. He used to tell me stories of earthquake, which struck Sopore and Pattan area in late 1800 and, while he on a trader trip to Karachi, he saved many lives in Gadiduptata. He is witness to some of the most significant events in history in the past century,” Misra told Kashmir Life.
Feroz says the only thing which he remembers very well is when the Pakistani raiders came to Kashmir. He claims they were cruel and passed Mohra before entering the Baramulla Jungles. “We all went hiding in the mountains when they came. They destroyed Mohra Power house and killed the man who was guarding it. ” According to Feroz, there was an earthquake which destroyed Sopore and Pattan area of north Kashmir in late 1880’s and took many lives. “At that time, I was travelling towards Karachi. In Gadidupata (now in Pakistan), I thought my family might have been killed in the tragedy. But they had survived. I was so happy when I came back to find them well and alive.”
Feroz says life was not as complex as it is today. “In early days there was no concept of electricity and all the other comforts. As the life started becoming easy, people couldn’t live easily with each other.” He talks only after a bit of pestering. The memory started failing him after an eye operation almost 10 years back.
Abdul Rashid, his grandson, who works in the district hospital of Baramulla, says something happened to him after that operation and he stopped talking. “He was treasure. We used to hear so many stories from him when we were young that we would never get fed up. He is an interesting man who has seen life very closely.”
“His business of exporting nuts to Pakistan had taken him to different cities of Pakistan. He would tell us stories about Pakistan of old days when it was not called Pakistan but was still a part of India,” Rashid told Kashmir Life.
“Those days are gone now,” he says.