Being remembered as the “lion of judiciary, a brave-heart and a noble soul”, the passage of an advocate known for his social and political standing has created a sentimental storm in Srinagar.
AS critically-ill patients became captives in their home in the Covid-plagued spring of 2020, an affable advocate missing two of his crucial therapies in lockdown broadcasted a beseeching appeal on his social media handle: “Need your dua only.” Four and a half months later, he bid an adieu with the same message: “Alwidaa Dosto. Dua me yaad Karna.”
Between the two messages was the searing suffering and struggle of a man, who fought the killer disease like a brave-heart.
“I don’t lose till I lose,” advocate Bilal Ahmad popularly known as Filla Nepal posted the telling comment on his Facebook profile in April 2020.
His peers reckon that the quote complimented the defiant man’s character—known for taking things head-on in his 51-summer-long life.
But what amazed many was the timing of this public post.
“Here was the man literally being consumed by the cancer and yet he stuck to his old defiant guns—the trait that always set him apart in his tribe,” said Gulzar Bhat, an acquaintance who knew Filla from their college days.
“The dreaded disease had already reared its ugly and was now spreading in his body parts and yet the vintage Filla was daring his enemy, this time an invisible one, like he always did.”
But after fighting hard that saw him getting haggard, pale and skinny, the advocate finally lost the battle of his life on September 7, 2020. His passage evoked massive condolences and tributes.
Much of the reaction had to do with the deceased’s “larger than life” image.
“Words can give little consolation to relieve grief,” advocate Nasir Qadri said in his tribute to a man whom he called remarkable for his exemplary grit. “Brother Bilal, Filla Nepal, your humor, hope was an inspiration to me.”
As a public figure known for his sway and social contacts, Filla came from Srinagar’s Dalgate area. Right from the word go, his friends recalled, the late advocate cut a daredevil image for himself. As a no nonsense person, his fiery campus activism would later propel him to take law as his profession.
“He was a hardcore pro-Kashmir man,” Showkat Ahmad, his childhood buddy, told Kashmir Observer. “As a friend and mentor, he would go out of his way to help people.” He was equally a Samaritan and philanthropist, taking care of destitute sections of the society, his friend informed.
The deceased, he said, left behind two wives and five kids.
“He was called Filla Nepal as he was a well-to-do businessman in Nepal,” Showkat said. “He came back in late 2000 and started his court practice.”
Bilal was the classmate and friend of another famous advocate of Kashmir, Shafqat Hussain—the lawyer known for his juvenile justice courtroom campaign.
“Filla and Shafqat were great friends,” Showkat continued. “While Bilal was a firebrand, Shafqat was calm and composed person. They complimented each other very well. But alas, we lost both these gems to death!”
Recalling Filla Nepal as a “full of life” person, Hilal Ahmad, his another childhood friend, said the deceased was a jolly man who never gave any dull moments to his friends.
“His company would delight everyone,” Hilal said. “He was an uplifting man, always cracking jokes and spreading smiles.”
It was four years ago, Hilal informed, when his advocate friend was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. “He fought the killer disease like a warrior,” he said. “He was a fighter who never gave up till his last breath.”
But two years ago, when he had almost won the critical health battle, he suffered from another terminal illness: colon cancer.
“He would joke about it saying ‘people normally get one cancer, I got two’.”
Still, Hilal said, his friend fought hard without losing heart, before Covid proved to be the final offensive. “He missed two crucial therapies in Covid lockdown,” Hilal said. “This aggravated his health condition.”
Before his demise, one of Filla’s friends had video-chatted with him and found him grown extremely weak to the extent that he didn’t even have the energy to talk. “[Yet] he told me that he has not given up and he will fight,” the friend recalled.
But as he finally lost his battle to tumour, a torrent of condolences only sent Srinagar into the abyss of mourning.
“Rest in Peace, Zinda Dil Filla Nepal. The real fighter: He fought with the Cancer from many years with real living spirit and inspired many Cancer patients throughout his journey how to live life in very hard situations,” Majid Maqbool, a friend recalled his association with the fallen. “Aap ho na ho, aap ka charcha zaroor hoga.”
“Although we were colleagues since 2008 but we became friends just two years ago,” Babar Qadri, a well-known advocate and TV debater, said.
“I started to understand Filla Nepal and found him very pure from his heart, yes of course his slang was entirely different and unique. Although I had very bitter working relations too in the past with him but of late I found him entirely different and brotherly. I will miss him very much being a brother, colleague and of course he will be remembered for his unique style. May Allah bless you Jannat.”
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