A busload of students and community members left Nemaska Friday, September 3, for Toronto. Their mission was to meet the Rana family and pay their last respects in person to their former principal, Farrukh Mahood Rana.

Farrukh Mahood Rana passed away June 29 in Montreal. He had apparently died of a heart attack during an afternoon nap. Farrukh had left Nemaska June 26 following the year-end school activities and arrived in Montreal the next day. He spent his remaining days with his family which was meant to be. His wife had said that he was very proud to have been involved in the year-end school activities.

When the Nemaska community was informed of his death on Wednesday, June 30, there was no time for the Cree School Board to send a representative to the funeral, which was held in Toronto July 1. Instead, a memorial service was held in Nemaska to remember Farrukh. At the memorial service it was clear that a number of students were attached to Farrukh since many of them openly grieved. I think it was during this memorial service that a moral obligation had to be fulfilled. The students and community members needed to pay their last respects to Farrukh and bring closure to the sad and unexpected event.

The trip to Toronto was originally planned to take place August 6, but this was not possible due to funding problems. It was intended to have the trip at this time in order for the students not to miss any school days. The trip was then rescheduled to take place during the Labour Day weekend. Again, this was to ensure that a minimum number of school days would be missed. The trip was eventually made possible through the fundraising efforts of members of the Nemaska School Committee and Community Education Administrator. The major fundraising event was coordinated by the Nemaska Annual General Assembly. The coordinating fees and the organizing of certain events all went to the transportation and accommodation costs of the trip. The Cree Nation of Nemaska, the Nemaska Development Corporation and the Nemaska School Committee also contributed to make the trip possible.

The bus left Nemaska at 8 am and various stops were made along the way. Mother Nature provided the entertainment prior to arriving in North Bay and the students were awed at its power. Thunder and lightning flashed and students clapped as if it were a fireworks display. It rained so hard that the bus started to leak and someone commented that we were actually in a boat.

We left North Bay Saturday morning and continued on to Toronto. About two hours from Toronto we started to make contact with a member of the Rana family. Mr. Malik Muzaffer met us with his hazard lights flashing at a busy intersection in the outskirts of Toronto and guided us to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, where we were greeted by the National Secretary of the Muslim community, Dr. Syed M. Aslam Daud. He made us feel welcome and introduced us to various members of his community. It was here that we were able to once again meet Mrs. Nasreen Naheed, Rafia, Zara, Schbrala, Oudyia and Zalarya Rana, the wife and five daughters of Farrukh Rana. Warm greetings and formalities were exchanged and we were invited to have lunch with the family and the Muslim community members.

Following the lunch we were taken to the Bai’Tul Islam Mosque, which, we were informed, is the largest in North America. Prayers were given by our hosts and a question and exchange session was held. The students asked various questions about the Muslim culture and religion. A gift exchange was held and our School Commissioner spoke on our delegation s behalf. Gifts were then exchanged between our two groups. Isaac Meskino, our School Commissioner, and I received copies of The Holy Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam which we accepted and will leave in the school in memory of Farrukh Rana.

We continued on to the cemetery to complete our final mission. Our Nemaska entourage arrived at the cemetery and we were directed to a fresh gravesite. It was here that a sign identified the gravesite of our principal. Our guide, the brother-in-law of Farrukh Rana, pointed us to the grave and said, “Here is the final resting place of your principal.” The wife and daughters of Farrukh Rana wept as did many of the students. They finally had the opportunity to properly pay their last respects to Farrukh Rana and bring closure to events that began June 29. We offered our sympathies and condolences to the wife and daughters of Farrukh which consisted of triplets and two other daughters. Farrukh Rana’s wife expressed her gratitude and appreciation that the Nemaska delegation had bestowed on her and her family. We stayed at the gravesite for about three hours as stories were exchanged. Students went back to the gravesite a couple of times and Mrs. Rana commented on the attachment that the students must have had with her husband. At this time arrangements were made with a family member for the remainder of our stay in Toronto.

Mr. Malik Muzaffer wanted to make sure that we enjoyed our stay in Toronto and offered to be the “go-between guy” and ensured that we were able to purchase tickets at discount prices. On Sunday morning Malik arranged to have us go to the Canadian National Exhibition. It was great to be around Malik and things started to happen when he was around. He made us feel like we knew him all our lives. Malik is the district manager of Stitches and had an outlet at the CNE. He negotiated his way around and got us the best group packages for the CNE and the tour of the CN Tower.

The trip was a success because we did what we had set out to do. We felt that we were morally obligated to meet the Rana family one more time, and to properly pay our last respects to our principal Farrukh Rana. We were then finally ready to properly begin another school year.

Rest in Peace, Farrukh. Your legacy in believing in ourselves will live on.

(Teddy Wapachee, Nemaska Community Education Administrator)