Mushtaq Ahmed was born in the independent state of Hyderabad before Indian independence. He came to America in 1965 on a student scholarship. It was in the fall of 1965 when he experienced his first Thanksgiving. It was that experience, on a middle-of-nowhere farm in the Midwest, where his love affair with his adopted land began. This love lasted all the way until even after his passing.
Right before going to urgent care for flu-like symptoms, Mushtaq signed and sent his vote-by-mail ballot. Upon arrival, he was sent to the emergency room and eventually to the ICU for an unrelated and previously undetected illness. He never awoke, and unexpectedly passed away on the morning of Nov 2. The state recorded his mailed vote on Nov. 6 in the local La Cañada Flintridge election. It was his last official act. For a man who spent the late 1960s volunteering on voting rights campaigns and on Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, there could be no more fitting a final act.
He was interred at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena on Election Day, halfway between his La Cañada residence and his mosque, and in the community in which he spent the last 40 years of his life. He was buried with some of his books, which he treasured above all other possessions — poetry and history of the land he loved — along with some of his beloved music, of a time and a place when a young student thousands of miles away from his place of birth found his eternal home.
Mushtaq was described by his friends as the smartest person they had ever met — or at least the most talkative. He loved debating and discussing philosophy, politics and theology. Often, his wife would have to spend considerable time deleting all the news and CSPAN programs he would save up on the home DVR. Over the course of his life, Mushtaq earned two Ph.D.s, one in chemistry, and one in business management and behavioral science. He owned and operated Ahmpac Labs, which he founded in 1979, designing products for many corporations including Baskin Robbins, Wrigley’s and IHOP. In addition to indoctrinating his children with the music, books and television that he loved, he also instilled a love of the Oakland Raiders, whose playing style and rebellious attitude reflected the young, scrappy and hungry country that he loved so much.
“In what they call ‘the Fall,’ the whole country goes to glory”, wrote de Tocqueville about America this time of year. Mushtaq thought the same, so there could not be a more fitting season to celebrate his life. He is survived by his wife Katia, his son Sajid (a Crescenta Valley High School graduate), his son Quemars (a La Cañada High School graduate) and his two grandchildren, Maya and Grayson.
Mushtaq did not believe in memorial services, and did not want one for himself (he’d probably blanch at this obituary). Instead, his family will, as Mushtaq always did, open their doors on Thanksgiving to any and all who wish to celebrate what he considered the greatest of American holidays — and this year, to celebrate his life as well.