On January 10th, 2012 – I buried my friend, my best friend, my brother. I ended a 10 hour travel journey only to kneel beside his coffin in disbelief as I saw the face of the man who I had depended on more times than I can remember and who I had shared my entire childhood with. As I whimpered in my plea for him to get up, I realized that somehow throughout my entire journey I had not come to terms with the news that had been delivered to me that fateful morning. How could I? Azeem was singlehandedly the strongest person I had ever met in my life. There was nothing that could happen to him, indestructible… nothing could even wipe the smile off his face, let alone this. It was far too much for me to believe. And as I stood on the footholds of his grave holding fiercely onto the ropes that descended his body, just as he did, the reality sunk… that he was no longer in the same world as me.
Everyone who ive spoken to has said, that they have no words. I, dont have Enough words to say about Azeem. I cannot say enough about the way he conducted his life. I cannot say enough about his general outlook towards life. From my early teen years to now, trials and tribulations, big or small… he taught me to deal with them lightly. He taught me how to not take life seriously and not let anything affect me. No matter what would happen, he always knew it would be a passing phenomenon, even when I thought the world was coming to an end. I cannot express the joys my childhood has had because of Azeem. We were closer than brothers and thicker than thieves. We were in trouble together and we shone together. I dont have a lot of memories, that dont include Azeem. He was the best friend I could ever have asked for. He would indulge the most mundane tasks to the most ridiculous. He fought for me. He took care of me. He seemed to be oblivious to the world, yet he was the most dependable, caring human being. He cared for and took care of his family like no young boy I have ever seen. When we were desparately running away from our homes, defying for our own independance and seeking our identities, he was taking care of his family and also ours. When I left for the US, he made sure my parents didnt feel alone.
He was a man of remarkable stature, even at his age. He had made great political strides and was very well known and well respected. Yet, he was the most humble person you have met. Whether he would be walking in the streets of his village, or the avenues of islamabad, you would never be able to tell.. that he was a Daultana or an MNA. He greeted everyone the same, from the workers in the field to his colleagues in the assembly. He was warm with whoever he met. As I paused to give a beggar my leftover change this morning, I remembered where I got that habit from. He would go to great… sometimes annoying lengths to give some change, or food to anyone who came knocking on his car widow or on the street. I have never seen him turn anyone asking for money down.
I dont think I have ever heard him speak ill of anyone. There were people who would speak ill of him and I would often scold him for being so complacent, but he always used to say, they have their opinion, as long as it keeps them happy… He was always looking for the positive in every person, in every situation. He was loyal to the core. Often times, recently, and foolishly, I had questioned his party and the politics involved, and he would explain in great detail the rights and wrongs. He believed in himself and he beleived that inherently, people were good, which is a lot to say given the cynicism of Pakistani politics. He was ambitious and extremely driven. He never sat still. When his friends were sleeping and being lazy, he was on the phone, or meeting relatives or planning an adevnture. He loved our great north, having planned several trips to the northern areas. He was an admirer of nature and had been to many hang gliding trips, taking flights of 2-3 hours.
As I told my friend the day after his death – “You could commit the greatest of sins, and he would be the only one to help you, to stand by your side, no matter the consequences”. We have all done something in our lives or arrived at junctures where we invite advice or solicit lectures from the ones closest to us. Azeem has never lectured me. Always told me to do what I needed to do and that deep down, you always know what that is. He had somehow achieved the perfect mix of mischief and respect, which was awe inspiring. There is a certain comfort that comes from knowing and being close to a person that will under no circumstances judge you. It is liberating. The day he died, the child in me…. the innocence in me… my license to be carefree, has also died. When everyone told me I must mend my ways, that I need to grow up… to be respectful, I knew of atleast ONE person who would not disapprove.
As I drove away, on that dusty road in Luddan, where your final resting place is – I couldnt help but realize that I will always remember my life in two ways – Before January 10th, 2012 and After January 10th, 2012. You have left a void that no one can fill. You have taken with you, my fondest of memories – and on that dusty road in Luddan, somewhere, a large part of me is buried with you. You will always be on my mind, you will always be in my heart and I will take you with me wherever I go, because you may not be in this world anymore, but you are a part of me of who I am and always will be. Thank you for everything and I will see you again in our next life.
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