Saturday, August 25, 2007

S Nahoum Ali: A Question of Friendship


"...In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man...
...Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can...
...No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam...
...Good Times, Bad Times, you know I had my share..."


- Led Zepplin




When Nahoum called me few months ago to remind me that it was the 10th year anniversary of the time I “saved his life” after a very bad car crash, I joked with him if he wanted to thank me or curse me.

Last few years have been extremely bad for him. Life often doesn’t turn out the way we want it. Not that I ever thought Nahoum had a plan in life. Well actually I’m lying. We had a million plans on how we will become rich. And I can bet you that majority of them would succeed. His capability of looking at a situation and finding a solution to it for one to make money is absolutely amazing. Or I actually should say, “was”. He died today.

How are we supposed to deal with a friend dying? I remember how sad my father looked a few years back when his best friend passed away one fine afternoon. I don’t re-collect him ever looking sadder. Some friendships are supposed to be forever. We are supposed to grow old together. We shared a past and a life that was supposed to ensure a future. And then one day without any warning I have to erase his number from my speed dial list!

Through his bad days Nahoum became a loner. Crying out for some companionship. It was a spiral that he went down. Deeper he was in trouble the more he needed his friends. But more we judged him and more he stayed away. And more he needed us. Ironic for a person who would do anything for his friends, he was short of them in the last few years.

I never did figure how to handle him. I knew the trouble he was getting into. He chased that elusive rainbow. He could not handle the fact that when he thought he got close, it turned out to be another mirage. I used to joke with him that he was a man who could not stand happiness. Whenever he was happy he had to go out and search out pain. I saw the growing dependence on things that would bring him that fleeting moment of bliss. When I complained he went away for a few weeks. But then I would remember he needed me. And in some subliminal level I needed him. I needed to know that my optimism could conquer his gloom.

But where was that balance going to be? For every taka of mine that he abused, there was a minute of conversation that kept him sane. Was I wrong? Did I not do enough to help him? What should I have done? Questions. All going through my head now are questions.

Some who did not know him could not understand why I kept being generous with him. The easy answer is that he too would have done the same if I were in his shoes. But I think from that day 1997 on Airport road when I saw him lying on the road in a pool of his own blood; I believed I was his lifejacket. I was selfish. Every time his name came up on my cell phone it was like the “bat signal” calling out for the superhero to ride out to the rescue. And there have been many phone calls - some that the whole world jokes about and some that not another soul knows. Long drives and longer conversations; large and small amounts of money; big plans and bigger disappointments; crazy dreams and wild despair – an endless list of reasons to call us friends.

But what do I do now? Should I have done more? Could I have done more? Would things be different if I was in Dhaka during his last momentary lapse of reason? I guess it will haunt me for rest of my life. But maybe it won’t. Maybe life would go back to normal. As I said earlier, some friendships are forever. He might just always be there. Looking down with that grin, with that take-on-the-world attitude and laughing to see his friend here crying, devastated that I could not be his lifejacket.

I miss you Gutu! Keep a space for me in Heaven, my friend.

12 comments:

Dhaka Adman said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this. I lost one of my best friends from childhood last year, around this time actually, and the last time we met was the winter before that at the WVA fair. He called a couple times after that to hang before he returned to Australia but I was too taken up by the girl I was dating at the time, whom you've never met but it was incredibly detrimental to my sanity etc.

I don't know really what to say. I always think Imran, Minti Farhan, Shakib bhai, my Boston buddies and so on, will always be around, I'll see them get married, have kids, grow up, that sort of thing. Especially when I have grown up friends like yourself and Awrup and Stauffer and I see you guys being Grown Up. And when I think of Wasif, whom I'll never see again, and we won't be discussing our teenage years over whiskey or tea in our thirties. I pray for him every time I pray, and I guess I try to take comfort in the knowledge that he's in a far better place than any of the places that he occupied on Earth.

sabrina said...

Farhan, you are a beautiful person.

keya said...

we liked to "rag on" Nahoum...but only I know what he did for me when I needed his help the most...thanks goots...I'm signing it soon...

Mahrina said...

Farhan, thank you for voicing our sentiments.

Nahoum has always truly given us love and friendship in its purest form...it is seldom we come across someone so beautifully sincere. He always had the generosity of giving all of himself to whomever was in need.

Nahoum...we were blessed to have you among us...your childlike purity and enthusiasm has always been refreshing...you KNOW what you mean to us...Love, Mer

Anonymous said...

I am deeply shocked to hear of Nahoum's demise. We were flat mates in New York and shared many memorable moments as struggling students – the times we tend to remember the most when we overcome them. There were times we wondered how to manage rent or even food. I often quote something he has done to describe our lives during that time – difficult but not without humour.

One day, Nahoum somehow managed some money to buy a stake. We had no furniture except some boxes. He took two of those boxes, sat on one and put his stake on the other. Then he played some classical music in the background and hung a napkin from his collar. I was about to go out, but I was quite intrigued by his actions. I went up to him to ask him what he was doing. He looked at me, holding his cutlery and wearing the usual expression of wisdom which he often did. Then he told me, 'Once in a while, when you get to eat you should eat with style'. I still remember that day with fondness because it epitomized my life during that period and Nahoum was an integral part of it. In the course of the years, from time to time we lost touch and regained it, but I always held the memories I shared with him very close to my heart.

I met him a few years ago in London. He said he was doing well and I was happy to hear it. I felt it was worth going through the troubles of being the struggling students that we were since we made it at the end. I probably was wrong. If I had any idea he was going through a difficult period I would have reached out to offer him my help. I know he would have done that for me. He was one of the few friends who always made an effort to keep in touch. He was a rare individual who made friends with everyone regardless of their backgrounds. He truly was a special human being and I will miss him. Oru

Nehal said...

Farhan, thanks for the touching tribute to Nahoum. I regret that it was only in recent years that I got to know him better. Ironically, the last time we met in London he made some comment of dying young of a broken heart and it was only yesterday when I got the terrible news that those words hit home. I wish I could have done something to help. Too little, too late for a guy who had so much to offer.

I will miss you my misguided friend.

srabanti said...

thank you for writing this. i can't believe he's gone - all our memories of faridpur are with him, all our dinner parties and gaaner aashors, all our hangouts and dinners at alpha khala's place.. he was the most funloving among us cousins, and also the most loving. last few months, he pushed us away, and instead of nagging at him and reaching out, we gave up on him.

his affinity for trouble and pain should have made us continue to support him and watch out for him, rather than allow him to distance himself from us. i can't even remember the last time i saw him... probably the summer before alpha khala passed away. i remember he was devastated.

This is to all our crazy dinners and aashors in rd 5, shinepukur and shinepukur cottage, ghuttu bhaiya. and all the amazing dinners you'd cook for us... all the beshura singing, and your funny dancing..the crazy favours you'd ask of me in London. i will miss hearing, on the other end of the line, your usual greeting of "hey little one."

- srabanti (Nahoum's cousin)

Anonymous said...

What is there in your glass in the pic? If it is wine then shame on you for having a Muslim name. Please change your name to give up hypocrisy.

Fariha said...

That was a beautiful and heart-felt piece. I agree with Arafat. So rarely do we think that the peoplewe have grown up with may not stay with us for the rest of our lives. So sorry to hear about your friend. May his soul rest in peace.

sabrina said...

to the writer of the post dated aug 30th, 11:37am

this writer need not be ashamed or change his name, but you should be for being assumptive and judgmental. not that u are owed an explanation but there is no alcohol in his glass.

Mer said...

To the writer post dated Aug 30th:

One more thing:
It would be wise for you to spend your time and energy worrying about your own actions, instead of the actions of others. Perhaps that's why you posted your comment anonymously!!!

Rehan said...

I knew Nahoum through my cousin brother. I did spend sometime with him as I hung out with my brother often growing up. Nahoum had a pure soul unfortunately he isn't alive to see so many that care about him. From what I recall, he always reached out to others but not sure why he didn't do that when he needed someone to reach out to him.