• sajidbutt

A flawed genius- An Obituary of my friend Ashfaq

Sad news. My class fellow, Ashfaq Ahmed has died of a heart attack in Lahore. He was 54. His father owned a tea estate in East Pakistan. During the riots of 1971, he was murdered in front of his then six years old son. Later, Ashfaq and his family were held prisoners and were transferred over to Afghanistan. They were later repatriated to Pakistan. A short obituary. Initially, didn't really like him. He was too smart. Too talented. Too grown up. School for him had zero attraction. Stuff that we learnt about, he was either not interested in it or intellectually he didn't find it challenging enough. He therefore found his solace in other pursuits. English literature, smoking, streets of Saddar, Pindi Club.. I once spotted him scaling off yellow stains of nicotine from his teeth by using a shaving blade as otherwise his elder brother would have told him off. When I saw him doing this cringe worthy act, I disliked him even more. One of his favourite pastimes used to be that he would visit the now defunct Pindi Club with a couple of other boys whose fathers used to be members there. They would have their tummies stuffed with sandwiches, chips and cold drinks and would put the entire bills under the names of their unsuspecting dads! God alone knows how they consistently got away with it, but given how clever he was, I wouldn't be surprised that it was actually him that was behind this masterful جگاڑ۔ When I found out about this insanely mischievous act of his, I started disliking him somewhat less. The paper that he always used to ace was the paper of English B. Grammar that was the main emphasis for this paper was too elementary for him. But as he couldn't be bothered to study the text books at all, he used to easily fail the English A paper! When I found out about his mastery of English, I stopped disliking him and actually developed admiration for his talent. In those days, I used to maintain a register in which I used to write new English words that I would come across in newspapers or in the other print media. He once saw the register. I had written a word that I had read in The Muslim newspaper. "Pross". I don't know why this slang word was used in the newspaper instead of the full, Prostitute

. As the word was new for me, I had copied it but then frustratingly, wasn't able to find it in the Webster's dictionary. Ashfaq saw the word, understood in an instant what the word was, and quietly smiled. He gently said to me, "It's not a nice word. Strike it off please". Eager to know what it meant, he sufficed to say, " it means a bad woman". Later on, when I found real meanings of the word and realised that he had not told me the actual literal explanation, thinking that I was too immature to know about such matters, I actually developed a sincere respect for him. Ashfaq was too clever, too smart, too gifted for all of us. He was clearly born in the wrong society. He needed a dedicated mentor who could have harnessed his immense talents. Sadly, he wasn't lucky to get one.

May his soul rest in peace, Ameen

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