Since our friend is missing

What I’m doing here is not right. How could I be writing about the disappearance of the man who took special interest in how best to portray the Baloch missing persons’ cases? About the man who once said the dead did not haunt him as much as the missing did? That too on his own website, and without showing it to him first? I am not sure and frankly I have no idea what he will make of this when he returns.

Nearly a month since our friend and the Chief Editor of this magazine, Sajid Hussain, went missing in Sweden and we still don’t know how to process the news. Some of us say we are not trying hard enough maybe because we hope he will return soon. I think it’s not our fault, because they say life goes on after a death but don’t tell you what happens to it when a man goes missing.

Our mutual friend Taj Baloch felt the same oddness as me when creating a new file on his computer the next day of Sajid’s disappearance. There were already a dozen files in the Missing folder with Sajid’s name, such as Zakir Majeed edited by Sajid, Zahid Baloch edited by Sajid, Dr Deen edited by Sajid and so on. Creating that file was in itself agonising for Taj but when he realised his muscle memory had kicked in and he had named the latest document as Sajid Hussain edited by Sajid, he felt he was in tears.

The news of our friend’s disappearance came to me from Taj who called to ask if Sajid was with me. He told me he had been out of contact since the previous day and that they were going to contact the police. Words I had not imagined I would hear. How could he go off the radar all of a sudden and this mysteriously, a man like him. We hail from Balochistan and we know what happens to the missing, but this was Sajid Hussain and he was in Sweden. All of us who knew he had gone missing felt exactly the same.

In desperation, like most of his family and friends, I sent messages to him on all messaging apps and kept checking if he had seen them. Left my number. Called him on WhatsApp. Made sure the phone volume was up and waited in case an unknown number called and it would be him. I had no idea what was the best response, whether to curse him or be nice, or feign ignorance and give him a ‘Hey! When are you coming to the Netherlands’?. The call obviously has not come yet, but I have my response rehearsed and ready.

After about ten days of his disappearance, one evening we were told a body had been discovered from Uppsala, the Swedish city where Sajid had gone missing. “Is it him?!” We dreaded asking ourselves the question. That night was long and our WhatsApp groups where we spent all the time asking each other what could have happened to him, went silent. The next morning it was confirmed that the body was someone else’s.

I knew it, I told myself. It just could not be him.

Sajid and I have been close friends for over 15 years. We have planned, failed and laughed at ourselves together. Been witness to some weird things and promised ourselves that those would remain our secrets for life. But at this point, I’m almost tempted to pronounce him dead and lift the lid on those days to goad him into coming out of his hibernation. It’s just not right, him being away.

The last few days I have imagined he’s here with me in this room and we are laughing at all those people going berserk on social media over his disappearance. But he is obviously not here. Despite knowing that, I have decided I’ll keep talking to him. I’m not losing my mind. Talking to him even when he is not here keeps me sane. I am a survivor and so is he.

(Note: We don’t know where or how he is. The Swedish police are working on the case and we urge them to gear up their efforts to find him. It’s just that I wish he was in self isolation somewhere and somehow was reading this. I remain hopeful he will be back soon.)

 

(Writer is a member of staff and can be reached at @badrochh)