Our home felt empty so I texted him: “Sajid, I miss you.” His reply was quick. “Come to Quetta and stay with me.” I left the very evening and spent some of my best time with him, the time I now cherish more since he’s not replying to my Miss Yous any more after disappearing in Sweden.
He had been granted asylum there and everything seems to be falling into place for us. A few months ago, I accompanied his wife, Shehnaz, and children, Taheer and Shahan, to Islamabad to apply for their visas at the Swedish embassy. Sajid was extremely excited about the reunion with his family.
We were all excited. “My baba has an iPad,” his five-year-old son, Shahan, told me. “He has promised he’ll give it to me once I’m with him in Sweden.” I teased him by telling him the truth that there was no iPad and his Baba was only manipulating him. His sister, Taheer, four years older and hence smarter than him, had a simple demand. “I want a hug,” she said. I told her that that was a simple enough demand and could be managed. But little did I know that only after a few months a hug from their Baba would be as hard to take care of as that imaginary iPad.
Sajid was like a father to me too. I have tried to become like him. I have tried to copy the way he speaks and walks. Even now, our decades-old memories are still fresh in my mind. We would eat burgers from street vendors near our home in Patel Para, Karachi. He was particularly fond of the tea from a nearby cafe and would send me two, three times a day to fetch a cup of ‘Sajid Special.’
He is a living embodiment of kindness, probably the reason he is our mother’s favourite child. As our eldest brother, he has guided us with love. Whenever I was scolded by my dad in my childhood, he took me outside and bought me ice cream. He was my refuge in those days.
That is why when he had shifted to Quetta in 2012, I went to stay with him. It was Ramzan and he was not fasting as usual. He cooked biryani for lunch and I dreaded having to taste it. He was a terrible cook. I and Shehnaz would laugh at him.
While I was with them in Quetta, I fell ill. He looked after me and kept coming to my room to ask how I was feeling. When the test results came out, we knew that I had Typhoid. Sajid got worried and constantly pressurised the doctors who weren’t taking my condition seriously. It was probably the first time that I saw him get so angry. He was always protective of me.
In my school days in Karachi, my principal called Sajid to her office one day to complain about me. My heart sank when I saw him entering the school building. After meeting the principal, he came out of the office, looked at me, and left without saying anything. Right after that, the principal came to me and said, “How can an intelligent man like him be the brother of a dud like you?”. I did not know whether to be proud of my loving brother or be ashamed of myself.
At home, he noticed that I was uneasy, and talked to me as if nothing unusual had happened. This made me love him so much that I decided the sole purpose of studies from then on would be to make him proud. Much later, when I graduated from the university with a gold medal, he was the first person I called. He was proud and emotional. His pride meant much more to me than any piece of metal ever could. I wanted to hug him but this was a few months ago in 2020 and he was far away in Sweden.
The last time I saw Sajid was eight years ago. He had to leave Pakistan due to security reasons. I still remember his arrival from Quetta one morning, a packet of Marlboro in his pocket. I could tell by his appearance he had come to Karachi in a hurry. He had that disheveled ‘just woke up’ look. He was to leave for Oman that night. I should have hugged him tightly. I was too young to understand that that could be the last time I was close to my brother.
He left and we were relieved that at least he would be safe. But still, whenever Sajid’s name was mentioned I felt tears in the eyes of my father, who I believe is a very strong man. Sajid eventually made it to Sweden in 2017 and then in 2019 he was granted asylum. I remember the day I received the call from my father. “Sajid got asylum there,” he said in an excited tone. We were happy that he was now a protected person in a safe country. But now I guess we were wrong as he has been missing for nearly two months.
Sajid has been a leader for our entire family, even elders go to him for suggestions. Our mother thinks he is the gentle child who will bring prosperity. Our father values his opinion above everyone else’s though he doesn’t admit it to his face.
The younger people, like me, could discuss with him their plans and frustrations. He would listen to our failed love stories and seemed to always have solutions to all our problems. He is unique that way. He has to come back, for Shahan and Taheer if not anybody else. We feel that with his disappearance the link between us and a more beautiful world is missing, the world with an iPad and a hug.
The writer is Sajid Hussain’s youngest brother. He is 24.