The shelter from the storm

A letter to Sajid Hussain

Hello Guru!

Let’s make one thing clear. If you are expecting that I will write an eulogy or another emotional piece, you are wrong. I think you remember very well once I told you: “Nothing excites me anymore”. Honestly, when I said that, I was imagining becoming as cold as ice you are.

Hey! I would also like to inform you that you are not the only one missing. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and if you sneak out you will see that society itself is missing too. Is it a good time for you to go missing? I don’t know.

I just hope you remember the time of the Bird Flu in the 2000s when few would dare buy chicken but you and I would eat nothing but chicken. “Come on! Ten rupees a kilo? Let’s fill the fridge,” I remember you telling me once.

We experimented on the chickens in my apartment near the University of Karachi. Roasted one, fried another and made our own versions of karahi and biryani.

This time it is different. Except me, everyone seems to have been hoarding food in panic. Here in Toronto, restaurants, bars, salons, and even parks have been closed. Streets look funny without humans. I feel as if in the quarantine, human-ness is missing from our lives.

I have a lot of time. I am working from home. I call a lot of people. It’s strange, my friend. I am just missing my busy life when people used to complain that I don’t attend to calls, reply to messages, exit WhatsApp groups and avoid engaging virtually.

I think that people had the same complaints about you too. But now I have joined almost 10 new WhatsApp groups, watched every forwarded video and read all rumors. This morning, for the first time in our marital history, I was the one complaining to my wife that she had no time for me. Isn’t it shocking to you, Sajid? Yes, unusually strange times, brother.

Sometimes, in the last few days, I have wished that you should have gone through the same metamorphosis as me. The Corona should have f****d with your virtual invisibility too and brought you down on your knees, in a state where you would cherish engaging with all.

The other day, I was scrolling on twitter. There was a campaign by your family and friends. They were trying their best to make FindSajidHussain trend so that Swedish police find you. I retweeted a few and then got tired. I saw that someone had shared that picture of yours, the one from your wedding which we made the subject of much laughter. We laughed so much at that clean-shaven face of yours that you have dared not to shave again after that. When I saw it again, I laughed out loud. I hope when you come back we will get you to shave and post a clean and beautiful picture of your face that can make us laugh again.

Sajid, last night I saw a very unpleasant dream. You would laugh at me when I tell you that Crazy G was in it. I was having a look at him after almost a decade. He had faded from my memory. Do you remember when the agencies took away a few Baloch nationalists and then Crazy, a hardline nationalist himself, chose to vanish from the scene in Patel Paada, Jhangeer Road? Sad, I know, but it made our lives easier somehow as we could roam the streets freely without the fear of seeing Crazy.

Those were the days of absolute freedom for us as we did not have to listen to Crazy’s perpetually long conspiracy theories on politics, literature and history. Our lives remained calm until that dreaded evening when we saw a crowd of Tableeghi guys approaching. We were about to turn our faces away when one of them called our names. We saw a man with a beard, no moustache, and in white clothes with a miswak in his front pocket. When he got closer, we recognized it was Crazy G.

“Holy s**t Crazy! You of all people?” would be my words. But before I said anything, he hugged us and told us we must join him in his apartment that night. The feeling that he was back in our lives made us sad that day.

Sajid, I saw the same Crazy G with the same beard and miswak last night, hugging me and on top of it singing Bob Dylan’s: ‘Come in, I will give ya shelter from the storm.’

My friend, you would be wondering why I’m making all this effort to share with you my Crazy G nightmare of last night. To be honest, I’m not completely sure. I miss you and suffer because of your disappearance, and thought maybe this gives you an idea how bad it has become.

Your Bhagwan

*Guru and Bhagwan were our nicknames of that time