One Year Later, Still Following
The hours melt into new days. I watch violet stars kiss green leaves in growing passion outside my window. A splash of light pink peeks through the caramel apples of my cheeks. A thousand washings have finally lightened the half crescents under my eyes. I have snipped away all the ragged edges that would have given me away. People have told me there is a glow they have never seen from me before. I just smile and say ‘thank you.’ The dried tears have hardened and formed a thin sheen over my face. People like to talk about the light they see in the reflection.
One of my best friends, Kabeer Bahadur, passed away on April 14, 2003. He was a second-year double major in biology and computer engineering at UCI. I wish I could say that time heals all wounds, but it does not. I still feel like I walk around with an open wound. Even on the days when the skies above Irvine are bursting with feathery white blooms and my breath swells in excitement, the echo of his laugh lingers in my memory. It seems my bursts of happiness will always be linked to him. On most of these occasions a sad smirk slides over my lips but I quickly convince myself to stop. Kabeer would want me to enjoy my smiles. He would want them to last as long as possible.
But then there are those days where my logic fails me. I start thinking about all his words that pushed me to my feet. I know which sentences wrapped tightly around my shaky knees. I can never repay him for all the words, all the breath he invested in me. The realization that somewhere in the world his breath was swirling into my own gave me comfort.
But now I sometimes feel like there is something missing from every breath I take in. I am breathing the air of too many strangers and at times it feels so dangerous.
Kabeer was the one who always carried my dreams. When my doubts grew, he reminded me of wishes I had long forgotten. Who would remind me now? Who would stop me from doing all the things I should do and force me to do all the things I wanted to do? After Kabeer passed away I felt like someone had slapped me across the face. I had to take control of my life. He threw away my crutch.
I never used to share my writing with anyone. My journal was highly protected and tucked far away from prying eyes. However, I once shared a few paragraphs with Kabeer. I have no idea what he saw in that piece. But he saw something in me. He suggested I should be a writer. He spent months trying to convince me to write. He once literally tried to shake some sense into me and yelled, ‘You are a writer!’ I never gave it much thought.
As a last attempt he gave me a beautiful handmade papyrus journal and told me, ‘Here. Now you have no excuse.’ The journal remained on my shelf for three years.
I did finally listen to him. My first published piece was the commentary on his death. It still remains the hardest piece I had to write. The article gave me a ‘Excellence in Journalism’ award. In the past year I have become the contributing editor for the New University. I have my own features column on love and relationships called ‘Dreamality.’ Books with my pieces are slowly adding to bookstore shelves, just like he predicted. I changed my major from criminology to literary journalism. I realized that I would rather risk being a broke writer than a rich lawyer. I may never write a best-seller or win a Pulitzer. But, I have finally given into my creative side and I love it! There are days when I come back from class and my cheeks actually hurt from smiling. That never used to happen before. Thanks Kabeer, dear.
Even in death Kabeer is still influencing my daily life. I have grown bold in the passing year. I let people know how much they mean to me. I hug them closer and tell the darlings of my life how much I love them. I try harder to accept my flaws and laugh at my insecurities. I try to carry my own dreams now.
For all of those who knew and loved Kabeer: Pray for his peace. Never give up on yourself because you know he never will. Make him proud! Do not let his words be in vain. Follow the advice he gave you. Maybe start with what he told me in an old birthday card: ‘Smile … live … and achieve whatever your heart desires.’
Farnaz Mohiuddin is a third-year literary journalism major.