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     Volume 4 Issue 43 | April 22, 2005 |

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Labiq a gift and a promise unfulfilled

Creating a new life is not easy. Look at these facts below:

Zeba Rahman

It is 7 am Sunday morning -- the snow flurries are getting lighter and lighter. I walk into my son's room and watch him sleeping peacefully, maybe dreaming of the basketball game he will go to see tonight. My thoughts speed across the miles to Dhaka, to my cousin Lori and the rest of my family -- they are getting ready to bury her 12-year-old son, Labiq. My heart cries out for her.

This was the first meeting with my nephew since he was a toddler--we have missed getting to know each other due to being thrown to different corners of the world and our visits home never coincided.

On a bright October afternoon, I see him standing next to his mother waiting to welcome us to their apartment in Roosevelt Island -- a handsome, strapping boy with expressive eyes and a shy smile playing on his childish face. Maybe, he was filled with the same anticipation that my son, Nader, a year and a half older, was experiencing -- the task of getting to know each other and finding common interests. Nader -- and I am sure Labiq too -- has grown up listening to the innumerable stories of our boisterous clan of cousins growing up together -- a vivid tapestry of memories intricately woven by our experiences and shenanigans -- a bond that still runs thick and crates an integral part of our individualities, even if our paths don't cross as often. The members of the newer generation, which include my son and his cousins, are separated by the geographical boundaries of their upbringing and where this has expanded their vista of knowledge, it has also lead to a decline of familial affinity. This is why I was so excited when Lori moved to New York, hoping that Nader and Labiq would now be able to share and build some wonderful memories together. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened soon after their arrival and travelling even between Canada and the States became a hassle.

Anyway, he was finally meeting Labiq and Ruqat, his younger sister and looking forward to spending some quality time. Labiq was a gentle, soft-spoken boy where Ruqat was a vibrant little spitfire. His initial reticence was belied by affection and a genuine pleasure to have us as his guests and during the next few days we were to experience the intense intelligence that this young person possessed. He was an amazing paradox of normal childlike qualities with the astute tenacity of a sage -- time and time again, my husband was astonished by the depth and length of his knowledge -- he was particularly keen on history and probably knew the ins and outs of the World Wars. By the same token, we would glimpse at the fun-loving, impish little boy who was interested in the Yankees winning the World Series, going to his evening soccer games and giggling at the pranks of Hrithik Roshan in "Koi Mil Gya!" He accompanied us to the Museums.

Central Park, Ground Zero and the days that he could not accompany us on our sojourns, would eagerly return from school hoping that we would be there. We were delighted in seeing his natural impetuosity which knew no boundaries -- if we were confused about certain Subway directions, he would go right up and ask the ticket agent without any hesitation and whilst on the trains, he would peek to see what a co-passenger was reading, even if it were the local newspaper.

That visit came to an end. But we went back again the same year for Christmas break -- I would like to think that along with the magnetic pull of New York City and Shikta's home cooked meals, Labiq's endearing charm beckoned us. In his sensitivity, he was akin to a gentle breeze that filled you with a warmth and a promise of wonderful things to come. His intellectual and spiritual intensity far outweighed his tender years and one could only marvel as to how this quality would metamorphose into an outstanding individual. And, it did not seem odd at all that he had expressed his desire to his mother to emulate the lifestyles of Gandhi and Mandela when he grew up! Even as young as he was, Labiq was a source of constant support to his mother and, I am sure, her pride.

Lori said to me, in one of her lucid grief-stricken moments, that she would write a book on her son. I will encourage her to do so. To all of us who were privileged to know him and mourn him today, it will be a celebration of all the wonder that was Labiq, of all the promise that remains unfulfilled and of his short life that was forever lost in the stark beauty of Cape Town. To Lori and Raj, it will be a catharsis of their pain in losing a child.

The flurries have now turned to wet snow, like white rain. I sip my morning coffee while watching my usual weekend morning show," Touched by an Angel" -- and, this time, I know I surely was touched by one!

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