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      Volume 11 |Issue 46| November 23, 2012 |


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Lamia F Huq

Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come...
— Rabindranath Tagore

I first met him on an August evening in 1995. He came in wearing a crisp striped white shirt with matching trousers and tie along with his tousled hair and boyish good looks. Though the weather was balmy the atmosphere was electric as it was the occasion of my eldest sister's engagement and that too to a person of her choice. So the joy and happiness was that much greater for everyone. I was a teenager then and all this meant was that my friends and I could dress up to the hilt and enjoy the festivity which would only begin to be the tip of the iceberg as the final festivities awaited us a few months later, in the cooler month of December. I remember we gave the groom and his entourage, rose-buds as they entered the house, that evening of the engagement. Some I had seen before and some I was meeting for the first time. It was on this evening that I met Pakhi Bhai or rather as the world knows him as Feroz Hossen Pakhi. I was the quintessential sister-in-law, or shali, as is commonly referred to in Bengali and was making jokes about him and the other young guns. But as the evening wore on Pakhi Bhai became an integral part of the extended family we had just bonded ourselves with and that too, by the simple act of the exchange of rings between the two who were soon to be married.

Over the years I got to meet Pakhi Bhai at family dinners and weddings. We always had a good laugh where he would always egg me on to travel the world before I settled down and therefore holidays and exotic locations were an integral part of our chats as we swapped notes on the places we had recently had the good fortune of visiting. Switzerland was always a favourite topic of ours. As I have never been and well-travelled as he was, Pakhi Bhai had visited the European country several times. He used to tell me that if there was one thing I should do in life, it should be to travel to Switzerland and just take in the picturesque views. He used to call me by my pet name, something I shall miss immensely and tell me of the joys of sitting alongside the River Rhine while having the creamiest of ice-creams. One can only imagine the wonderful images which conjured up in my mind. I would then be transported to the times that I had buried myself inside the storytelling of the book which was Heidi, devouring it all as I read, the sights and sounds of the book, as the author wrote along. I remembered a line from Heidi once again as I got that fateful call from my sister to burden me with the most distressing news, one that we had never prepared ourselves for at all. That Pakhi Bhai was no longer a part of this existential world. It was the strangest thing to happen to those who were his family.

It was only days before that I had received a greeting from him as the festivity of Eid-ul-Azha was upon us and I had cheerily replied back, knowing little that this was to be my very last communication with him. I still do not believe, that Pakhi Bhai is not amongst us anymore. He passed away tragically in a road accident along with his two and half year– old daughter and their house help. His wife survived the ordeal. That is the Almighty's way of the world. That some of us have to stay behind and pray and be strong for those who leave us so that we can keep their memory alive forever.

We humans are a strange lot. A melee of thoughts passed my mind after an incident as tragic as this took place to someone we closely knew, a person who had been until a few hours back, a part of the family. In the rush of emotions I, thought of picking up the phone and calling someone whom I had had a falling out with a few months earlier, all the while thinking that life is too short and that we should never forget that because once missed, we may never have the opportunity to play back that track of our lives again. But then again we humans are also full of pride and ego, senses which did not play very strongly while the earlier thoughts engulfed my mind and before long the practical in me kicked in and the phone was replaced in its cradle, the call cancelled.

It is said good people die young. I somehow now feel this is true or even that maybe the Creator wants with Him those individuals whom He had sent down upon the earth but then took back only as He needed their goodness around Him more than we did. I had always harboured this feeling in my heart from the time I lost my teacher in Playgroup to cancer. I can still clearly recall her fair skin, short bob and that smile which used to make me feel no matter what the problem was she could make it go away. With Pakhi Bhai's passing that feeling was only doubly endorsed.

Feroz Hossen Pakhi stood as the six-time best player of the National Shooting Championship winning his first SA Games gold in the 10-meter Air Rifle team event in 1995 in Madras. Simultaneously, at the same event he also won a silver medal in the individual event of the 10-meter Air Rifle.True to his stellar performance as a shooter, Pakhi Bhai also won the gold medal in 0.177 Air Rifle event in South Asian Shooting Championship in 1997 and in the Inter Club Shooting Championship's 0.177 Air Rifle event in 1990 and 1991 in Bangladesh.

The accolades that Pakhi Bhai won for his country goes without saying and lays testament to the sportsman he was. But to the rest of us, to me, he was simply Pakhi Bhai, ever-smiling, ever-loving. He was like a shooting star; he had made his way into our hearts and just as quickly left us, as he was laid to rest for his final journey as the dying embers of the evening bowed down to make way for the stillness of the quiet autumn night.

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