Happy Birthday Sir Arif

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now but I can’t really find the words; chalo but here goes. [warning: very long post]

Way back in O’ levels, as my final exams drew close, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I was doing a lot of maths at the time; this was a time when maths had suddenly become my thing; i was thinking about maths for fun damnit. And then it suddenly hit me, that maybe i could apply a mathematical concept to figuring out my life.

In math, when you don’t know one side of the equation, you try to figure it out by solving the other side that you do know. So i applied it to my life; i didn’t know what i wanted to do with my life, but i knew what I didn’t want to do. It’s something that I’ve used to guide myself in life ever since, and despite everything, I feel that it’s worked…

It’s funny when I think about it, that I was so in love with maths; I was the idiot in math, bound to fail — no joke, being completely honest. But I found a teacher who was willing to teach me; who was willing to answer my questions repeatedly “only 10,000 times”; who believed in me and motivated me to work hard. In the span of a year I felt so empowered and alive; math was so much fun, so fascinating. And though my life took a different turn and things changed, I still use that concept; I still miss that time; I still wonder in awe.

And the reason I’m writing this long story is because today would’ve been my teacher’s 46th birthday — would’ve been. He passed away a few months ago, maybe some of you remember the long post I wrote for him around that time. Two years ago, he was teaching me around this time and I got him a gift; it was a sub-standard perfume wrapped in Christmas themed wrapping paper that had mistletoe all over it. I remember his joy and how he told me how blessed he felt to have students who remembered him still…

I don’t know why, but I think about him every other day; I regret not staying in touch; I recall his voice, his manner, his dedication. Though I’ve dealt with deaths and loss in my life, his death feels different because I think it’s the first time I’ve lost someone who I was close to, knew well, and had lots of memories with. And perhaps it’s studying philosophy that has death on my mind, or the state of the world, or the lives of those around me, but I still find it strange. It’s this lingering feeling that doesn’t go away; it doesn’t necessarily get me depressed; it’s like the memories are refusing to fade — refusing to be dragged to that part of my conscious that will eventually leave them behind. And that’s why I don’t mind, because I don’t want to forget him either.

In philosophy one of the things we learned was the importance of remembrance; how when we remember our past we are able to become better, because we learn from the past, and we contemplate our present and future through it — through the lessons we learn, the values that we carry on. The moment that remembrance leaves you or a society, is the moment that things start to fall apart. So i’m happy that the memories stay, because they remind me what immense influence a wonderful teacher — an ustaad — can have. I’m reminded that I can work hard, and I should; that being good, honest, and dedicated is always important if you want true success — success that you can be proud of — and more meaning in your life.

So whilst that feeling lingers: Happy birthday Sir Arif. I hope that whatever spirituality I have, that whatever strained connection to God I have, is enough to let him know all this and more. And I hope that whoever you are, reading this very long post right now, have someone who may be around for you to thank; someone who taught you more than a subject; someone in your life who you want to remember because the very act of remembering them carries more than memories, but values for you to hold onto through this scary world. I hope all of us people like that in our life.

Ameen.

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