Salman and I are used to greeting each other with this self-coined phrase: “mere hum maktab, hum jamaat or taqreeban hum naam”.
Many of you may remember him as a poet, writer, editor, human rights activist and social media activist and the man who has recently gone missing; reportedly due to his activism. l intend on sharing bits about him that are haunting me during this tough time when he is somewhere away, yet to be known.
I would like to reflect back at the time when we were students at Government College University, Lahore. Traditionally, the psychology department is known for encompassing primarily more girls than boys; Salman Haider was among the brighter and popular ones in the department. He had a group of friends in the class who were mostly girls and had the privilege to call him “Sallu” instead of ‘Salman bhai’ — that has been a guarded way to make the male presence comfortable, and every girl felt most secure in his company. We never had to think while giggling, joking, laughing and indulging in enchanting conversations with him. He emitted unusual positive energy and vibes. He had a habit of sharing his notes with others — always amicably imparting the tacts of obtaining high marks in exams with others.
One had to possess a certain sense to understand his subtle wit. He was inclined towards literature, arts and philosophy. A quick thinker, he excelled in impromptu debates and won many declamations for our college. He was also an active member of the Government College Dramatics Club (GCDC) where we worked together in an Urdu play and he performed the role of an Urdu-speaking old man with a peculiar accent. The supremacy of his wisdom at an early age could be gauged by his sought-after personality trait — living with a sense of harmony. He has always been a trusted friend to those he disagrees in thoughts with. He is a person who you can argue with for hours without him ever shrinking your space. I can’t recall a single event of brawl, discomfort, jealousy, back-biting or negativity emanating from him. He carries highly intellectual thoughts with humility. He is nothing less than an admirable young man.
Before the summer holidays, Salman and I shared free palmistry sessions in the class where I happened to be a lead palmist and he grabbed the attention of all the classmates — adding the motto to our palmistry: “presenting a hopeful picture of life”. He thrived on encouraging others to become the best they possibly could.
Post college, we went to explore our own ways in professional lives and he continued with his Mphil, leading to a PhD alongside teaching at Fatimah Jinnah University. Whenever I called him up for any favour I already knew his response would be: “Butt saab, what can I do for you?” and the conversation always concluded with a “yes”. I believe his response has always been the same to the people he interacts with.
At this point of time I feel pain and shame. I wish I could tell him: “Sallu, I am helpless; you deserve better”. I want to make everyone aware of the fact that he suffers from Bernard Soulier syndrome which leads to blood clots. He can bleed excessively from very small wounds/cuts. His immune system is so fragile that he is highly vulnerable to life-threatening allergies and infections in the absence of his daily dose of medicines.
He shared hope, laughter, wisdom, truth, humanity, humility, friendship, respect with all his friends and we are waiting for him like “caged birds”, hoping for the day when “birds of a feather will flock together” again. He often used to write wittingly under my articles: “Butt saab ye itni sari angrezi aap nay khud likhee hay?” Salman, this time I am earnestly waiting for you to crack a joke under this article very soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2017.