Keep smiling, Sabeen

Published: April 25, 2015


PHOTO: TWITTER Sabeen Mahmud.

KARACHI: Those who knew her will remember her smiling. Sabeen Mahmud was a bastion of art in a forsaken city, a city where 20 million live a life of death. In a city of lifeless droves, Sabeen was alive. Today, she is more alive than ever. She is alive because one cannot imagine she is not. She is alive because if she isn’t, are we? No, we’re dead. She’s alive.

She turned the T2F into a haven of art. If you wanted a space to have a stimulating conversation over a cup of coffee, you went to T2F. If you wanted a space to perform, you went to T2F. If you wanted to rehearse with your bandmates for your upcoming gig, you went to T2F. If you wanted to get away and read a book, you went to T2F. And when you went to T2F, you saw Sabeen smiling. You saw her cherishing the art she had surrounded herself by, reaching out to amateurs, reassuring the professionals. I cannot imagine going there and not seeing her warm, smiling face.

Read: Police files Sabeen Mahmud’s murder case under Terrorism Act

One cannot overstate Karachi’s loss. It has lost its voice; it has lost the best of its inhabitants. One cannot help but despair, to sit in stupor ― silent, catatonic. But knowing Sabeen, this is not how she would want to have us be. No. She would want us to speak up, louder than before. Louder, so that those who silenced her can hear. Louder, lest they think they have won. Louder, so that they are deafened by the noise. Louder, so that they may never silence anyone again.

Even in their immediate grief, Karachi’s shrinking community of artists and intellectuals is taking stock. “It can frighten some people, but it can also inspire others to take a stand as she did, with courage and bravery. We have to keep fighting for our freedom of speech and expression and not let this city become a dead city. Arts and culture ― dance, drama and music ― are the best methods to combat violence,” classical dancer Sheema Kermani told The Express Tribune.

Read: Intelligence agencies to assist in investigation of Sabeen Mahmud’s murder

Musician Louis J Pinto, aka Gumby, has played at some of the grandest venues of the world. Yet, his new band decided to have its first performance at T2F recently. For artists, young and old, this was the space where there was no other. Sabeen made sure of that. “Her contribution to society is her legacy, which we should continue to move forward. As an artist, I think we should all continue doing what we do best. It’s the right thing to do and that’s what Sabeen would have wanted,” said the drummer.

Dancer Joshinder Chaggar agrees. “As an artist in Karachi, Sabeen is so intimately woven into our lives. But for me, this has only magnified her presence and cause. I am in awe of this woman who really, truly lived. She lived large, passionately; she supported others. I mean she was a magician. In terms of taking her legacy forward, we need to start living like her. Really LIVING, and singing our song and standing up for what we believe in. Sabeen is still alive; her soul is resonating through the city and vibrating in our hearts.”

Read: T2F director Sabeen Mahmud shot dead

Assistant Professor and Chairperson of the Social Sciences & Liberal Arts department at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Dr Framji Minwalla says of her, “This is a devastating loss. Every life we lose is a devastating loss. I have met few people like Sabeen: brave, honest, genuinely caring and committed, an idealist who found astonishing ways to ground those ideals in concrete action. It’s difficult for me to imagine Karachi without her in it. She made at least my work and world easier to manage. She made me a better, more engaged thinker, and for that and much more I am immeasurably grateful. The deliberate targeting of activists, thinkers, people of conscience, people working hard to make this country saner, progressive, more equitable will not silence the growing anger we feel. The work will continue because the many people Sabeen touched will make certain it continues.”

Today, Karachi is draped in despair, but the heavens must be rejoicing. To them has returned a curator nonpareil. We’ll meet at the seventh floor, Sabeen.

(Additional input by Hasan Ansari and Saadia Qamar)

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Nida Asad
    Apr 25, 2015 - 2:38PM

    I think a part of me has died with her Recommend

  • Adam
    Apr 25, 2015 - 4:45PM

    Balochistan will remember you, Sabeen. LUMS kept its head down and lived. This is just about as much truth the ET can perhaps afford to print about that wretched province. .Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Apr 26, 2015 - 1:02AM

    our epitaph will be be nothing short of ignonimity for desecrating our intellect and soulRecommend

  • Salman - SK
    Apr 26, 2015 - 9:42AM

    “One cannot overstate Karachi’s loss.” You have summed up people’s grief at Sabeen’s assassination so succinctly in a situation where words seems to be so inadequate.Recommend

  • Apr 26, 2015 - 11:41AM

    Pakistan and the ‘Stone Age’ are not very far apart. If this is how slowly the civilian democracy restores law and order, then what is there left to say except, “God help Pakistan.” Any new private sector school, college, institution that is to be built in the future, must essentially carry her name. SalamsRecommend

  • TooTrue
    Apr 26, 2015 - 12:14PM

    What a terrible loss. I used to enjoy the pleasures of T2F vicariously from the various corners of the world that I find myself in. It was truly inspiring that such a place could exist and thrive amongst the bearded brigade. I hope that T2F keeps its doors open and someone else steps forward and seizes the fallen mantle.Recommend

  • Lord of the Ring
    Apr 26, 2015 - 1:12PM

    Ah, this is so heart wrenching and apt an elegy

    Salutations to the writer.

    Wish same or even the fraction of this grief was

    spared for the twenty innocent laborers butchered

    en masse in Turbat

    They were humans too

    Had human rights too

    Didn’t they !! ??

    O’Mighty Human Right Lights enlighten us Recommend

  • Mahmood Aslam
    Apr 26, 2015 - 11:23PM

    Your resolve was deeper than oceans ,
    Your courage was higher than Himalayas
    You were silenced with a bullet in your neck ,
    but your smashed neck will liberate
    it will liberate Neck of bruised and abused masses
    from Shackles of deception, bigotry and thuggery
    only if they had iota of chivalry and gallantry
    they wouldn’t have slain unarmed citizen of the country
    Dust of their graves will fulfill their greed and lust
    but you will shine like a star on nation’s crest
    Generations will remember you and they must
    fellow humans and humanity bid you farewell …..
    Final message by you was written in blood
    The sky has become red due to your blood
    Written in the memory of an empty handed slain citizen ‪#‎SabeenMahmud‬Recommend

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