The last words of Sabeen

I was probably the last journalist who talked to her before she was silenced, says Salim

Yusra Salim May 16, 2015

“Hope to see you in upcoming events,” were the last words that Sabeen Mahmud spoke to me which are echoing in my ears ever since I last met her at The Second Floor (T2F) cafe. I was probably the last journalist who talked to her before she was silenced merely half an hour after she had waved me goodbye.

Being a reporter, I was excited to cover the talk that T2F was hosting and reached the venue at 6.15pm — 15 minutes before the talk was due to begin. I went early so that I could find a suitable location to seat myself and note down everything clearly and observe each and every expression of the discussants.

I was struggling to find a better place in the room with most seats already having been filled when suddenly a voice called out me, “Hey Yusra! How are you? Good to see you today.” That was Sabeen with her bright smile and welcoming nature as always. Leaving the venue at 9.20pm after having congratulated her on the great show, I reached home at 9.35pm and texted my city editor that I will be filing a story on this event for the next day. A little while later, there was a beep on my cell phone. A fellow reporter had sent an image on Whatsapp. The image blared out: “T2F director Sabeen Mahmud shot dead.” I froze.

I switched on the television.  Tickers were running.  I sat like a statue in front of my television. It was shocking… unbelievable… and… and so many other things. The friendly lady I had chatted with barely half an hour ago was no more in this world.

The cafe which I visited every now and then with my friends for a good cup of coffee has lost its charm. T2F was a place whose doors were always open for talent and the lady with pixie hair and black-framed glasses was always there to motivate you to work for others. Sabeen’s worldview was depicted from every wall of the café. I still remember the first time I visited T2F in 2013 for a class assignment where one of my teachers was a speaker. “Hello, I am Yusra Salim from The Express Tribune,” were the words of my first formal introduction with Sabeen.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2015.

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