I once saw a movie scene in which an old man is returning from a funeral. He enters his apartment, dejected and in visible grief and sits on a chair in his living room. After a moment’s pause, he picks up the address book on the coffee table and opens it. He flips through the diary pages and sees a few crossed out names. Every crossed out name brings back memories until he finally reaches his friend’s name. He takes his pen and after a brief pause, crosses out the name.
The first thing that crossed my mind, after watching this, was that when I get old, and God forbid lose someone close to me, what would I do. The concept of address books has already been made redundant. I imagined that by then there would be some electronic system to do this. However, given the taboo that we associate with death, I stopped thinking about that and figured that I would face this when the time comes. I never imagined that I would have to think about it so soon.
I knew Shoaib Sehgal for about 6 years. We started working a few months apart in Microsoft Vancouver. It was my first time out of Pakistan and it was quite a change to get used to. Luckily I had a group of friends that I knew from Pakistan so we become a close knit community. We would gather almost every night at a friend’s place, drink tea, watch movies and play FIFA. Our gatherings were not intellectual in nature, infact they were as far away from intellect as Nasir Jamshed’s abilities are from Brian Lara’s. Then a couple of months later, a friend of ours informed us that there are a couple of people who had recently joined Microsoft and they were, as he put it, “bohat parhay likhay” – quite learned. One of them was Shoaib. He had earned a PhD from Monash and had joined Microsoft from Pfizer. A few interactions with him were enough for us to give him the nicname “doctor sahab”. He was kind of out of place in our group but quickly become an integral part of it. Some of our jibes – jugtain which were an integral part of our conversations – would fly over his head and most of his mathematical observations would fly over ours. We never got him to play FIFA but he was always up for binge movie watching, though he was almost always the first one to doze off while sitting on the couch. Tea was our chosen beverage for these sittings. I remember that once we made tea out of expired milk but that’s where he drew the line. Among us uncouth people, he was the reasonable one. I think the only time I saw him do anything rash was when we took a trip to Banff and doctor sahab decided to drive really fast. And when he was pulled up while driving 50km above speed limit, he managed to talk himself out of a speeding ticket by using his Aussie accent.
Doc was always into sports. When we were in Vancouver, he would always be up for a game of volleyball. However he really came into his element once he moved to Seattle. He became an integral part of our “Very Tough Team” cricket team. It was always a treat seeing him bowl, running in, almost always in slightly loose track suit, throwing his arms wildly in the air whenever he gets a wicket and enthusiastically hugging his teammates.
Doc was always great with advices. Any discussion with him would go on for hours. He would always treat your opinions with respect. I remember that I would pitch him some weird idea and he would rephrase it into something much better. Doc never spoke ill of anyone. When we both reported to the same difficult manager, he would always talk about the positive aspects while I would be complaining. When I moved down to California and call him up to discuss something, we’d end up talking for almost an hour. Even when he had been diagnosed with cancer, he would still hear me out and offer advice. He didn’t tell anyone about his illness except a select people. I only knew that he was sick and when I called him up, he just asked me to pray for him. And when I got a call about his death, I couldn’t believe it. I just sat in my apartment waiting for the tears to come, waiting for someone to call me back telling me that he was fine and that he hasn’t left us. It took me almost an year to finish this eulogy because I couldn’t bring myself to write about him. I just hope that when his children grow up, they could find this feeble attempt of mine and realize what an amazing person their dad was. Rest in peace doctor sahab.