In Memory of Ayaz Quadir

April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments (19)

 

In 2008, while traveling in Bangladesh, I was invited to go on a boat-trip in the Sundarbans. Amongst the group on the boat was a boy by the name of Ayaz Quadir, who seemed not much older than own teenage son (this was deceptive, for he was actually 22).

In the course of the trip I had several long talks with Ayaz and he struck me as an exceptionally gifted and thoughtful young man. Mostly we talked about music, which was his great passion.

photo

He told me that his parents had left Bangladesh a long time ago and that he had mainly grown up in the United States with his mother (his father was in Europe). He played the piano, he said, and wanted to be a professional jazz musician.

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow, in the middle of the Sundarbans, Ayaz contrived to make me a CD of a musician he particularly admired, Brad Mehldau. At the end of the trip we exchanged emails, and after I had listened to the CD I wrote to Ayaz to thank him for it. I never heard back, but I added the CD to one of my playlists. Since then iTunes has occasionally served to remind me of Ayaz by choosing to play Brad Mehldau, and I’ve sometimes wondered what became of him.

I have never met Ayaz’s parents and nor had I corresponded with them until I received this letter, sent through my website.

 

March 11, 2013

Dear Mr. Ghosh,

I have been wanting to write you for sometime now. You may remember meeting my son, Ayaz Quadir, during a trip to the Sundarbans in 2008. He was very excited to have met you and spoke to me about it many times. Ayaz succumbed to his addiction to heroin August 8, 2009. He was 23 years old. This has been a difficult journey for us; first coming to terms with his addiction, trying to do what we possibly could to help him. Then  ultimately, a day out of rehab he was gone……

I believe he is at peace now.

Hope to hear from you.

Samina Reese

 

I was so shocked that I could not respond immediately. Five days letter, in an extraordinary instance of synchronicity,[i]  came another letter:

 

March 16

Dear Mr.Ghosh,

I just finished reading your marvelous The Hungry Tide and it reminded me of my son’s recounting of his meeting you when you were taking a trip to the Sunderbans (in Bangladesh) in the spring of 2008, if I am not mistaken.

A few months later he was visiting me in France and spoke of this extraordinary person (he wasn’t acquainted with your writings yet) he had met on the boat trip to the Sundarbans. A few months later in August 2008, Ayaz died… I don’t know if you can recall Ayaz, a shy but intense human being, who had focussed his passion on music and was studying the piano at McGill University, Montreal… He spoke very fondly of the man he had met, not the writer I know.

Ayaz’s aunt, my sister, Razia Quadir, has made a documentary on the Sundarbans a decade and a half ago, which I wanted to send it to you after reading your book. Just a thought or perhaps a sentiment connected to Ayaz… but should you find it interesting I would be happy to send it to you….

Warm Regards,

Riaz

 

A couple of days later I wrote similar letters to both Samina and Riaz:

I remember Ayaz very well – he made a great impression on me because he seemed to be such a sensitive, deep-thinking boy. He gave me a CD of Brad Mehldau which is still on my playlist. I remember that I wrote to thank him for it but never heard back. I am truly shocked to know that he died so soon after that trip – it is horrifying.

I cannot imagine the pain of this appalling loss – you have all my sympathy.

 

I offered also to put up a post about Ayaz on this site. On March 28 I heard from Samina Reese again:

 

Dear Mr. Ghosh,

Thank you much for your response.  My apologies for not writing sooner. I am travelling now, to visit Ayaz’s resting place, which is in the mazar of our Sufi teacher near Philadelphia.

Riaz, Ayaz’s father e mailed me your corresepondence as well and I am just taken by the fact that I have been thinking about e-mailing you for 3 years and unbeknownst to either of us we got in touch with you at the same time. Coincidence? I don’t know. Some occurences are more than mere coincidence.

Whatever the reason, I thought to share a poem that “came” to me when I was on a flight back to Portland, Oregon from Philadelphia. I am not much of a writer and less of a poet and I feel as though it really did come from Ayaz.

 

From Ayaz:

Gone is the darkness for…

I am light

Gone are the deceptions for…

I have no shadow

Gone are the absences for…

I am here

And i am there

 

Gone is the fear for…

I am the warm sunshine on your cheek

I am the gentle breeze in your hair

I am the silent music that you hear

 

Gone are the chains of shame and sorrow for…

I am timeless, unfettered and present

 

Gone is the recluse, selfish and scheming, for…

I am in your tears and your laughter

In the rainbow and the evening sky

I whisper ” ma” …….

I am the tinkling of the chimes

I am the butterfly that alights on a flower

I am loving duty at our Teacher’s side.

I am peace within peace

I am here and I am there

I am everywhere.


I have been blessed with the presence of our Sufi teacher in our lives and when listening to one of Bawa’s discourses heard him talk about Light and Love having no shadow;  It brought to mind a dream shortly after Ayaz passed, of me trying to hug him and he dissipates much like a shadow… . the dream went on to give me hope that he is well…..

 

Samina also sent me links to Ayaz’s Facebook page (from which the picture above is taken) and to a poignant video of Ayaz performing compositions of his own: to watch it is to understand all the more forcefully the tragedy of the loss of this immensely gifted young man.

 

A few days later Riaz, Ayaz’s father, sent this poem:

 

Ayaz

I was reborn the day you died –

severing all ties that bound me to our shared past,

putting on pause the tracks that carried your notes,

while the noise carried on…

The part of me that echoed you, I froze;

setting aside my pain

in the fifth chamber of the heart,

where now you come alive with every beat –

and I can hear your music once again.

 

You – and your siblings too,

became my greatest teachers;

showing me – the pedantic, pretentious fool I was;

that only the living can teach of life!

 

Then you died…

 

And now you show me from the great beyond

that suffering must be our ultimate teacher…

 

Wisdom – at what price!

Were I just a happy fool…

 

Paris

29 June 2010

 

A couple of days ago Samina sent me a letter that Ayaz had written, at the age of 14, to ‘console friends and relatives at the death of his paternal grandfather.’ It says with extraordinary eloquence what those who had met Ayaz would want to say about him:

My Dada was an extraordinary man, and he has given us all so much…What I truly believe is that he has left us only in a very small way… Physical things occur over spans of time; they are not timeless. But in the prodigious scheme of the spirit, Dada is here with us all the time and forever. It is this True Spirit that is timeless.

Dada is with us even more so now than before. We may be unable to talk with him on the telephone or eat lunch with him, but our greatest fortune is that we get to live through him. He is within all of us… We must remember this and seek this spirit and roam in this essence in every aspect of life. We must force ourselves to go beyond this illusionary physical life that human beings are preoccupied with, and find the true peace and divinity that Dada has so beautifully portrayed for us.

It is now our duty and also our therapy to do this: to channel the positive living energy of this human being that we love forever and allow it to resonate through us and through our everyday lives.

I wish peace and strength to all of you. And may Allah bless our special loved one.

Ayaz Alam Quadir

 

________________________

[i] See my post of October 5, 2011 ‘The Tyranny of the Probable‘.

 

 

 


19 Responses to “In Memory of Ayaz Quadir”

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  1. Comment by Shenny — April 2, 2013 at 6:16 am   Reply

    This is deeply, deeply moving. There are no coincidences …

  2. Comment by Gabriel — April 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm   Reply

    A very touching, lovely tribute and, I am sure, a gift to family and friends.

  3. Comment by fakrulApril 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm   Reply

    RIP Ayaz…. thanks mr. Ghosh for sharing this with us…

  4. Comment by Adil HusainApril 3, 2013 at 5:57 am   Reply

    Thank you for sharing this extraordinary story of Ayaz. It has moved me to tears. It has such a lot of wisdom, coming from such a young mind. i would like permission to share it with my friends and loved ones.

    Adil

  5. Comment by MuradApril 3, 2013 at 9:43 am   Reply

    So poignant, both parents writing a poem for their loving son. I have to agree from the letter he wrote after his grand father’s demise, that this boy was talented & exceptional.

    What pains me most is trying to fathom what led him to this fate.what troubled him so.

    Mr. Ghosh, I have read your The hungry tide, Sea of poppies and the glass palace which I liked the most. I am about to begin your River of smoke.

    Thanks for the books and now for this touching piece. best wishes. Murad

  6. Comment by Razia — April 3, 2013 at 3:10 pm   Reply

    Amitav Da, I couldn’t bring myself to write to you regarding Ayaz’s sad demise…it all happened so suddenly… the family members were devastated. The instant rapport between you two was noticed by everyone aboard… perhaps the meeting of two creative minds…! He was exremely happy to learn that a part of his piano composition was used as background music for one of the Sundarban films…. not knowing this was my first and last chance, of his creativity being put to use. Thank you once again… we are deeply touched by the rich tribute paid to ‘our little mastreo’! I shall look forward to hear from you. Warm regards

  7. Comment by Connie Miller — April 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm   Reply

    An amazing young man!

  8. Comment by MuradApril 4, 2013 at 1:52 am   Reply

    A coincidence indeed. Both parents dedicating poems for their beloved son. Very poignant pieces.

    I am saddened that a wonderful life full of promises ebbed in this manner.

    I am intrigued, what led to this fatality. It is increasingly frequent all around us. I suppose we have not been able to provide stable, loving situations for them to blossom into contributing members of the society. Sad

    Mr. Ghosh, I have had the opportunity to read your the hungry tide, the glass palace, sea of poppies and am about to start river of smoke. I liked them all but glass palace was my favourite.

    You make us sub continentals proud by the wonderful prose that you weave. With best wishes & warmest regards . Murad

  9. Comment by Mushfequa — April 4, 2013 at 4:11 am   Reply

    very very touching!!! RIP

  10. Comment by Shamol Ullah — April 4, 2013 at 5:49 am   Reply

    The light of love beholds in you as one of my favorite mystical storyteller finds it burning bright in magical Sunderbans to be borne forth in its brightness by two persons close to my circle of love and play in the teen years now so divinely blessed in Sufi grace all in a grateful bliss state candidly gifted to us all by you in sheer humility……I could go on forever to say thank you Amitav Da for keeping it real!

  11. Comment by Sultana Alam — September 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm   Reply

    Dear Mr. Ghosh:
    I was fortunate enough to be Ayaz’s aunt & hear him recount his .
    experiences on the trip to the Sundarbans with you. At the time he was
    not aware of your writings. So, at the last minute I gave him my treasured copy of The Hungry Tide to make sure he fully appreciated how lucky he was to be included in that trip with members of The Reading Circle (ages 30-70) from Dhaka.

    In retrospect, I’m glad he did not get the time to even scan the book. He met not a renowned author but an extraordinary individual who was able to see him, really perceive his exceptional sensitivity and bestow on him what so many of us, who lived with and around him, the affirmation owed him. I regret that due to the humdrum pressures of life…and our own mediocrity, we failed to fully SEE the person Ayaz was, a deeply perceptive, incredibly creative individual able to hear the “music of the spheres”. I crassly console myself with the thought that perhaps it is best that Ayaz has had to leave because the world is cruel in its blindness and deafnes. Sultana Alam

  12. Comment by Drew Shanefield — January 2, 2014 at 8:07 pm   Reply

    Not exactly sure how or why I came across your blog and touching tribute to Ayaz, though I am profoundly thankful for Googling Ayaz’ name this evening. I think of him quite often and so fondly. I was one of his high school music teachers. Thank you.

  13. Comment by Samina Reese — August 7, 2018 at 6:24 pm   Reply

    9 years since Ayaz left us. I read this post from time to time and remain ever grateful for it.
    Thank you.
    Samina

  14. Comment by Riaz Quadir — May 5, 2019 at 7:34 pm   Reply

    The photograph of Ayaz above was taken during Christmas 2008, along the lake not far from Geneva, Switzerland. His younger sister, Natasha, in the photo (cut out here) was only 9 years old and the only one of his siblings who couldn’t attend his funeral in Philadelphia.
    Last week she attended the funeral of her boyfriend’s father in Frankfurt (the first funeral for her) and could only think of Ayaz, to whom she was greatly attached to. It has been almost 10 years and she still pines for him…

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