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India remembers Karachi’s wild child Sabeen Mahmud on her Birthday

On a day when I would have been wishing her the best of health and success, I am instead writing on her birth anniversary. It can’t feel anymore unreal than this….

When Sabeen was shot down on 24th April, 2015, it was the rudest shock. How could an eventful life with so much purpose be silenced so brutally and abruptly?

And ironically, it is only after she passed away, the global outpour of emotion made me realize how she managed to touch peoples’ lives. In my mind, she was a friend doing some interesting work in Karachi through her café called T2F (The 2nd Floor) which came to be known as a platform for the intelligentsia, artists, singers, stand-up comedians and anyone else with something to say through their respective talents over cups of coffee.

Sabeen Mahmud addressing a crowd. (Photo Courtesy: Sahar Zaman)
Sabeen Mahmud addressing a crowd. (Photo Courtesy: Sahar Zaman)

Sabeen, the Friend

Since childhood, my trips to Karachi have been about meeting family and friends. In more recent years, speaking at T2F about my work was something I always looked forward to. Irrespective of how busy her place was, Sabeen made sure that I got an evening with her visitors, however last minute my request.

She was a silent presence in my life. A friend who stepped in when required. I had once written for a newspaper in Pakistan on special request. When they put out the article in print, my byline was miss-spelt. I was infuriated. But Sabeen, without even me asking, had sent me a message saying that she had called up their head office to correct my name in the online version. This certainly is a very small example of how she looked out for her friends and never expected a favour in return.

Sabeen Mahmud with friends. (Photo Courtesy: Sahar Zaman)
Sabeen Mahmud with friends. (Photo Courtesy: Sahar Zaman)

Memorials Across the Globe

The shock on her murder was followed by memorials for her across the world. This included London, New York, Tunis, Singapore, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad (Sindh), San Francisco, Bay Area, Toronto, Massachussetts and Mumbai. I, along with a few common friends, organized one in Delhi.

My friends who had never met Sabeen or never known about her were writing to me shocked and distressed. Her story has now become a story of steely courage and inspiration.

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