Goodbye, Nabila Rushdie
It is very hard to write obituaries of friends, and especially of friends who died your age. But I need to write this one. My friend Nabila Rushdie died of a heart attack in Karachi, a few days ago. She was a year senior to me at the NED University. There were so few girls at NED, they were all very popular among the male students. Nabila was especially so because besides being intelligent she was beauteous too. And a few students had also found out she was Salman Rushdie's sister; though this was nothing big in 1983 as Salman Rushdie at that time was not much known outside the literary circles.
After graduating from the NED University in Civil Engineering Nabila got her Masters from Stanford. But before going to Stanford she spent a brief time at UC Boulder. I met her in Boulder and we became very good friends. It was around that time that 'Satanic Verses' was published and Ayatollah Khomeini gave the infamous death fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Nabila feared for her life. She thought she might get killed by a zealot Iranian student on campus. She met with the President of the University and had her name officially changed to Zara Ahmed.
Getting to know her in Boulder and then later meeting her in California and then in Pakistan, I have a kaleidoscope of memories running through mind. My last information about her was that she was living in London. I had hoped to meet her there on a trip to or from Pakistan. I even had a mental image of an older Nabila I would see.
Being the youngest of her sisters and the only brother she must have been very close to her father. This I gathered the way she mourned his death many years after he was gone. Reading Satanic Verses I came across a part where the protagonist is visiting his terminally ill father; he lives there for a while and helps his father in everyday chores like shaving. The passage was too descriptive and detailed to be anything but biographical. That day when Nabila came back from her classes I asked her about the death of her father and if Salman was there with him in his final moments. She looked puzzled. I opened Satanic Verses at those pages and gave her the book to read. She read and started crying.
Why did Nabila Rushdie die so young, and in such utter loneliness? Was it because of her two failed marriages (the first one with Safwan Shah)? Did she die because there was no love for her to cling on to? Because the bitter memories of her past were far overwhelming than the best things life had offered her? Was she raised among people who had a fundamental flaw in their philosophy towards life? People who put too much emphasis on fame and fortune and forgot about the more fundamental things. People who never learned that when the reverberating applause finally dies, the limelight is turned off, and the curtains are drawn, the famous author, the beautiful actress, the billionaire, the popular leader, they all need to go home to their small circles of love with their dear ones firmly planted in. And if such a nest of warmth and affection is not there, no amount of wealth and fame can make up for the emptiness in their life.
I just searched Google. No links point to Nabila Rushdie’s existence…almost as if she left the world without a trace. But I won’t let you go like that, Nabila. You may rest in peace wherever you wish, but you would always stay alive on this blog.