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He seemed indestructible

A personal memoir of the multi-talented Fahd Rasul Butt who died at age 39

He seemed indestructible
There was nothing make-believe about him. — Photo by the author

Fahd was tall, I never asked him how tall, and he was well-built and good-looking. To go with that brawn was a very sharp, active mind that gave him an interest in everything around him. He was an electronics engineer and also had some sort of qualification in finance. Our extended family met him when my niece Maria and he were interns with a bank back in 2003 or thereabouts. (Or, were they already working as bank officers?)

Fahd was the kind of person you would immediately like. With his ready grin and merry laughter, he was the fun chap always a treat to have around, and he simply grew on you.

He was an upfront man. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, make-believe about him; he was all too genuine. He was among those rare Pakistanis who when he asked a question, waited for the reply to be completed before going on. If he ever asked anything, it was not for the sake of making meaningless small talk; it was always out of actual interest.

When Maria and Fahd met, she and her twin Mariam were single while their older sisters Shazia and Faiza were already married. When the four sisters and their brother Usman happened to be in Lahore, parties were inevitable. We congregated either at our place or at my cousin Tahira’s. Our assemblies were always a riot, with Fahd as the leader of the gang. It was him who gave direction and ‘material’ to the merriment.

Maria and Fahd got married in January 2006. From the very start it was clear that if there was ever a marriage made in heaven it was theirs. The two were just cut out for each other.

As the years went by, this became even clearer. We know how quickly most marriages, especially love unions, go sour. In this case, the bond was clearly growing stronger: Here were two young people deeply involved with each other. Theirs was the truest form of love.

Had John Hartford known Maria and Fahd, I would have said he wrote his blue grass lyrics ‘Gentle on my mind’ for them. But Hartford wrote the song in 1967, years before either of the two was born. He must, therefore, have been a prophet for the song was for so much for them as ‘they fit together walking’.

The man who could fix computers, software or hard, rectify electrical faults (with a blindfold and one hand tied behind his back), who could play a fair guitar himself, talk at length on the music of Julian Bream and Mariusz Goli or on films I did not even know of was no longer with us.

The two did not permit themselves to be stunted by each other’s shadow, however. When they wanted, they could be themselves and they were. Even as they revelled in each other’s company, both gave the other a good degree of freedom. It was pure joy to see them enjoying life together. They were made for each other and they were very much in love. Maria and Fahd were soul mates as no other could ever be.

In 2007, they moved to banking jobs in Dubai. If the bon vivant in Fahd had bided his time because of the not-so-liberal means in Pakistan, his true spirit now came to the fore. Fahd was a lover of the good life, an Epicurean to the core, and Maria matched him every bit with joie de vivre. There was no scrounging of resources to build the plaza back home like most Gulf expatriates do. There was only life to enjoy to the fullest and to enjoy it with fine, cultivated taste. They did just that. They lived well, made friends, partied on weekends, went camping in the desert and their vacations were spent travelling around the world.

Good cars and heavy motorcycles were what Fahd enjoyed. On a visit in November 2013, both asked me what I wished to do after dinner. I said I’d much rather be home reading. The two would don their motorcycle helmets and take off for a spin around the Emirate.

Fahd rode his 800 cc bike the way he drove his big 4×4 car: fast. But having driven with him, I knew he was a very careful driver who knew how to handle his machine.

In December 2015, Shabnam and I were with them in Dubai where Fahd now had a two-seat Porsche. Fine cars no longer mean much to me, so I do not remember what model it was, but if it was a Cayman, it was a beauty.

He had meanwhile disposed of his bike because he did not wish to block so much cash in wheels. Each of the three days we were with them, I asked Fahd to take me for a ride in his speedster and we agreed to make it a postprandial event. But by that time in the evening I was in too mellow a mood to want to leave home.

As they were seeing us off at the airport, I said we had missed the Porsche ride. “Next time, Mamu,” said Fahd. “Next visit, the first thing we do is go for a spin in the car.”

December was the time of year Maria and Fahd spent in Lahore. With Faiza and Khurram over from Karachi and the other two being stationed here, the gang of eight would be complete and our family party circuit would commence. That was the menu for this month as well.

In the afternoon of November 25, I got a phone call from my cousin Tahira. Tearfully, she told me Fahd had passed away in a motorcycling accident in Dubai. She said he was ‘duning’ and had gone down the sharp edge of a dune. I could not imagine how a man as fit and robust as Fahd could die on a soft sand dune. This could not be true, I protested, because he did not have a motorcycle. Tahira said something, but my mind had gone blank.

Much later, I learned that Fahd had been lent a motorcycle by a friend who was leaving Dubai for a short while. On a Friday, he and two other friends on their bikes and a bunch in a couple of cars were on their way somewhere. He left home early and Maria went back to sleep. At some spot outside Dubai, on a curve littered with loose gravel, Fahd’s motorcycle skidded off the talus and hit the bike next to his. Both hit the ground. Within minutes his mates were at his side, but Fahd was no more. His friend escaped with a fractured leg.

The man whose chuckling laughter gave life to our parties and to whatever company he was in was gone, snatched away from a life he loved so much at just 39 years of age.

The multi-talented man who could fix computers, software or hard, rectify electrical faults (with a blindfold and one hand tied behind his back), who could play a fair guitar himself, talk at length on the music of Julian Bream and Mariusz Goli or on films I did not even know of was no longer with us. 

Tahira’s words made no sense to me. How could Fahd die? He who was so full of life had seemed indestructible to me.

Some years ago, my brother Imran told me of an octogenarian couple he met in New York where he worked as a psychologist. He said he was very touched by the tenderness they had for each other. Sixty years of married life and they were still as much in love as they would surely have been the day they first met. Hearing the story, I thought of Maria and Fahd; I knew they would be like that many decades down the line.

At the funeral when I reminded Imran of this story, he said he had recounted it with reference to Maria and Fahd. That was the way everyone who knew them would have seen them.

The man who was so full of life that he seemed indestructible has left us to try and come to grips with this grim reality. It will be a hard thing to do. Right now I cannot get myself to call Fahd the epitome of life. That he was not. Fahd Rasul Butt was life itself.

P.S.: Word from Dubai has it that Fahd’s funeral was attended by some 250 Arabs and over 300 Pakistanis. That is the measure of the spirit of this wonderful young man, his magnetism and how it drew everyone to him.

Salman Rashid

salman rashid-web
The author writes travel pieces and is a fellow at the Royal Geographical Society.

14 comments

  • I pray ALLAH rest his soul in peace and give him high place in Paradise. May ALLAH give Sabr to the family. Ameen. Lahore Cantt

  • A beautifully worded article. Fahd was indeed a great soul, full of life an energy. I pray God gives Maria the strength to bear this loss and rise in a manner befitting of Fahd. He will then indeed be prouder of Maria, shining brightest from the heavens above. Smiling ang giggling.

  • Some time God appears to be cruel.
    Accept my heart felt condolances.
    May Allah be kind and mercifulful to the departed soul and give peace to the family.

  • Fahd was a colleague and friend. One of the GENUINELY cool people I have known. Still hard to believe he’s not with us any more. Everyone at office has been deeply affected by his passing. May his family find the strength to bear and cope with this tragic loss.

  • Farhan Shahid Khan

    What a beautiful piece on Fahd who truly deserved all this and much more than that. We were entrymates at Hasan Abdal and he was my section mate from 8-10 class. He was truly a genius and gem. I believe every word of this article having grown up with him for five years and knowing him since then. Off late we were in regular contact through our entry whatsapp group and discussed so much all the time. He was very well read and a natural arguer who would very logically and convincingly argue his PoV in a manner that it was hard to give any sweeping statement in front of him. He was witty, highly intelligent, very logical and great friend. May Allah bless his rehmats on him and give Sabr to his family

  • How can some people be so cruel. I’m greatly sorry for your loss SB. I’ve heard so much from you about the twins and Maria especially that I feel I’ve actually been around… The first line was about one of the comments above. If only ppl gave a filter for their thoughts before they get poured out through them.

    • Owais Aziz-ur- Rehman

      What do you mean SA? RIP Fahd

    • Hi,

      Sorry for your loss. I’m sure Fahd will be missed. Not sure what you mean how can people be cruel. Please explain as we all have to go and hope that Allah will forgive us.

  • Faisal Sultan Malik

    Great to see someone wrote for Fahd. We were a gang of 4 from Montessori and onwards in beaconhouse school lahore and almost spent every day of life together. Out of 4, one had already expired in the same kind of situation few years back. The previous tragedy is still not healed yet and the second one happened. I cannot forget a single moment spent with all and cannot express my feelings. Cannot believe this happened and cannot stop my tears remembering both of them. We will miss you Fahd & Mohsin for the rest of our lives. May God grant both of you the highest ranks in Jannah. Ameen

    • Ditto Faisal !!

  • Fahad and maria are very special people. Fahad was a gem of a human being. There is not a day that i dont miss him and feel his absence from my life. He was a superstar- a man who one could rely on. There are few people in this world that you feel are there for you – Fahad was one of them an absolute gem.He touched many lives the few years he had on this earth. I know he is the a shining star up in the galaxy somewhere shining on forever. I miss you – you have left a legacy behind of kindness and bestowed happiness on many in there moment of need. He always told me i think too much , fahadi you are right i think too much will change that. Keep on shining always.

  • I’ve known Fahd since our school days, the measure of his personality can’t be put into words. He was simply amazing ! May ALLAH bless him with eternal peace Insha’Allah!!!

    Rest In Peace Brother !!!

  • All i can say Butt was the best amongst people I’ve known my life. His purpose of life was to spread happiness and boy how well he did that. He respected people irrespective of creed, colour, religion and political views. Had a big heart which he wore on the sleeves. Appreciated people, life, culture, lifestyle, science, books, etiquette and raised the calibre not just of himself but also of so many people around him. There is so much to say but so little space. As we’ve grown up, we have become more alienated, more stubborn with whatever belief system we have adopted. Butt remained casual yet slick with his life attitude. Didn’t make his own ‘dairh inch ki masjid’, which most of us now live in.

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