Adhil, you are my first eulogy, and although I know that words cannot possibly do you justice, or capture your kindness, humility, intelligence, generosity and warm, loving nature, I will do my best. Whilst the rest of us grow old and grey, and our bodies become bent and wizened with age, you will always be remembered just as you were; young and radiant, and exuding the vigour and inexorable optimism of youth.The first time I met you, I recognised you immediately because you looked so similar to your brother Fadhil. We went to a coffee shop near campus and had a long conversation about home, LSE and our plans for the future. But we mostly just talked about being homesick; you wanted advice on staving off loneliness after moving to a completely different country, and I told you to join all the clubs and societies you were interested in, to go to all the Postgraduate welcome week events and receptions, and to keep yourself as busy as you could to keep the loneliness at bay. I told you to message me if you ever needed somebody to talk to, as I remembered only too clearly how lonely I had initially felt after moving here from Colombo two years ago, and the helpless feeling of not knowing anyone and being a complete stranger in the busy concrete jungle that is London.
When I mentioned that I was thinking of doing a Masters in the US, you immediately mentioned a friend of yours already studying there and promised to put us in touch so that I could ask him for advice. Although I only knew you for a short while, even during this brief time you sought to help me and make my life better in any way you could. So I can only imagine the impact you would have made on your family and friends who knew you longer than I had. Little did I know that only a few days later, this same friend of yours who was studying in the US would be the one to tell me that you were no more. How cruelly ironic life can be.
But what struck me the most perhaps was your humility. You mentioned in passing an experience you had in New York “while on a trip there”, without mentioning that the trip had in fact been to deliver an address at the UN as the Sri Lankan Youth Delegate; shyly admitting to this only when I asked you about it directly. However, when I asked you about your plans for the future, you confidently and decidedly said that you wanted to return to Sri Lanka and continue your work as a Lawyer. I remember thinking to myself, God knows we need more people like Adhil in the Sri Lankan judiciary and politics.
I shall always remember the bustle of that coffee shop; full of people ordering their drinks and chatting mindlessly about mundane things. The student seated at the table next to us occasionally looked up from his book and watched us curiously as we talked, loud and carefree as ever, laughing and cracking jokes as we compared Colombo and London, throwing in a few lively Ceylonisms such as “Aiyo!” and “yes, men” for good measure. I don’t think he got much work done with us there.
When I asked if you would ever work for the UN like your brother Fadhil you scrunched up your face in mock horror, and said “Never! No way!” We both had a good chuckle after you said that. Since I knew your brother fairly well, I felt somewhat responsible for you and making sure you were alright. I questioned you rigorously and in true Sri Lankan fashion on your accommodation, meals, and general well-being, even chastising you for not wearing a jacket.
As we stood up to leave, I gave you a hug, reminded you for the umpteenth time to wear a jacket, jokingly saying, “this isn’t Sri Lanka you know”, and promised to meet you soon for another coffee. And we did meet again, very briefly bumping into each other on the way to classes a few days later. In that fleeting moment you said that your accommodation had finally been sorted out and you’d be moving into Sidney Webb House. I said that’s great, and told you that we should grab that much talked about coffee once you had settled in to your new place. Never in my wildest dreams did I conceive that that would be the last time I saw you. For while I was rushing for class, you were rushing to meet death.
I desperately wish I could somehow have known and warned you in advance. I wish that I could have grabbed your arm before we parted ways, told you of your impending fate, and done everything in my power to prevent it. I wish that death had not marked you before your time, not watched over you so jealously and snatched you away in one fell swoop.
The last time I heard from you was the day you moved into your new accommodation at Sidney Webb. Because on Wednesday October 13th, after I had messaged you about something and gone out for the day, I came back home in the evening to the news that you had already moved on. Once the shock had passed, I racked my brains thinking of ways that I could somehow have helped prevent your passing. Maybe if I had messaged you on Monday instead of on Wednesday, maybe if I had absolutely insisted on meeting for coffee earlier in the week rather than later, I wondered if that would have made any difference, whether it would have disrupted the sequence of events unfolding unbeknown to us. But how was I to know you’d be gone so soon? I thought that we had the entire academic year stretched out before us, and that we’d be graduating together at the end of the year, with the rest of our lives after that to forge our friendship. So there was no sense of immediacy, no hurry to meet. Looking back, I really do think we would have been good friends. But perhaps in another life.
Nothing is permanent, and nothing is ever certain. If there is anything I have learnt from your passing, it is the impermanence of life and the permanence of death. I have now lost my sense of youthful immortality, as the thought that death could easily have picked me instead of you is never far from my mind. And the sad truth is, that in all likelihood, you will not be the only one to die suddenly, or to die young, or tragically.
There is an old Irish saying, one version of which goes, “May you never steal, lie or cheat. But if you must steal; may you steal away from bad company, if you lie; may you lie in the arms of the one you love, and if you must cheat; may you cheat death.” On reflection, I don’t think it is possible to ever cheat death. Sure, you can trick it, delay it, or sidestep it a few times if you’re lucky, but death cannot be cheated because there is no way to cheat the inevitable. Some of us will meet our maker sooner than others, and that’s all there is to it.
When writing this, I came across a verse by Emily Dickinson which resonated deeply, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.” Adhil, you certainly did not live in vain. The people whose lives you have touched, no matter whether you were a part of their lives for as long as they could remember or whether you had only recently entered their lives, stands testament to that fact.
And it was not just my life that you touched while you were here. The LSE Cricket Club recently said that, “The entire club (is) devastated to hear about Adhil: we only knew him for a short while, and yet he was already a popular member of the club. It was immediately obvious that he was passionate about cricket, and determined to make the most out of his time at LSE, as well as life in general. The cricket club will definitely be a poorer place without him…he flung himself into cricket and university with a visible and contagious enthusiasm, and was already a popular member of our club…We will be having a minute’s silence at the start of all our events over the next week (now this week) in Adhil’s memory, and will be looking to do whatever we can in honour of a member of our cricketing community, and our friend.”
LSE’s Islamic Society also had a message for you Adhil, “We are deeply saddened to hear that our Brother, Adhil Bakeer Markar has passed away. As a society, we all mourn his loss; he was a breath of fresh air and a very kind hearted man. It is a shock to us that our time with him has been cut short. We send our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”
Adhil, while it is a tragedy to have lost you, I am grateful to have known you. It is a misfortune to not have spent as much time with you as I would have liked, but I shall cherish the time we did have together. It is a huge blow to the spirit to have a friend taken away, but what cannot be taken away is the joy of being able to call you my friend. I knew you only for what felt like a moment, but I promise I shall remember you for a lifetime. We all miss you, and will miss you, much more than you’ll ever know.