The ARK I Knew

It has been almost a month since I heard the news, but it is still hard to believe that ARK (Atheeq-ur-Rahman Khan) is no more.

August 2001 – My life had just taken a new turn. I had left all the comforts of home and had arrived in Chennai. Hostel life was completely new to me. In fact everything was new – the people, the food, the language – but somehow it was all very exciting as well.

Our college men’s hostel had mainly 3 sections – the main block, the Arabic college hostel block and the MBA block.The main block was the most dreaded. It had all the seniors waiting to get their hands on the newly joined freshers.

The Arabic college hostel block had two dormitories reserved for the freshers – the P dorm and the J dorm – I still don’t know why those dorms were given those particular alphabets as names. I was put up here. Although we didn’t have the best of facilities, it was a fair distance away from the main block(seniors) and we even had a separate mess.

The MBA block as the name suggests was predominantly for the MBA students. It was the most well maintained & spacious of all the 3 sections. It even had attached toilets. Some of the lucky freshers had the opportunity to stay there. Atheeq was one of them lucky ones.

I first heard of Atheeq when someone told that a fresher staying in  the MBA block was celebrating his birthday and was treating everyone with Marrybrown burgers. WOW!! Burgers!! I hadn’t even seen a burger in ages. I was dying to have one, especially after having the “amazing” hostel food for some time. Unfortunately my date with a burger didn’t happen that day as well. Apparently it was not just me who was craving for a burger. It was over even before I had stepped out of my dorm.

I don’t remember the first time I actually met Atheeq. Maybe in one of the dorms or in the mess or maybe in college; anyway as time passed we became acquaintances and then friends. He was quite a no-nonsense kind of person. A bit shy but always sure of what he wants. Back in the days in Chennai, Ispahani Center was one of the main hangouts for college students. We friends used to catch a train or bus from college and travel some 30 odd km to the city just to hang out there or at Spencers or Satyam cinema nearby. One evening when we were sitting outside Ispahani, someone offered him a cigarette. He replied with his thick Urdu accent, “Machan I just drank one”. I was shocked for a minute. How the hell can one drink a cig??!! He later explained that he had translated Urdu blindly to English – cigarette peena ~ drink cigarette.

By the time first year was over, it was the end of hostel life for some of us. We friends used to rent small apartments or houses near to the college. We were neither day scholars nor hostel-ites. No parents to ask us why we haven’t gone to college, no wardens to stop us from coming late everyday. (The consequences of that were quite catastrophic but that is another story). Me & Atheeq were never flatmates. I was staying with friends in East Tambaram – our home for the next 3 years. He was in East Tambaram for some time and then moved to a swanky fully furnished 3 bedroom apartment in Kottur Gardens – also our home for the next 3 years. Except for the days his parents used to visit him, at least one of us friends used to be there on a full-time basis. If our place was the focal point of all “fun” activities in Tambaram, it was Atheeq’s place in the city. There are so many memories attached to that place. So many parties, so many jokes, so many night outs. College life would have been definitely much duller without Atheeq.

Time passed, college got over. Me & some friends from college had started working in Chennai. We had moved from  Tambaram to K K Nagar in the city. Atheeq had moved to UK and then US to complete his higher studies. I think after college I had met him just once or twice during the next 3 years I was in Chennai. Thankfully it was around this time orkut became popular, through which we used to keep in touch. By mid 2008 I also bid adieu to Chennai and had moved to Kuwait. The orkut popularity reduced and so did my contact with some of my good friends in college. Then sometime in late 2009 I got a call from Atheeq. To hear someones voice after such a long gap, its wonderful. He had called to invite me for his wedding. I had missed some friend’s weddings earlier. This was not something I wanted to miss; moreover the dates were bang in the middle of my already planned vacation to India. It was perfect.

The wedding was in Hyderabad. To call it just a wedding would not only be an understatement, it would be a crime. None of us had ever been to such a spectacular gala event before, and quite frankly the chances of being in a similar one again are quite slim. If he had left his mark during college for most of us, he sure did blow us away at the wedding. The Chennai-Hyderabad air tickets, the stay at the Taj, the entertainment, the venue, the food, the treatment – WOW!!

Next I met him was earlier this year in Madurai during Malai’s wedding. It was so good to see most of my old friends. Never knew that it would be the last time I’m seeing my dear friend Atheeq.

You won’t be just remembered for having all the good things in life. You will be remembered for the fact the in spite of having literally everything you were such a down-to-earth person. You will be remembered for being a good human being, for being a wonderful friend.

I’m sure you are giving a great time to everyone up there in the heavens. Thank you for all the wonderful memories my friend. ARK, Atheeq, Bhai, Seth, Guntur Raja….you will be missed. So very much.

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