Last weekend I found out that my once good friend Jaamit Durrani had died in a tragic accident. The funeral was today. I’m not there because of the crazy comedy snow which has been falling all over the UK in recent days. I had to make a decision last week if I could risk the trip or not, and right then I couldn’t see it happening. So here I am, still in Bradford, thinking a lot and trying to distract myself a bit. Writing has always been what I do to process the world and this is no different I guess.
There have been a lot of tributes on the internet; which have made me smile a lot. Although we all seemed to know J in different contexts, the same kind, funny, generous character shines through. He certainly touched a lot of people. So much so that his wake appears to being held in a town hall. This made me laugh a bit too; you popular bastard!
I suppose ultimately I just didn”t expect any of my friends to die in their twenties; it’s just something that never crosses your mind. You think they will always be there for you somewhere; even though distanced by space or time. I think maybe that’s why I’m having so much difficulty taking this in. I’m amazed at how much Jaamit managed to achieve despite how short his life was; he was married, was seemingly crazy respected as some SEO genius, he stood for election as a Socialist Labour candidate, was a DJ, friend, son, human rights campaigner and a bunch more stuff that I didn’t know about …..
My memories of Jaamit are mostly from Sussex University; I came down from Huddersfield and didn’t know a soul there. It seemed to be a place which was full of too cool for school kids from Hackney who all knew each other and went out til 4am to drum & bass nights and I’ll be honest with you I couldn’t even *understand* half of the things they were talking about. I was some pasty faced northern goth girl with an at times crippling social anxiety and a love of Sylvia Plath. I wasn’t cool, not even close. Jaamit lived in the house two doors down from me. He studied my course (English) along with Development Studies. We were introduced to each other once cuz he was friends with Ingrid who I was living with; after that every time we bumped into each other on campus he’d grin at me and wave; drag me along to the pub, to drink herbal teas at his house. He was one of the most welcoming and friendly people I’d ever met. He 100 % accepted me for who I was; didn’t give a shit that I didn’t fit, or that I had zero cool points.
He introduced me to a bunch of music that didn’t even have guitars in. It was actually pretty good. He dragged me to protests, he challenged my thinking.
He sat and listened to my melodramatic tales of teenage heart break. But more that were the ridiculously funny nights we all spent chatting and laughing until I couldn’t breath (so many of those nights; even though nothing *actually* happened still are some of my fondest memories and made me who I am today). Still when I’m asked to think of a happy memory I think of one afternoon when all our exams were finished; where all five of us were sat out on the grass, making daisy chains, listening to J and Leo playing records in the kitchen. I felt safe, happy, loved.
I remember at graduation my parents came over; my dad particularly is particularly working class and was ill at ease. J gave them the warmest welcome, he was genuinely stoked to meet them. Because he was involved in Socialist Labour at the time he was really interested to find out their experiences of the miners strike. I was moved by how lovely he was to them, how much he listened and made them feel comfortable. Just like he always had for me. When I spoke to my mum last week she also remembered this to me, it had made an impact on her too.
We saw each other after graduation but we didn’t keep in touch as well as we should. maybe I’ll always regret this; not having chance to let him know how much of an influence he had on me, how much he was loved. But that’s the route to madness and instead I’ll try and treasure the good memories and hope I can take some inspiration from the good things in his life and carry it onwards as some kind of living memory.
My love to family, loved ones and friends at the funeral today. I’d be there if I could.