Note: In honor of my best friend's first death anniversary, I am posting again the obituary I wrote (with a brokem heart).
by Azra Raza
According to every convention, my friend Ifti was all wrong. He was born at the wrong time. He should have been born in 2150. He was born in the wrong country. He should have been born in Hollywood. He was born to the wrong parents. He should have been Tallulah Bankhead’s child. He was born to the wrong siblings. He should have been my sister. He was born in the wrong body. He should have been Marilyn Monroe. He was born to the wrong friends in Pakistan. His friends should have been Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Joan Crawford, Tennessee Williams, and Bette Davis. He was born to lead a life of luxury, dividing his time between the French Riviera and throwing extravagant parties in Manhattan. Instead he became a car salesman.
And if he had to become a car salesman, he should have been wearing the conventional salesman’s clothing. Ifti wore silks and brocades. He should have cinched his best car deals by groveling in front of clients. Instead, he succeeded by sassily telling Oprah Winfrey when she asked him how big the engine of the Mercedes was, “Are you going to sleep with it?” And when Mary Anne Childers asked him to open the trunk of the car she was buying from him, he famously remarked, “Honey, do it yourself, I just got my nails done.”
And while other salesmen were attending classes to polish up their PR skills, Ifti was busy being a gay activist. He created SANGAT, the organization devoted to Gays and Lesbians of South Asian origin. And why couldn’t SANGAT be content with their periodic display of solidarity by marching through town in the Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Day Parade? Instead, Ifti raised funds to hire lawyers who have successfully fought cases to earn Immigration status for individuals seeking asylum because of their sexual preferences. And why did I regularly meet strangers in Ifti’s home who had found sanctuary in his ever-welcoming apartment?
Ifti could have been a highly successful stand-up comic. Instead he became a writer. And if he had to become a writer, he could have stuck to one genre alone. Instead he wrote poetry in Urdu, English and Punjabi; he published several books of short stories and became a serious journalist writing pithy, enormously unsettling, weekly columns unmasking the hypocrisy of some of our more pious and decent members of society; he started his own highly successful radio talk show.
And if he did decide to write about homosexuality, why could he not follow the traditions of the “love that dare not speak its name” and convey his agony through innuendo and metaphor? Instead he published the first ever book in Urdu devoted openly to homosexual love. Nirman (or Hermaphrodite) uses direct, graphic imagery and explicit language.