For Anum Nawaz

It has been over two months since the news of Anum’s passing, news which shook the ground beneath my feet. Even though she was one of my closest friends, there was grief but no grieving, sorrow but no mourning. There was no time. I had thrown myself into the service of my two week old marriage and one month old job, and there was no stopping. There is a now a pause in which I want to think and write about Anum.

I had first run into Anum in the elevator at International House NYC in the summer of 2017. I had just arrived there to begin my PhD at NSSR and she was already at the same school for her master’s in psychology. We quickly became good friends, talking about school, family, music, self-development, career aspirations, thought experiments, and consciousness (a favorite topic of hers on which she gave a talk only a few months ago). We spent time exploring the city together, going to the Met Cloisters, shopping together for winter gloves for me and gifts for her family, listening to jazz at Dizzy’s, trying out Shake Shack, talking about the politics (and dysfunction) of NSSR and The New School, and about her project My Voice Unheard about which she was so passionate.

After that semester, we still talked a lot and became better friends, but meetings were few and far in between. She moved back to Lahore and started working. I stayed on in NYC and pushed ahead with my own work and personal development. We met in Decembers of 2017 and 2018 when I visited Lahore. And then to the best of my recollection – the post-pandemic period is still something of a blur – only once after I had returned from NYC in March 2020. In hindsight, I met Anum too little in person.

Expressing herself was so important for Anum. At some point when she came back to Lahore she started to paint as if her life depended on it. Her room was full of painted and unpainted canvases. She also became interested in the relationship between art and psychology, ending up teaching a course on neuroaesthetics. But Anum wanted everyone’s voice to be heard and tried to use her own voice to that end. Now she has gone silent. Her memory will persist, yes, but her voice will never be heard again. The world is poorer for it; so am I.