The writer had a friend named Agha Shahid who knew he wouldn’t live long, so he asked the writer to write about him when he wouldn’t be there anymore. The author kept his promise. The author and Shahid were both studying at the University of Delhi. However, their time at the university had overlapped briefly. They never had met. Shahid belonged to Kashmir and moved to America in 1975 where his brother had already been settled. The two sisters of Shahid also joined them later. Shahid used to write poems and published a collection of his poems. The author had read some poems and was very impressed. But so far he had never met Shahid. The two had friends together. One of them contacted the author, Shahid. From 1998 to 1999, the two had several phone conversations and even met a couple of times.
Shahid had a sudden blackout in February 2000. The tests showed that he had cerebral cancer. On 7 May 2000, the author went to Shahid, where he worked as a teacher. With his students, Shahid was very popular. Shahid now moved to Brooklyn in order to be close to his youngest sister. The writer lived a few blocks away, too, and the two met very often. On 25 April 2000, the writer phoned Shahid and reminded him of their friend’s invitation to lunch.
Shahid spoke to the author about his approaching death for the first time and asked him to write something about him after his death. Finally, the author pledged him that he would write about him. The author kept a record of all his talks and meetings with Shahid. He noted that Shahid shared the music of Roshanara Begum, Kishore Kumar and his fondness for Rogan Josh, and his interest in old Bombay films. And both shared a cricket indifference. On 21 May 2001, Shahid was admitted to hospital and very soon he died.
An indomitable emptiness fills the mind of the author.”So brief a friendship ” results in ” so vast a void. ” Both Shahid and Shahid—”witness and martyr “— mixed and melted eternally. Now, to fulfil his promise, Amitav Gosh responds with this beautifully warm piece of writing in which he not only talks about the world of Agha Shahid Ali’s verse but also about his personal experience of moments shared with him.