27 October, 2021

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For Qadri

By Arjuna Parakrama

Qadri Ismail

Never again that shoulder-shaking laugh from you —

Rising like a wave from nowhere, gone for good, and bad,

My mixed tenses defy sense for me as I describe

What cannot be, but is, so starkly suddenly, the end.

 

Difficult even at the best of times, extraordinary at the worst,

You fought every battle fiercely and had fun, irreverent but not mean,

I suspected then your arrogance was a pose, now I think I know

How studied disrespect walked your talk —

Age blunted the jagged edge; not if a principle was at stake.

 

Breaking rules was as easy as was brilliance for you,

Brash then, disdainful, brusque now, but always loyal, always right,

Maddening mix of cocksure and insecure, you are.

So learning to suffer fools must have been hard, though never knaves.

Steadfast, your distance lent perspective, brought you close,

Courageous then, physically more careful now, yet cutting edge ambitious,

Still rushing in, even in death, uncompromising, impatient most of all.

 

Your passion remained like abstract love, requited to no avail,

Those scars you hid, like the mistakes of youth

In the ocean of your smile, outrageously disarming, but,

Deep wounds, endemic to your work, cannot be wished away,

Making normal life irresponsible, beyond the pale.

 

Reporter, activist-scholar, social-critic, adventurer, friend for life:

All parts of you are outstanding, all cannot be replaced:

All lost, like that shoulder-shaking laugh.

No, gone but never lost. Kept alive, fragilely,

In your promise of abiding here with us, and ours with you.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    0

    Captures well the man I knew, who intellectually had a lot in common with the author of this poem. It ends on a note of futility, the fundamental question of life that seems to have no convincing answer – ‘No, gone but never lost.’ How, we cannot say.
    A leap of faith seems intellectually dishonest. On what do we found the goodness we believe in?

  • 7
    0

    Thanks, Arjuna,
    .
    You have effectively captured the qualities of this man whom you taught for a year, but must have met many times thereafter. I knew him even better for two years, and this is how I remember him.
    .
    Qadri was a hugely talented man, but he could’ve been exasperating. You’ve captured it all, the calculated pursuit of ambitions, the poses of cock-sureness and arrogance, but with genuine striving for excellence.

  • 4
    0

    See how “Sinhala_Man” has plagiarised Rajan Hoole!
    .
    I think that I’d better explain the similarity of the only two comments that have so far appeared on Arjuna Parakrama’s poem.
    .
    It’s never easy making an adequate comment on a poem. I wrote this out, left it in draft form and went to Rajan Philips’ article:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/in-memoriam-qadri-ismail-limitations-of-sri-lankas-nationalisms/
    .
    You will find two comments there dated the 6th. I got back here, just after midnight, and found Rajan Hoole’s comment, startlingly similar to what I had allowed to remain in draft form. So, I’d have to start all over again!
    .
    No, I decided let it go in just as inadequate as it was. That’s how life so often is; when nothing more can be done, just let it be!
    .
    As for Arjuna, I find it amazing that he’s given all contact details here:
    .
    http://arts.pdn.ac.lk/english/staff/2_ArjunaParakrama.php
    .
    He can be brilliant:
    .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_0-TLLtW-8

    .
    And as for this poem, as my daughter’s told me, it’s more straightforward than most of what he writes. First Class? More about that tomorrow. Now to bed!

  • 4
    0

    There can be little doubt that Qadri made his mark in Minnesota:
    .
    https://cla.umn.edu/english/news-events/news/memoriam-professor-qadri-ismail
    .
    That was sent me by a friend who knew little of Qadri. I’ve not been following Qadri’s work all that closely, and I haven’t looked at what we’re told here that he’s written elsewhere. I hope others explore some of it and give us what is of the greatest significance.
    .
    Lanka needs this; to counter the evil forces that aim to cause communal strife.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 48 3111 444V)

  • 6
    0

    Riveting poetry that immediately kindled in me a great interest to learn more about Quadri Ismail . I found strong similarities to a few of the cleverer lads I schooled with decades ago ,who generally lived life on the edge . Some reached great heights, and others had exciting little cameos full of fun , frolic , and even some notable achievements . They have all left an indelible mark on lives they touched – just like Quadri.

  • 5
    0

    Saddened to learn of Qadri’s sudden, untimely death. His loss will be greatly felt as is clear from the enconiums that have already appeared here and abroad. (Thank you for that Minnesota Uni. Tribute, Sinhala Man.) And Arjuna has beautifully captured the explosion that was Qadri.

    But I mourned another loss, the loss to this country when Qadri was embraced (enticed?) by a more tempting world, in which he might truly flower. This country has lost so many of its brightest sons and daughters – S.J. Tambiah and Siri Gunasinghe were among the earliest I recall – and this continues to diminish the resources the country nourished. We need to appreciate academics, like the writer of this poem, who continue to work here despite the obstacles and frustrations and even dangers created by intolerance and perpetual conflict.

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