Ayyub Malik: architect, ceramicist, writer, philosopher, and friend
This morning I received an unexpected email from a close friend in London who wrote: "Sorry to shock you but I just heard that Ayyub died from an heart attack. Did you know about it?" [update @9 Jan 2008: it was not heart attack, but cancer.]
No, I didn't know about it. How could I? I am on holiday in Maui where the sun is begging me to go out and play. This cannot possibly be true. But then, I haven't heard from him since September 2007 when I last saw him in my London house. He had complained of some health problems but dismissed it quickly and gave me an architecture article of the Dutch city Almere.
Ayyub was like that. He'd find something interesting to read and share it with me -- articles on asthma, blogging, men, marriage, love. When I don't hear from him, I'd wonder either if he's met a new woman friend or if he's ill. I had missed the Lifelines exhibition of his ceramics works at the fluk factory in London in July 2007 -- no doubt an important event for him since ceramics was one of his passions. I had always argued that he should make his ceramics useful --- like a vase, a pot, etc. But he'd defend that his works were objects of art --- to look at but not to use. As a compromise, he gave me two pieces that resembled but not functioned as vases for my wedding. They sit together with another piece on the mantle of my fireplace in my Dutch home.
Ayyub had many passions. Tennis. Books. Bridge. Art. Ceramics. Philosophy. Conversation. It's the last that I will miss most of all. "Meet me for coffee," he'd say. I'd cycle to Leonie's on South Ealing Road where he'd be waiting on the pavement with a newspaper in his hands. Once or twice his friend Owais would drop by and I'd feel even more the centre of attention.
It was at a private viewing at the Pitshanger Manor Museum in Ealing that I first met Ayyub Malik. I knew he was a confirmed bachelor from that moment. Lifetime bachelors have a way of making a woman feel single and desirable. It didn't matter whether he had a girlfriend at the time or whether I was attached, I just knew that he'd be a fun person to talk to and to hang out with.
Going back through my journal entries, it must have been 2002 when we first met for he had not appeared at my Sicilienne Christmas house concert in 2001. I had been toying with the idea of adding a conservatory to my compact Victorian cottage and invited several architects to visit to give a quote. Well, not just architects, but conservatory building companies too! In the end, I had too many quotes to be able to choose and decided to implement the suggestion of one architect myself. I decided to build a bicycle shed in front of my house, among many other things which my Italian builder disagreed with.
What confusion and desperation that prompted me to call Ayyub Malik late one evening in April 2002 turned out to be a rescue operation and the beginning of our friendship. To this day, I believe that a friendship is cemented when there is collaboration, transaction, and mutual admiration. "Ayyub? Hi, this is Anne Ku. Remember me?" He asked me if I knew how to make an omelette. Was that a trick question? Of course, I could make an omelette. When he arrived, he appeared hungry --- and ate my omelette while I told him of my plan gone awry. He was calm. "Okay, let's walk up and down your street and see how others have their front gardens." In hindsight, he was probably amused that I was so helplessly distraught at something so simple.
First impressions last. From then on, Ayyub was convinced that I was a damsel in distress. "You've got to slow down. This is Europe not America," he'd say. He told me how he almost accepted a job in Chicago but decided against joining the rat race that was the American way of life. He was always getting me to enjoy life and stop doing and start being. Even after the rescue operation I was still determined to do something about my house, especially after visiting his renovated flat in Brentford. He had told me to paint all the walls white, which my builder did (though I had initially only wanted a few walls repainted white). Next, Ayyub observed that there were too many shades of brown, my least favourite colour.
In those days, every time my Dutch boyfriend came to visit, I'd organise a thematic house concert. The theme for July 2002 was "Spanish Summer Soiree." Ayyub noticed something was amiss in the outdoor stage --- the green curtain needed to be hung higher. Perhaps that was the first house concert he came to. He became a big supporter of all my events ever since: Winter Solstice Concert in December 2002, Piano Guitar Duo debut concerts in Ealing in May 2003 where he introduced the mayor, Latin American Dancing Lessons and Party in December 2003 where he manned the entrance and took photos, Progressive Party till Dawn 31 December 2003, and Barbeque and Book Swap in August 2004.
Ayyub was also an entertainer. That explained why he enjoyed coming to my events so much for he also loved people, conversation, and fun. He invited me to his birthday party in August 2004. I wanted to find out his age --- but he eluded me. I had to resort to that old Chinese tradition of "modulo 12" where once I got the animal year I could figure out his exact age. But there was no year of the cat.
Come to think of it, I've only known Ayyub Malik for the last 6 years of his life --- the years in which I changed from a full-time salaried employee to a self-employed portfolio careerist to a full-time mature student and married woman. I will miss his sense of humour, his wit, his smile, his joie de vivre. Most of all, I will miss our conversations and my being able to cycle to his Brentford flat for a chat.
3 January 2008
Brentford Dock News,