17th May, 2012 was an extremely sad day for my family and loved ones. We lost a very dear friend, brother and son - Zaigham bhai. Him, along with three other PAF pilots attained Shahaadat close to Risalpur, Pakistan in a mid-air collision of their aircrafts. May Allah have mercy on their souls and grant them Jannah.
When I was growing up, I had my share of bhais and bajis courtesy the joint-family style living in an Armed Forces community. Cricket and generally sports, were always a uniting factor for all children, of all ages, within any Air Force Base. Every day right after Asr, every kid used to get together and play themselves silly till Maghrib. By the time Dad's posting used to come around, me and my brothers had so many friends. Some of those childhood friends have always been there; Zaigham bhai was one of those.
The earliest memory I have of Zaigham bhai dates back to 1993-94. That was the year we moved to PAF Complex, E-9, Islamabad. It was a newly developed Base with a very small residential area. If I remember correctly, there were only 4 rows of houses, and some apartments close-by. Considering I was only 8-9 at the time, I might be wrong. Nevertheless, that is where I believe I befriended so many people who became constants in my life thereafter. Similarly, these bhais who were mainly my brothers' friends also became part of our Air Force family. These were faces that were just always there, like for example Kashif bhai and Bilal bhai were born with mo, Rahim bhai and Zaigham bhai - those two characters who always had only one subject of discussion at hand - Aircrafts! And then there was Rashid bhaijan - may his soul rest in peace - who had made it to the Air Force Academy and was gunning to become a fighter pilot.
I vividly remember Rahim bhai and Zaigham bhai at a Eid party at PAF Base Faisal, with the two of them listening in so intently and eagerly to war stories being narrated by Uncle M. M. Alam. The two of them were is such of awe of him. It was definitely the Air Force for them.
The last time I met Zaigham bhai was in mid-2000's. He dropped by to say hello to my elder brother as he was leaving for USA. In those days, Kashif bhai, my brother and I used to play a lot of Chess against each other. Weirdly, I used to beat the two of them at the game and was pretty confident at the time. And then came Zam bhai who ended up check-mating me in 3-4 moves. I must admit, it was a very humbling experience.
I could go on and on with these intimate recollections of Zam bhai. He will always be missed. His memory will live on through his two sons - may Allah look over them and keep them under His security and give patience and sabr to Aeliya baji. It has been Rashid bhaijan all over again for my family, only this time I'm old enough to feel and realize the impact of such an immense loss. I request everyone to pray for him, and his family and friends.
To all the bhais and bajis I'm still in touch with and others, I love you and you guys will always have a special place in my heart. Only 'Kids of the PAF' can begin to understand the nature of this kind of emotion and loss.