a tribute to Nishen Soochak

As I stood near the back of the crematorium this morning, I fully grasped the effect Nishen has had on certain people in this world, and the impact that it’s having on everyone they now meet.

You see, Nishen was a pretty unique character. Rare as they come. Back in school, at the age of 14, I was quite quiet. Didn’t really speak with many people, kept myself to myself, definitely an introvert. As I stood alone outside the classroom, waiting for the chemistry teacher to take the class, Nishen approached me and drummed up a conversation. This dude was actually interested in what I had to say. He took an interest in me when nobody else really bothered. Catch a movie this weekend? Why not…

So we went to see Escape from LA. Such a cool film that strikes a note every time I see it – reminds of the time when I’d made this true friend. After the film, we went for pizza. Conversation led to music, and Nishen’s love for jazz, influenced by his brother Rupen and father Manubhai. Most of the other indian kids at school liked nothing but Soul, Swing and R’n’B. Nishen was different… he liked all that stuff, in moderation, and he also liked his jazz. That’s when my passion for jazz was born. I play the trumpet, and had performed mainly classical stuff back then. Since knowing Nishen, my talent for playing jazz and funk has developed. This is the kind of music that reminds me that I’m alive and here to do something right.

Over the years, I’ve experienced various cool things in my life that Nishen exposed me to. Notting Hill Carnival was one of them, and something that I take my friends to each year. A Drum ‘n’ Bass night at Fabric one Friday, finished with a 5am breakfast on the train back home. Then there were Nishen’s parties – he’d take over his brother or sister’s flats and invite a few chosen mates. Flowing drinks, card games, chillout. A great chance to spend time with some random people that keep coming back into your life. Wherever Nishen went, he managed to spend some serious time connecting with individuals, giving them a chance to express themselves, regardless of how different they were from him. Nishen had operated in a “discrimination free zone”.

What about those endless eye-opening philosophical conversations at Nandos? Cool decor, buzzing environment, and Nandos bean pittas went down well. And the special ‘sauce plate’ – peri peri herb sauce on the left side of the plate, peri peri garlic sauce on the right, and a dollop of ketchup in the middle. Heh heh, creativity anywhere and everywhere! All this topped off with a trip down to Baskin Robbins for a Jamaco Almond Fudge. I remember a time when we were having lunch one afternoon at Merchant Taylors’ School – Nishen sat next to me and explained: “I’m not eating meat now. Why should those animals suffer?”

At the funeral, Poonam spoke about the magic that Nishen spread through so many lives. She mentioned how, when Poonam’s sister had a baby, Nishen turned up loaded with mithai (indian sweets) – and not just a few pieces, he’d brought a generous boxful! Of course there was Poonam’s bouncy castle party, and Nishen jumping around, flying high, without a care in the world. Sona, Nishen’s sister, spoke about the time when she received a phonecall at work from a cheery Nishen: “Fridge Delivery Service! Your fridge has been installed madam.” – Nishen had managed to get Sona’s new fridge up to her flat before Sona knew about it.

One gentleman at the funeral told us that even though Nishen has left this place, he is still giving to the world – Nishen had carried a Donor card with him, and through this forward thinking, he has been able to donate his heart, lungs and kindneys. As the funeral came to a close, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” played through the speakers. This was true Nishen style. I couldn’t help but smile and dance at that spot as the words filled though my body. As Nish would put it: “Chill…” After the funeral, we went back to Nishen’s home in Northwood where the family served pizza – how cool is that?

Nishenbhai, I took you for granted, I thought you’d always be around. Now I believe that as you have served your purpose here, the time has come for you to serve a greater purpose. Your memory lives on, my bhai. May your soul go on to fulfill a greater purpose. Keep it real, dude…

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