sometimes with some people there are no goodbyes… not because you didn’t get time to see the departed one last time but because the departed will never really leave. One such people was Fahim.
Fahim was sixteen, maybe just a shade under seventeen when he first got in touch with me. I had recently moved into a newly purchased house and had recently started freelancing as a Linux Server Security and Optimization consultant. The reason he got in touch was because he needed help with a school project that he had built which was facing capacity issues. Essentially his website was loading slow and there were other issues with the rendering. I was listed on a freelancing website which is where he found me. At that time it wasn’t clear to me that he was so young. I discussed the requirements, did an analysis, quoted a figure and got on with my work once we agreed. I’ve always been a night person so working through the night I delivered the fixes by early early morning and went off to sleep. Figured that was the end of it and good job IAK you hit your target for the day. Fahim was ecstatic about the results when I met him online next day. A couple of days later he asked me how much would I charge to put the site on a dedicated server and would that be a good idea? I did the cost benefit analysis for him, checked plans on various hosts, I think we finalized Dreamhost. And then moved it over. Next up he asks me if I would be willing to maintain this server on a monthly basis. I had a few projects on hand but then again Fahim sounded like someone who was on an upward trajectory. By this point, around two years into the freelancing space, I had figured out that I wanted to work with startups and help them get to a critical mass stage through acute resource optimization, that was my thing, see them soar within a limited budget, still is. I was not interested in being lost in a large organization. Startups is all I was looking for. Fahim fit the bill. I said yes I can manage the server no worries. That was how it started.
Six years later last count I was handling 27 servers for the boy who pinged me late one night (early morning for him) on the 26th of June 2006. He was well past critical mass by my standards and so we discussed and mutually agreed that he needed to graduate to a more professional outfit with a team of server admins to take him further. The money that Prankdial was making at the time was obscene. This was around the time when Fahim started Tapfury as well, his development outfit with it’s own offices in NY. My finances would personally take a hit if Fahim moved on but then I knew I was going to be in an advisory role and should I decide to change gears and become more interested in making money and less interested in facilitating journeys I could always ramp up, hire a team and take it all back from the datacenter. Besides I had other startups on my horizon that needed help with the soaring. So after discussing we finally made the move from Softlayer to this datacenter which his classmate from school had just started. Over the past six years we had talked every single day. As per google we had exchanged 1746 emails over these six years and that’s just google. There was Yahoo as well which was more powerful than Google when we had started off. And then there’s Skype which we switched to as the team grew. Essentially I was talking more to Fahim than to any other client or even my own family during these years.
That was 2011 December. I continued to be in touch with Fahim professionally till sometime in 2014. After that we moved on into different orbits. Recently he showed up on my Linkedin feed. I am not a SM person so I wasn’t aware what was going on with him just the ocassional run in on messengers and the usual water cooler chit chat about what’s up with you what’s up with you. He setup Tapfury in NY followed by Hack house in Bangladesh – an incubator and software development outfit which today runs the biggest ride hailing/delivery company there, pathao.com and then moved to Nigeria to start Gokada the ride hailing service. Between these he turned into a venture capitalist as well funding a string of businesses and helping many more startups take flight.
He did come and visit once, that was unexpected and beautiful. So it turns out that he had a lot of friends from this part of the world. One of them was getting married and Fahim being Fahim was coming over for the parties. He sent me an advance warning and then came over. He was so considerate that even though I offered to go and meet him he was like no nothing doing I want to see where all the magic happens. He brought a bakery set for the kids. This was such a nice and considerate thing to have done. What further surprised us was that he understood exactly what kids would love. That comes from being sensitive.
We discussed HackHouse which he was setting up in Bangladesh at the time. It was his idea to tap coder talent in Bangladesh and build something that would solve local problems. His pet peeve at that time was traffic and the insane way that taxis drove through it. At least that’s what we talked about. Then we had tea and then he was gone. That’s it the extent of my actual in person interaction with Fahim. The one things we, Sonali and I, say about Fahim is “such lucky parents to have brought up such a wonderfully respectful and considerate boy”. Yes he liked to party but I suspect that was only for the online persona. He was always ticking, thinking about what he was going to do next on the work front. Not at all in a bad workaholic way, never, just that like me he loved his work and was happiest when making things happen.
Cut to yesterday morning. After an exceptionally nice start to the day, coffee in hand I land up at my corner with my list of todos in my head. Switch on the laptop and while waiting for skype to login scroll quickly through NDTV. I speed read news never delving too deep into things unless I really want to. There about half way down I notice a familiar face, Fahim Saleh, green hair and that familiar wide smile. Excited and half expecting a new investment in India that he was being part of I stop scrolling to read what it says. I have never experienced the sort of numbness in my head that I felt as I grasped what had happened. Sonali was saying something standing across the room but I didn’t hear her just waved her over. We sat there in shock reading just the headline.
I told myself at one point that this was just another one of his pranks and started researching. Twitter confirmed the news. The rest of the day went in a haze I have no idea how I was able to get to night but yeah I do remember something about having fixed a payment gateway issue and another server that was spewing a lot of spam but not much more. No clues nothing and yet I figured what was the point. He who had to go was gone. Late at night around 3AM still unable to sleep I found absurd theories getting floated on twitter. Even now I do not feel coherent enough. It’s as if my own child or younger brother is gone. In fact to be sure I have spoken to Fahim more than I have spoke to my own younger brothers all my life. Yes it’s been mostly work related but even so. I was angry about the theories being floated about a business deal gone awry etc. This was not the sort of guy who would get involved in stuff like that. I had known him from when he was a kid. I wanted to post messages telling these people to shut up and respect a family that was in mourning. They too I am sure were looking online to find the answer to that loud question, WHY? However I have disabled my SM accounts over 7 years back. I can read twitter not write or engage. It’s more like a news site minus the comments section. Finally the younger daughter realizing I needed reassurance snuggled up to me on the couch and I dozed off only to wake up in half an hour again jolted by thoughts about the gruesomeness.
At one point my daughter, the younger one, asked how was he killed? I remember having told her that he was tased then killed and having given her a news report to read. She wasn’t clear about what had happened so I explained. Still not clear she asked me did they kill him then cut up the body? Tears in my eyes I said I hope they did, I sure hope they did because cutting him up while he was still alive would be very painful right? I sure hope there was that much of mercy that the killer showed. Even the thought of those last moments makes me feel furious. I am dumbfounded by the complete lack of security where an elevator opens directly in the middle of a house leaving the residents so vulnerable. How difficult is it for someone to hack into the elevator system and do this even without being let in or something. One wishes if only he had realized and dropped the key or gotten off at some different floor or something. Or something indeed. If only he had not been generous to a fault.
Slowly it is coming together. The NYPD has arrested his assistant, a 21 year old suspect. Turns out Fahim found out that this boy was stealing from him. Apparently, allegedly he’s taken 100K so far. So when Fahim found out he offered him a way to repay the money and avoid destroying his life. This guy goes and lops him off, then next morning returns with supplies to make the body disappear. All bought on Fahim credit card, how convenient. I hope there is a swift and fair trial and he does not slip through the cracks. No spur of the moment bullshit please. This was plain and clear pre-meditated. At least from 5000 miles away it does look like that. Over the next few days what really happened will become evident. For now at least a perpetrator is clearly evident. Some amount of closure is imminent.
I think what we all need to introspect about is where are we headed. This boy, Fahim, was a gem of a person. The perfect son that any father could ever hope for. Kept his head above water, started off being responsible early. Took care of everyone around him including his two lovely sisters. Ensured that his partners and co-workers were always content and happy. I guess one just needs to pick up the best parts and remember those. The end is never pleasant it’s always the best parts with which one should remember people who have gone. In Fahims case there were so many of those good parts, every single day but one which I really go back to whenever I feel like being inspired is the one where he presented his dad with a Tesla on fathers day. So long Fahim, see you when I see you. I swear the guys at wherever you’re at now are running and ducking… here comes the guy who will change things up… nothing’s going to be the same ever again.
The one thing I would like to do at some point is write his biography. Collect anecdotes from all the people who interacted with him through his growing years and put it all down chronologically in a book. This world needs more Fahim Salehs, people who are still in touch with their humanity. RIP Fahim for what its worth safe travels.