Suhaib Rashdi remembers Faisal Aftab.
There are few people one comes across in life with whom we instantly feel a connection. Faisal Aftab was one of those people. I met him for the first time when he joined IAL Saatchi & Saatchi as Art Director. It was on the rooftop of IAL where all of us would sit in the morning and have our daily connect along with chai or coffee - and it was there where he first introduced himself to me the day he joined. In that first conversation I knew I had gained a new friend who soon became like an elder brother to me.
He was such a soft-spoken and a humble gentleman. Everyone loved him the moment they met him. He could conform to any group of people and create an everlasting impression. Always there in a heartbeat whenever anyone needed him. Always happy to greet you, as if it had been ages since you last met. The aura around him constantly made you feel at home. He would sit with anyone and hear them rant about anything and give the best advice if it was needed.
Faisal was one of the most refined and skilled art directors in the industry. Before joining IAL he worked at Spectrum and Manhattan International and then finally moved to Hilal Care as the creative lead. He worked on almost all the big brands in the industry - and working with him was like a breeze. He understood every brief to the core, always adding valuable insights to any project.
A career in advertising can be stressful, disappointing and thankless. Dealing with disappointment is a big part of the job; one must have the ability to let go and move on to survive. I would often find myself losing it over various things, but not Faisal. Always optimistic, he would deal with the challenges and insane deadlines because he knew there is something new to learn with any experience. His patience and resilience spoke volumes.
After a long day at work, Faisal would go home to his wife Shama and their four beautiful children, Huzaifa, Arham, Rumaisa and Eshaal and spend the last few hours of their day with them. But that was not the end of his day. He would then switch to his alter-ego and unleash his creative spirit in the form of his Facebook page called “Localistan”, where he frequently incorporated pop culture and current affairs into hilarious film posters and memes. In those after-work hours he would scratch that itch, the need to create something; the need to make something out of nothing and then share it with the world. With over 50K followers, his work would often show up on our newsfeed and sometimes even on local news channels. It would make him extremely happy to see the world appreciating his work. That feeling is what fuelled and inspired him to constantly try something new, but mostly, he just wanted to make people laugh.
Life is great when you find like-minded people to share the journey with and especially friends who will always be there. But as we all know, life is also quite unpredictable and this year began by proving to us that nothing is permanent. One of our own would not be with us anymore. I had never lost a friend before, but with the sudden taking of Faisal, I couldn’t help but wonder in one of the most cliché lines: Why, God? Why him? We keep asking all kinds of questions to make sense of it and eventually we submit to the inevitable; everything is temporary and that is what life is supposed to be.
As I end, I find myself in the middle of yet another cliché – no amount of words are enough to describe what a beautiful human being he was. Being in his presence was a joy and a lesson. He led by example; not just his team but his friends and co-workers. Faisal had a heart of gold, the mind of a wise man and the patience of the most virtuous individual there could ever be. He had the innate ability to let things go and redirect the anger, negativity and frustrations of the day into something meaningful, something that brought him joy. If that is one thing to take away from knowing and learning from him, let it be that.
Faisal, we love you. We miss you. Phir miltay hain.
Suhaib Rashdi is Creative Director, Spectrum VMLY&R. firstname.lastname@example.org