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Home > News > Specials

The Rediff Special/M D Riti

April 23, 2003

He spoke Malayalam...

He was warm and vibrant...

He was committed to the Palestinian cause...

He wanted to marry an Indian girl who looked like the actress, Sridevi...

Tarek Ayub, the Al Jazeera journalist killed in Baghdad, has left an indelible impression on his classmates in Bangalore. He never got close to anyone, they said, but, somehow, he is hard to forget.

Ayub, or 'Tariq,' was in the south Indian city a decade ago, as a journalism student at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Vasanthi Hariprakash, now a scribe with, remembered him as a "very fair, fairly tall, balding, bright-eyed young man."

Hariprakash and Ayub won an interclass quiz contest together. 

"We split topics," said Hariprakash. "I opted for history, mythology and current affairs and he handled sports and international politics. He was absolutely thorough with his facts and figures! And we won a mini vacuum cleaner as first prize!"

Anjali Prayag of Businessline, from The Hindu stable, could not recall Ayub's face. "But I do remember his total commitment to the Palestinian cause," she said.

The classmates recalled his passionate speech about the Palestinian problem, which he made during their first lecture in reporting.

"He was a very good student," said Baba Prasad, news editor of The Hindu, who taught Ayub reporting. "His English was not too good. But he was a vibrant student, if not a particularly brilliant one."

Ayub visited Prasad at home a couple of times. "He always told me he wanted to go back to those parts of Asia where there would be action," recalled Prasad. "I thought, even way back then, that he showed great promise, and would probably fulfill his ambition of serving the Palestinian cause."

Senior journalist Ramamurthy, who taught Ayub writing, recalled "that Jordanian boy who promised to come home to discuss Arab culture in detail."

C P George, Ayub's classmate now working with the Central Power Research Institute in Bangalore, said Ayub lived with some other Middle-Eastern students.

George was one of the few Indians with whom Ayub appears to have socialised.

"Early one Sunday morning he asked me out for coffee," he said. "I skipped morning Mass and met him at the Indian Coffee House on MG Road for an hour or two.

"Over several cups of coffee, he shared with me his dreams of serving his homeland in some way. He was a very idealistic person."

Ayub completed his bachelor's degree in sociology from Faroukh College in Kozhikode, and his master's from Kozhikode University. That was where he learnt Malayalam.

"Unlike all of us kids who just out of college and unsure about what we wanted to do in life, Tariq had clear goals," said Rasheed Kappen, a journalist with The Hindu. "He was also an excellent orator."

Originally, Kappen was to participate in the interclass quiz with Hariprakash. But Ayub asked Kappen if he could participate instead, as it was his last chance to do something like that in India. Kappen agreed.

Hariprakash said she once asked Ayub what brought him to India.

"He said, 'India is a very warm country and its people are so friendly.'"

"When we parted ways with him 10 years ago," said George, "we never thought we would see him next on television, being carried out under a blanket."

Photograph of Baghdad: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
Image: Lynette Menezes

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