Thursday, January 10, 2008

Terrible Reality

I write mysteries and thrillers. When writing them, I live in an alternative reality where deaths occur. It turns out though that alternative reality is not as real as the one I live in when not writing.

I met Benazir Bhutto in college where she kept the name Benazir to herself and introduced herself as “Pinkie.” One night at a bull session in my dorm room, she and I had a screaming match over what should be done in the Arab-Israel conflict. One of her friends ran from the room crying because she could not handle our disagreement. For me politics discussed at high volume was situation normal. Evidently for Pinkie, too, and our argument made no difference to our casual friendship. Someone told me that newspapers in Pakistan opposed to her ex-foreign minister father alleged that his daughter was hanging out with Jews and left-wingers. Maybe so. I myself did not spend a lot of time with her, but I did fit both categories.

Pinkie and I overlapped at Oxford, too. I remember going by her room at Lady Margaret Hall, which in those days was women-only. She seemed overly appreciative of the visit and insisted I take an oversized tea tin – which I still have somewhere – as a gift.

I did not see Pinkie after Oxford, but when she was assassinated two days after Christmas, I felt it. My college friend had been murdered. Bullets had torn through her. That’s reality and it’s terrible.

Pinkie as an undergrad


Jess Lourey said...

That's an amazing post, Keith. I was sorry to hear about her death, and it must be even harder for you as a college friend.

Deb Baker said...


Mark Terry said...

An odd and tragic big of synchronicity.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Keith, this only confirms one of the things I've always known about you ... that you are one of the most interesting people I know.

I'm sorry for your personal loss. Her death shocked many of us.

Candy Calvert said...


Sad and beyond amazing.

Felicia Donovan said...

Keith, the world was deeply saddened by her violent death, but somehow I felt removed from it because of cultural boundaries and distance. You have brought it all home and I'm deeply touched by your memories.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Wow! What a story. Thanks for sharing. It's so easy to forget that these are real people, even when they are so far removed from us. And by forgetting that, we cheapen all life. Ours and theirs.

Nina Wright said...

Keith--Thank you for sharing that story and that amazing photograph. You remind us of the personal losses that extend beyond headlines, and the truism that all powerful stories are personal.

To quote the headline of your other post, indeed you have kept (and still keep) distinguished company.


jbstanley said...


Thank you for this post. It must have come as quite a blow to get the news about her death. You must have incredible insight into what an amazing woman she was and was meant to become.