TO say that I am shocked at the sudden death of Reyaz Hussain would be a gross understatement. I am still to bring myself to the reality of his passing. It is extremely difficult to grasp that he has passed on, especially since it was just over 48 hours prior to his death that he and I were engaged in conversation in a popular mall. We were both in the process of Christmas shopping.
There were no visible signs of illness from neither his appearance nor movements. Therefore, with his death not by vehicular accident or a robbery, the instinctive shock lingers and will for a long time. I cannot imagine what it’s like for his wife, children and immediate relatives.
Surely, they all had plans for the holidays. I am sure he looked forward to see the joy in the faces of his family when presents would have been opened. Similarly, they would have wanted to see his. Unfortunately, fate intervened and those thoughts were drowned by unplanned tears on Christmas Day; tears of anguish and pain from losing a loved one.
Just as his family expected him to be there at the table for Christmas breakfast, his fans would expect him on television in the mornings to come; a routine he did for over two decades. Like his family, the viewers will experience that void and to even contemplate disassociating him from the Colonial Cousins’ “Krishna” music video that was synonymous with his long-running television programme on NTN, could be virtually impossible. It reminds of the relationship listeners knew of between Matthew Allen and the song, “One Day at A Time Sweet Jesus.”
Reyaz and I go back over 25 years. We both started our entry into Guyanese television programing on STVS Channel 21 in Queenstown. We were three; the third was Nazim Hussain, the one who broke the news of his death. The late Freddie Sanchara’s living room became the studio and the proverbial canvas for us to design.
Over time, we became known as the Freddie Boys as reflected in a Bill Cotton piece in the Stabroek News many years back. It’s not surprising that Bill messaged me following Reyaz’s death, while reminding me of the title he gave to us.
Reyaz and I co-hosted a quiz programme on Channel 21. We donned T-shirts branded with our images; his on mine; mine on his. It was our innocent ploy to probably confuse viewers simply because our names sounded similar. Maybe that may have been responsible for people, at times, even up to today, calling me Reyaz and calling him Neaz.
Following his death, some thought it was me and even informed some of my overseas relatives of my passing. Through that, the pain of his death transgressed directly into my circle, seemingly inescapable given our T-shirt prank.
Even as all three of us moved on to different television stations and programming, we were always together through other endeavours. Through theatre, I was able to direct Reyaz in the stage adaptations of two popular Bollywood movies: “Deedar” of 1951 in which he played the Ashok Kumar’s role of Dr. Kishore and “Dosti”, of 1964, in which he played another doctor. His pharmacy-related job at the time was not a factor for what may appear as stereotype casting; it was mere coincidence.
I still fondly remember the hiccups of him trying to get the choreography of a particular song sequence in “Deedar” right in 1997. It was the first time he was doing something like that. The downstairs of Uncle Freddie’s home (now HJTV Studios), was the rehearsal ground; a place of treasured memories in which Reyaz will forever be a part.
His willingness to accommodate and interview myself and other cast members for various productions I did over time, was an engrained characteristic to which many can testify. He didn’t do it just for the sake of talking about a production; he did it because he felt a sense of responsibility to help in the promotion of local talent. For many, he provided that platform that artistes need.
He was a multitasker, involved in various things at the same time; cricket, imparting education and knowledge on aspects of medicine, in activities of his Masjid and of course, television. He juggled them effectively while finding the time for his family.
He was more than a friend. He was a role model; one that has now fallen. He was a fixture. He will be missed; missed by all with whom he directly interacted and those he touched through his long-running television programme. He will always be remembered, especially when the Colonial Cousins’ “Krishna” is heard here. The song speaks to inclusivity; exactly what his programme was all about. My sincere condolences to his family. Rest in Peace, buddy.