In the picture, Nafisa Hoodbhoy and Javed Bhutto are radiant. They’re wearing pale pastels and unreserved smiles, sitting among friends in Karachi, Pakistan. It was 1993 and they were recently married. “We were very much in love,” she says.
When they met, Nafisa was a journalist covering a murder. The victim of that murder was Javed’s sister. They sought justice for the young woman, and in the process, they fell in love.
They moved to the U.S. nearly 20 years ago to try their luck here. As a teacher and reporter they seemed to get poorer, no matter how hard they worked in Pakistan—but they always planned to return one day.
Nafisa says her husband was “probably the most gentle human being I’ve ever seen.” Any time he had some money, he would send it back home to the person most in need.
The walls of their home in D.C. held hundreds of books on philosophy and history. Javed had earned his PhD in philosophy, taught, and was most proud of his work as a philosopher.
When he died, he was planning a trip to Pakistan. “He told me, ‘I’d like to stay there for two months because I have so many friends that I want to see.’”
Instead she went back alone, and found those friends and hundreds more gathered at the airport. “He was so modest, he would never project himself,” she says. “So what really baffled me is how the day after this happened, suddenly it just burst out in the open about who he was as a person. Everybody had stories about him. And there’s this collective love that I’ve seen coming out of people that’s really overwhelmed me.”
Now Nafisa is back in the U.S., seeking justice—on her own this time.
“I miss him so dearly,” she says. “I cannot tell you.” —Alexa Mills