In Remembrance of Ali
A Personal Tribute to a Cherished Friend
Last week, amidst the wars and tragedies unfolding in the world, I never imagined, even for a second, that things could get even worse. Last week, I lost a dear friend. After not hearing from Ali for more than a day, I found myself on the way to his home. One of our friends had arrived earlier, and I was fervently hoping that the fire department vehicle in front of Ali's apartment was there for a reason but the one I feared. Words can hardly express my feelings a few moments later...
Ali was born in May 1995. I knew him from the time we started our bachelor's degree in 2013 at Sharif University of Technology in the Electrical Engineering department after ranking among the top 100 students in the national university entrance exam (Konkoor). Back then, Ali and I were not very close, although we saw and greeted each other occasionally in the dorm or at the department. He was extremely polite and seldom spoke. But when he would, you could detect his sweet Isfahani accent within a few seconds. He graduated a year sooner than me and left for his direct Ph.D. program at Rice University, to decide a year later to continue his doctoral research at the University of Washington.
Seattle, WA was the city where Ali and I grew closer. Upon moving to Seattle to start my journey at Avalanche Energy, I got introduced to a group of bright students from UW through one of my old friends at Sharif. In the past two years, nearly every single weekend has been spent with this circle of friends.
It would have been a lot easier to handle this tragedy if Ali was in the least bit rude, hostile, or self-centered. Over the past few days, I have heard many stories from his friends, family, and colleagues; no matter how close they were to Ali, the impressions they got were pretty consistent, reaffirming his sincere and guileless character. The descriptors for Ali were invariably 'shy', 'hardworking', 'generous', 'kind', 'decent', 'humble', and 'polite'. Well, it might feel like, whoever passes away, people call them kind or decent. But Ali was kind and decent in the true sense of the word.
His words often carried a touch of humor. His reactions to the messages he liked or disliked were absolutely humorous. I must admit I often tried to provoke his dislike emoji (👎). Ali had his quirks, notably his pickiness about foods; he did not like onions, cabbage, raw fish, and many other things and I would tease him, saying, "If you don't like a food, it means a normal person would love it". And this would definitely earn a 👎 from him.
Ali accomplished a great deal in his short life. He earned his Ph.D. in March 2023, published over 15 papers, and secured a patent. He contributed significantly to the field of low-power hardware for IoT networks and sensor systems by energy harvesting and backscatter communication technology. Since graduation, he has been working at Philips Healthcare committing to his goal of contributing to the well-being of human society. It is no exaggeration to say that many people would not leave such a legacy in a long lifetime.
Certainly, we are extremely sad about this loss. But I am torn between happiness and sadness for him; I always believed that we are extremely lucky to come to this mysterious world, offering us an opportunity to explore and enjoy it; however, this world has no shortage of sad events. Ali's last messages in our group chat spoke of how joyful the evening had been for him. One could sense the happiness in his words. To leave this world in such joyfulness is a privilege that seems reserved only for people like Ali.
I want to conclude this tribute with a short message to Ali:
This weekend will be the first without you... How can we play Avalon without you, always one of the Mafias? And you could never hide it... probably because lying was not your forte...
Life is a balance of bitter and sweet moments, and yet you departed so cheerfully that left us unsure whether to be happy or sad for you. Yet I cannot be calm with the scars etched upon our hearts.
I wish I could see you again in another world. I wish immortality was real. I want to believe you are still with us... and I see no other way than to advocate for the unique values you held—values that made a co-worker weep for your loss after only a few months of knowing you, your calmness, empathy, and care. I believe we have a chance of immortalizing you…and that is through embodying and advocating your unique character and attributes…
Goodbye, my friend!