This is something that we’ve written together. And these are some memories and thoughts from the years of knowing our Ash, who was also our Smashed potato, and our Smashy, our Esh, our AB and our babe.
The six of us have known smash for the last five or ten years – most of us having met at the beginning of high school, or when we started varsity in 2007. Over these years, there are a couple over-arching ‘Smashy characteristics’ that have remained constant and these were what made our friendship with her so unique and special.
Smashy was properly quirky -- she was the original hipster without even trying. However, this wasn’t a pretence at all as she really knew who she was and had a strong sense of self. For example, one constant in the past ten years has been her fashion sense. It was not unusual to bump into Smashy on campus, walking around in sheep-patterned pyjama pants with socks and high heels. She was able to pull off wearing a shirt that for anyone else would have been too see-through, or a skirt that would have been too short – but she did this with Asha-like class; and on her, and only her, it worked. Once when Nabeelah was ill, Smashy came to visit her wearing a low cut and revealing crocheted waistcoat. When one of us commented on her risqué outfit, she explained that she only wore it to cheer Nabeelah up. Smashy’s quirks were an on-going joke amongst us.
While funny, this is not a once off example of her concern for our well-being. Smashy really cared about her friends, and was always committed to helping us solve the various dramas in our lives. In 2010 we started to call her Asha ‘practical solutions’ Barron. Her philosophy was that a cup of herbal tea, lots of chocolate and a strongly worded email- of which she sent many could solve all interpersonal, or other, troubles. And she was willing to talk us through the stages of her solutions if necessary, at any time of day or night, often quite literally. If anyone dared to drive after having a drink, smoked a cigarette, or made any dubious relationship choices, Smashy was always clear on where she stood in relation to these issues. Her loyalty to us, and her thoughtfulness about our well-being, were always evident in the ways in which she dealt with difficult situations.
When we got to university it was clear that Smashy would really flourish. She gained a huge amount from being in an intellectual environment, but her clarity of thought translated to all spheres of her life. She was a logical thinker and grasped concepts really quickly and well. In high school, failing for Smashy was getting a ‘B’ and in varsity anything other than a First wasn’t good enough. A group of us did an Anthro course together in first year at the same time as Smashy was doing first year maths. Instead of studying for her Anthro exam, scheduled for the day after the Maths exam, she bought out all the luminous pink strawberry and chocolate energy bars on the campus cafeteria, freaked out about the multiple choice section of the Maths paper – and then, did superbly well in her Anthro exam after having done almost no preparation. She had a huge potential, with an incredible amount to offer to academia.
While her intellect was definitely something very obvious to us all, she had several interests, and there were many different facets of her personality. She did - and excelled at - belly dancing for years, read a huge amount of fiction, wrote beautifully, and had a witty and quick sense of humour. She would often say that if philosophy and academics didn’t work out for her, she would become an exotic dancer. And despite her success in many different ways, she was also very modest – in fact she was often oblivious to how impressive and attractive she was.She was a very private person and often didn’t speak about her successes, let alone her personal life.She was a truly multi-faceted and intriguing person, and even we found parts of her life mysterious.
Kate: When I arrived in Cape Town in 2007 to attend UCT, Ashy and the girls standing here with me were some of the first friends i made and quickly became a support system that I had not previously had. This was, for me, the first time i saw the Asha who cared deeply for her friends and held her relationships with them above many other things. i particularly remember one night when Heather and Peter had just bought their house in Kalk Bay, and several of us spent the night camping out there, chatting, laughing, bonding. it sticks out as a moment in which i realised what a special group of friends i had made, and within that, what an important link Asha formed in that bond.
In 2010, Kate, Rebecca, Kai, Tim, and Esh lived together in the Linkoping house. We have very fond memories of Asha’s strange culinary choices, which included tuna marine olives from a tin, pickled onions on a serviette and bags of carrots and apples. We would often hear her rushing down the stairs after spending the night watching a whole series, episode after episode, to get another tub of ice cream or bag of vegetables to replenish her snacks. In particular we were all obsessed with the series True Blood, and we remember Ashy sorted our costumes for a big True Blood-themed house party at Linkoping. She was also put in charge of doing Tim’s make up for the prized role of Lafayette. The house parties were quite a significant part of her years in digs, as well as the regular dinners around the table in Linkoping and certainly for us it felt like we were coming home to some kind of family.
While we writing this, we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about Asha, and even laughing at all our stories of Asha, going through our emails and facebook interactions with her. And we think this is what she would’ve wanted - she was light-hearted, and we have so many positive memories of our friendship with her. Asha was excellent at everything she did. She was a truly amazing chick. There will always be a Smasha shaped hole in our group of friends.
Stacy: I was thinking – last night – I would really just like to phone Asha and ask her what I should say: The conversation would go something like; greetings, pleasantries, news of the day (gossip about all of you) I would then launch into a melodramatic rundown of ‘I don’t what to say, all my feelings etc’. She would remain silent until I ran out of feelings and started to feel silly and then she would say: I have two questions! Firstly; who’s going? Secondly; what’s for eats? Then she’d say, ‘Kaaay, what time? Nyah, I might go, but who actually does anything at 11am, it’s basically snooze-time.
You see, Asha, being Asha, would just not have been so worried about what I have to say. She wasn’t all that fazed by what the world thought of her; it wasn’t the reason why she did her thing the way she did it. So I’ve stopped fretting because the thing about our friendship is I cannot explain it. Words are failing me in a big way, so I’m not going to bother with them that much, I don’t have adjectives in my head with which to do her justice. If I have regrets it’s that one time when I pushed her into a fountain because she wouldn’t stop singing Yellow Submarine.
We called each other Ratti for no reason that I can recall. I doubt I’ll ever meet someone like her again. Someone who looks so scruffy but has so much class, or knows the answers but doesn’t say them out-loud, and who I feel so much all-consuming love for despite the fact that she is fast asleep in Vincent Pallotti snoring like a trouper.
When we visited her on the Wednesday she went into hospital I said that I thought the hospital gown she was wearing looked ‘quiet lovely’ (or words to that effect) and she had a similar one at home, except that one is more ‘seductively cut’ (or words to that effect). She replied – with an eyebrow wiggle – ‘Well, you should see the back’.
Love you always Ratti, you were just the best, what more is there to say.