It’s the kind of phone call you don’t want to receive in the morning. ‘Listen there’s a bad news. A is gone, killed in a road accident.’ And for the next 20 minutes I thought it was just the kind of prank A would play, of course you are joking. And the caller says no Kajal, he really is dead. Dead and gone. His bike tire burst because of the heat and he lost control.
Sometimes you just meet people randomly and you become such good friends with them. A was one such friend. I had met him while on assignment 3 years ago, while I was getting vox pops for a cricket show. He was one of those college boys hanging around Shivaji Park with his circle of friends and they all even did a celebratory dance for the camera when India won. Of all the guys, A was the only one who requested for my phone number and a journalist never lets go of an opportunity to make a new source. So I had given him my number. In the next one year, A would call me randomly just to say hi and then the phone calls stopped. I didn’t bother much because the phone calls were completely random.
Then about a year ago, I got a call from a new number. It was A. He had graduated and had started working. He was talking almost normally but there was an undercurrent. I asked him and he almost broke down as he narrated the story of how he had just recently broken up with his girlfriend of 4 years and how his obsession to just speak to her once had almost sent him to prison for harassment. This surely was not like the carefree college boy I knew. Here was the maturity and perspective that only pain gives you. It was all done and over, but A just couldn’t fathom how something that started out so beautifully could have ended so horribly. Over the next few months he would call sometimes just to chat and we became fast friends. Along with some other friends of his, I would take turns to scold him, tease him and coax him out of his ‘undying’ love. And he would take it all in stride, keep smiling and in a mock imitation of a Bollywood hero would say ‘this is A’s love story, its gotta be different.’
Never once had I thought that this seemingly immature boy, whom we used to all advice about his heartaches, would ultimately be one of those few people who would help me out when I went through a bad phase recently. I could call him at any time of the day or night and he would patiently listen, divert my attention, give me surprise visits just to cheer me up. And he never expected anything but friendship from me. I didn’t feel that I was burdening him with my emotions, I didn’t have to be careful, I could be the emotional girl I am with him. I didn’t have to carry a rep with him or wonder that he would demand a price for his show of affection. All that he expected was a smiling friend in return for his troubles.
Then around 3 months ago, he moved back to Delhi, his hometown. Most of us friends were sad but we felt that after all that he had gone through the last year, going back home would do him good. And true to his style, just last month he came down on a surprise visit to Mumbai just a week prior to my birthday. All of us went out to Gorai to celebrate the engagement of another friend and we were again ribbing him about how he should now get married. His parents were pressurising him and he was dodging it off because he was still in love with his girl and we had again started scolding him.
And now I am left with so much unsaid, so much anger that he is dead. Since morning, I have only been repeating to myself, he is dead, he is dead, as if my repetition would somehow change the reality. I still half expect him to call and say it was all a prank. Listening to ‘kaise batayein kyun tumko chahein’ would be a painful reminder as that was his ringtone. There are so many little things about this friendship, this boy I have only met half a dozen times, things that might live on for quite some time even though he didn’t. Heck he wasn’t even 25. Why this boy who may have only hurt people in ignorance, why not those who make a living out of hurting people? Anger, confusion and just pain at a life that was lost. But A you had a full life, you had friends, you loved like never before and you touched the lives of many. Yes, the few years you lived, you probably lived more than many a lifetime. RIP. Miss you ever.