I met him through some common friends on the same day India won the 20/20 and the roads were thronged with pre-Ganesh Chaturti celebrators. Spirits were high, the jokes were flying and conversations happened easily. The next time I heard from him was a couple of days later asking if I’d like to join them on a drive to Manori to watch the full moon.
In the middle of the night in the middle of the week? Nuts, I don’t have the energy you kids do!
I took a rain-check and moped at home thinking of what an impractical idea it was and what a brilliant idea it was.
Once he was late for coffee with us and I joked that he wouldn’t be permitted to join us unless he bribed me with chocolate. To my surprise, he brought chocolates AND flowers for all the ladies present. And when another friend declared that she lurrrved strawberries, he turned up a week later with cartons full of freshly-plucked strawberries from Mahabaleshwar.
Strawberries and chocolate liquer from the bottle on the terrace at midnight. And singing slightly drunkenly. And giggling a lot. That is my most recent memory of him.
Last week he went para-gliding. Landing proved to be troublesome and he crashed. He was in coma all week with several limbs fractured and organs badly injured. On Friday, the doctors declared that the chances of survival were remote and that his brain has been damaged beyond repair. They asked his family to decide. He saved them from the most difficult decision of their lives by succumbing today. He was twenty-eight.
I heard the news on the phone, while walking into an elevator. By the time we reached my floor, the call had got disconnected and as I stepped off, the door opened. My friend’s wife delivered a baby last week and I was paying the mandatory-but-much-excited first visit. Abrupt switch of mood, facial expression and thought.
The first time I saw her, I thought she was about 14, she was that petite and delicate looking. In the past few months, as her stomach has swelled, I’ve been marveling at the process of creating life and how her tiny structure was supporting and nurturing a new life, within. And I secretly wondered if she would be able to make it through.
She went through 18 hours of labour. 18 hours!! We talked about doctors and new parenthood. Right after delivery, she went into excessive bleeding, losing nearly 2 liters of blood. A week later, both husband and wife seemed to have forgotten the tumultuous ordeal in the sheer delight caused by the tiny bundle fast asleep in the middle of the room.
The as-yet-unnamed little one looks like no one in particular and has a rich crop of dark hair. She’s the first girl in the family in generations and I paused to note that she’d be one helluva pampered kid. New momma beamed and joked, back to her usual cheery self and told me that she was counting the days to 6 weeks when she could touch outside food and A-L-C-O-H-O-L again. We laughed and ribbed her about the last time she got drunk. And she announced that it also caused her to get pregnant, making her husband blush and look like he wanted to dive under the chair.
What do I say? What do I think? A death and a birth. Is that stretching the point a bit too far?
All I keep hearing in the back of my mind is the strains of Sting
Like I didn’t know that. Like he didn’t know that. Like she didn’t.
We do. Of course we do. But that didn’t stop today from coming like a sudden, unexpected reminder.