[Names of characters have been changed, for privacy purposes. Incidents are authentic, however]
February 6, 2006: early morning. I was in some train, going to Bhubaneshwar, where I was posted. An unkind beep of a message that had managed to reach me inspite of the feeble network woke me. Its contents were far more powerful, shook all lethargy out of me. I tried to jump up, and banged my head on the berth above me. You cannot sit upright in a middle berth in Indian trains, you know. "Ryan's mother is no more" ... the words were revolving in my mind, trying hard to sink in. Ryan's face kept flashing, his sharp features, his so cruelly handsome smile... the sense of loss seemed to get on me too. It seemed as if I had lost my own mother. What would I do without her? Where would I go? The emptiness was unbearable and I felt like jumping out of the window. I had never met his mother, but I am sure she was very pretty, given Ryan's looks. And was she an awesome cook? Needless to say, like all mothers of friends, she was. Ryan's Dad was dead too, way back in 1986... I felt helpless, cause I was more than 1700 km away from my friend.
November 18, 2008... maybe around 12 noon. I had just mailed some information to a consultant, and had logged on to the googlegroups created for our classmates to do some catching up with friends. Actually I had to send across a birthday wish. There was an unread mail... its subject line made my head reel. "Sad demise of my father.." from Rahul. Forgotten were my intentions to write a birthday mail. I sat there, staring at the mail. Our college days zoomed in and out... Rahul as the constant source of comedy.. so chivalrous that he would go sweaterless on a bitterly cold day for any girl. Rahul, such a genius he was with the computer..with him at the terminal, you would better not attempt to follow what is happening. Incidentally, he was the creator of the googlegroup I was viewing. Rahul's father was an architect like him, that's all we knew about the man.
The pagdi ceremony was the next day, the mail requested us to attend it. I chose to go, although I was not conversent with Noida. I was at least nearby, a voice inside convinced me. Weekday, workload, lots to commitments at home... nothing seemed important enough. I called up a couple of batchmates in Delhi, worked out a plan schematically, told my boss and tried to concentrate. I could not... felt the way I had done, about two years back in that train. I have known deeper versions of pain, loss of family and friends, but everytime, the emptiness gets on me. Rahul was in Bangalore, he must have come down. I was not particularly close to him, but since I was in the same city, I had to stand by his side during trying times....
Next day, I did manage to reach the venue all by myself. Religious dealings are no way part of my cup of tea, but I could somehow connect with the not-so-old man, whose life was claimed by a cardiac arrest. He seemed to apprecaite my presence.
Another friend had come over too. We returned together, chatting like school kids. But all the way, I thought about Rahul. He was very composed... but I could identify with his irrepairable loss... a gap that could perhaps not be filled again.