My best friend in high school was a douche. I know it sounds twisted, but that’s what I used to call him in my head. Douche. He was one of those towards who you express conflicting emotions of both love and hatred. We shared a bond, strengthened by the common love towards outdoor sports, Green Day and dark humor. But, he was the Ranchodas Chanchad of our group, and it so happens that perfection in another causes envy in self. He won the sprint challenge by half a second; he scored more goals in the football finals; he spoke more languages, and he had a Parker pen. Even the math lords, Newton and Pythagoras, were indirectly working in his favor. While girls shot affectionate, sisterly looks at me for helping them solve their math problems, they laughed at Rancho’s theatrics involved in his attempts to find the mysterious x.
It was no surprise that I imagined his life to be a perennial pleasant ride; the life of a Phrygian king who turned everything he touched into gold. There was nothing, I believed, that could possibly go wrong in his perfect life. Until the day I was hit by the tragic news from a common friend. Rancho’s dad, a non-smoker, teetotaler, and a 48 year old fitness freak, had died of a sudden heart attack. On rushing to his place, I found Rancho huddled up in the corner of a room, keeping distance from the hordes of people gathered and trying to keep a hold on his sanity. His mother and younger sister were nowhere to be found in the vicinity; his younger brother, with a kindergarten book in his hand, was strolling around trying to comprehend the situation.
I walked across the room willingly blocking out the constant wailing and distressed faces around, and placed a hand on Rancho’s shoulders. He looked up, and for a moment conveyed a silent message through his eyes. Big boys don’t cry. I pressed my hand softly, in understanding, and then, the dams broke open. “What do I do now?” he asked through his tears. A lump formed in my throat. I tried to articulate my thoughts but the words never came out. There was nothing I could say that would make a difference to him. I sat down next to him and simply gazed ahead into the vacant space, wondering about the mechanics of life and death. For Rancho, things were never the same from that day onward.
If there were one question that would haunt MBA graduates before, during and even after completing our studies, it would be, “Why MBA?”
Frankly speaking, at that time, I lacked clarity on why I was even going for a post-graduation degree considering the fact that I was still in the figuring-out-myself stage. If I still had to shoot out a reason then I’d say that I just wanted a change from my routine, mundane work in a software company. In reality, nine out of ten people in our class were clueless on what they really wanted to do in future and were fiddling around in various things to set their priorities straight. However, there were the rare Arjunas who saw nothing but the eye of the fish during the MBA Swayamwar.
Arjun was one of those Arjunas.
With his eyes set on becoming a finance consultant, Arjun cracked the mother of all interviews within the first four months and got himself placed as an intern in Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment banking firm. I admit, we never really shared a strong bond between us, but he had that strong positive vibe around him and I respected him for his high ambitions and his easy-going attitude.
In December 2013, after our second trimester, we parted on a handshake and traveled to our respective homes for our one-week Christmas vacation. That was the last time I saw Arjun.
On returning to college, our class was informed about the horrifying road accident which had killed our friend. The parents had survived the accident, only to experience unbearable sorrow for the rest of their lives. A fortnight later, they came to our college to collect their son’s belongings and the evidences of his last days of existence. This time, I thought of writing a short note to them instead of being a silent spectator. On their arrival, I handed it over to the father, only to be requested that I read it aloud in class. Now, that was unexpected, and hard. I wondered if my thoughts really mattered for the others but I guess the parents wanted everyone to be a part of their son’s mourning process. I stepped onto the dais and took a deep breath. My hands trembled when I glanced towards the weeping mother. What do you say to a woman who has lost her only child?
I looked back at the note I was holding in my hands. Big boys don’t cry, I reminded myself, and stuttered out the following words.
As we grow older, we start giving up easily. On people and on ourselves. One bad experience and we begin to question ourselves whether it is all worth it. Do our actions matter? Will they make any difference? Do people really care? Eventually, we give up and the world gives birth to another cynic.
We turn into these arm-chair philosophers wherein we sit back and start criticizing others’ thoughts and beliefs despite being completely aware that deep down we still yearn to believe in something good. We yearn for those few, who can rise above all the ridicule and the general lack of faith and show us that there is still something left to hope for, who can instill some belief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives.
Arjun was one of those few.
I remember Arjun speaking in one of our communication classes on how we, the youth, could play a vital role in changing the existing corrupted system. His passion and firm beliefs to bring about a positive change in our society were quite inspiring. From thrashing opponents on the badminton court to cracking the toughest of internship interviews, he had left his mark of excellence in all areas. For me, he was easily the most sincere and straightforward guy amongst all that I had met during my MBA tenure.
I am no parent, and at 24, I am yet to see much of this world. I simply cannot empathize or imagine the pain that you, as his parents, must be going through at this moment. All I wanted to say for now is that I am sorry for your loss.
I hope, after all the tears have been shed, you would start living with a smile holding on to the thought that you had raised a wonderful son.
Grieving does not end with a funeral or a eulogy. While I was writing the note, I wasn’t aware that, in a way, I was processing my emotions as well. For the next few months, we were texting each other occasionally, Arjun’s dad and I. We exchanged pictures; I told him about the few moments I had shared with Arjun while he talked about his son’s high school and graduation days.
While a funeral is an act of farewell, a eulogy has elements of gratitude and celebration. But both are just rituals to deal with the overwhelming pain and discomfort. The real closure happens when we find a way of openly talking about the one we have lost. It is only in that spirit that we find the beauty in sadness, the honor in mournful observance.
PS: Thank you.
This PS is not a post script. I am addressing it to my muse who inspired me to write.