Thirty And Me

Keep Calm Turning 30

At precisely 42 seconds past 5.30 PM this evening (on Aug 20, 2014) the Earth will complete it’s thirtieth revolution around the Sun with me on it. I have spent the past four hours reading about what it means to people when they exit their twenties.

Turning 30 is supposed to be a big deal, an achievement of sorts, having survived tsunamis, earthquakes, riots, murderers, diseases, ninja assassins and of course, traffic. It is also supposed to signify the fact that I’ve officially a grown up and cannot rely on my youthful ignorance as an excuse when I screw up. I am supposed to be responsible, financially and emotionally stable, be able to hold down a job for more than three months and not throw boogers at passersby. I am not supposed to scratch my balls in public and have random fits of paranoia causing me to run down the road naked, dodging invisible aliens. I am supposed to be mature enough to realize the difference between right and wrong, morals and immorality, black, white and grey, and most importantly, coffee and tea.

I am supposed to start leading a healthier lifestyle – no more smoking, no more drinking binges and definitely no more weed. I am supposed to drink lots of water and work out regularly to ensure that my first heart attack happens only three decades from now.

I am supposed to be a strong pillar of support for my parents, be able to provide a good quality of life for my wife and be a responsible role model for my younger brother. I am supposed to be mentally strong to deal with the real world and I am not supposed to get depressed with the fact that I am growing old and am one year closer to death.

When I look back on the things I’ve done during the past three decades, I am surprised at the level of ignorance, insensitivity and intolerable cruelty that I have exhibited at times. I am also surprised at some of the intelligent decisions I’ve taken, something I was not sure I was capable of.

I’ve alienated people, I’ve infuriated those who love me and I’ve driven others to murderous rage. I can think of people who would put a bullet through me right now given the chance. I can think of people who would walk past me on the street and pretend to not recognize me. I can think of people who would smile at me and stab me in the back with the metaphorical knife when I turn around. But I can also think of people who would love me unconditionally and take me in as a part of their family. I can think of hundreds of people who would still acknowledge my existence without any animosity.

In a world filled with hate and anger, where people are being slaughtered each minute, the fact that one insignificant boy in Bangalore has grown up and turned thirty should not make a difference. But when I look at the journey I’ve been through to get here, I am overwhelmed. I am moved to tears at the kind of experiences I’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly ones.

We all have fantastic experiences in our lives every day. Each moment of joy we experience means so much to us that it’s hard to imagine hordes of such people being killed. Millions of dreams and hopes being crushed every single minute by people pursuing theirs. I ask myself if it’s all worth it. Is it worth having a really ‘happy’ birthday when there is so much grief all around us. Or maybe, these tiny sparks of happiness keep the world turning.

We are all allowed meaningless rants straight from the heart, once a year. Today is my turn. As I see the clock inch closer and closer to the hallowed hour, I am filled with a little hope about hope.

Image Courtesy: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

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The Misjudged Criminal

“This country has gone to the dogs!” muttered the mechanic as he bent over my shiny bike.

I stood behind him and said nothing, boiling in the unseasonably hot weather that seemed to force every drop of water out of my body as sweat. I glanced at my watch and realized I was getting late for work, and the traffic would have built up to an impenetrable mass of steel and smoke by now. Bangalore on a summer morning is not for the weak-hearted.

“You’re lucky they didn’t rip this whole thing off. It’s a custom-made part and very expensive,” he said and continued to tinker with the bike, crouched so low that he was almost squatting. I asked him to hurry up and told him that I was getting late for work.

1 Year Earlier:
He knew he didn’t do anything wrong. He hadn’t meant to steal the diamond. He’d just found it lying on the floor next to the dead body, shining prettily in a pool of congealed blood. He’d picked it up, wiped it on his shirt and had tried his best to avoid looking at the corpse, which was stinking up the place a bit. Just as he had thanked his luck on finding a diamond as big as a gold ball, he heard the distinct sirens of an approaching police vehicle. He’d panicked and run in the wrong direction, almost directly in front of the two bright headlights that screeched to a halt. Two constables had jumped out, armed with their lathis and had yelled something at him. He hadn’t paused to think. He had just run.

He thought back on his stupidity as he ran down the deserted roads of Rajajinagar, past the Navrang theater. He could hear the running feet of the constables pursuing him, yelling at him to stop. They had probably just wanted to question him. He should have just stayed there and answered their questions. Who am I kidding, he thought bitterly. They would have just framed him for the murder, confiscated the stone from him and thrown him in jail to rot for the rest of his life. The cops in this city were notorious for their stupidity and laziness. I did the right thing, he thought, as he ran.

He picked up speed and decided to dodge the pursuers in the countless narrow alleyways that peppered Raj Kumar Road on either side. His heart sank as he heard the sound of the siren at a distance behind him. The police jeep had joined the pursuit! He looked around and saw a half-open shutter of what looked like a motorbike service center. He didn’t think – he ducked in and the darkness of the warehouse enveloped him. He could hear his heart racing madly as he stood still in the corner, in complete darkness, and worried that the cops would hear it too. He didn’t move a muscle and stood there for a long time after the running constables and the police jeep had passed the warehouse. He dared not move and go out again. He felt around him and his fingers found a blanket hanging from a wall peg. He snatched it off and draped it around him. He could feel the bulk of the diamond pressing up against his thigh through his trouser pocket. He clutched it tightly and made a decision that he would regret for almost a year.

Yesterday:
Midnight found him walking alone, dejected, shoulder slumped, clutching a half-empty bottle of the local whiskey. His whole life had been a series of missed chances and unlucky coincidences that had almost ruined him once. He still shuddered a bit when he thought back to that fateful day a year ago when he had almost been caught for a murder that someone else had committed. Every now and then, his hand went to his thigh where the golf-ball sized diamond had poked him – in his darkest dreams, he dreamed that he had the diamond in his hands and enjoying the wealth that it brought him. Not a day went by in which he kicked himself for hiding the stone in one of the parked motorbikes. The only thing he remembered was that it was an Avenger motorbike. He had hid the stone in a crevice of the engine and stepped out of the warehouse to make sure the coast was clear. He didn’t want to be caught with the stone in his possession in case a constable or two were canvassing the area. He had walked around slowly, ready to drop to the ground and pretend to be drunk and homeless at the first sight of a cop.

No one had been around. After about fifteen minutes of walking around, he had decided to chance it and had headed back to the warehouse to collect his precious diamond. He had stood in front of the warehouse, shaking in anger, cold, fear and the deepest despair, staring at the shutter that was now firmly closed and locked. In his panic, he had walked all around the building trying to find a way in, but in vain.

The next morning, he had been present at the warehouse door when it opened, and had been chased away by the security guard. He barely had enough time to notice that the precious motorbike that held his diamond was a black Avenger 220 CC bike with the registration number 9669, before he had lost it in the seemingly endless traffic of bikes and people that came in and out of the warehouse. He had taken up an all-day vigil across the street from the warehouse, waiting for the precious bike to be wheeled out, and he had decided that he would take his chances in broad daylight and try to remove the diamond from its crevice. All his hopes had been dashed by a fat man who rode off on the bike. He had seen the fat man riding the bulky motorbike through an endless stream of tears in his eyes.

He stumbled and fell to the ground as he remembered that fateful day and let out a wail of despair. He cursed God and everything that he felt like cursing and crawled on all fours in the middle of the empty tree-lined street, with only his shadows and the harsh orange street lights for company. He crawled to the sidewalk and sat down heavily, taking a swig from his bottle. As he lifted his head to drink, he saw the goddamn bike parked across from him. It was that bike! It was a black Avenger 220 CC bike, numbers ending 9669. He looked at it, his hand paused mid air and the whiskey pouring on his legs and onto the street, which he didn’t notice. He stared at the bike for a good, long minute and looked around to see if there were anyone else on the road. He dropped the bottle and scrambled hastily on all fours across the street to the cursed bike, grunting with anticipation and pain. He crawled up to the bike and his hands trembled as he touched it. Tears welled up in his eyes, his lips quivered as he cried, this time in joy. He seized the strange-looking engine part with both hands and ripped it apart. He looked longingly at the little golf-ball sized diamond that fell out of the crevice and sat in his palms. The engine part that he had ripped apart dangled from a few cables and wires, dripping petrol, oil and other fluids on the ground, and saw the man run away, whooping with joy and laughing hysterically.

Present Day:
“But why would anyone do that?” I asked, as I paid twenty rupees to the mechanic.
“Carburetors fetch anywhere between four hundred and five hundred rupees, sir,” he said. You’re lucky they didn’t steal it. They were probably interrupted by someone.”
“I guess so. Thanks,” I said, climbed on to my bike, and rode to work. The thought of someone trying to steal my bike’s carburetor angered me. The thought of negotiating the traffic in the heat of the summer put me in a bad mood. I just knew the day was going to be a long, bad one.

Autoscopy 2014

Bandipur at Night

When we decided to make the road trip to Masinagudi, little did we realize that things could go this bad. In the time it takes to say the word “honeymoon,” things went from fantastic to horrible. Rani and I didn’t know each other when we got married last week. The first time we saw each other ten days ago at her parents’ place, we thought we were too young, too stupid, too immature – two completely different people thrown into the fray and told to live together and love each other, till death do us apart. And we weren’t brave enough to do anything about it. In whatever little time we spent alone, we tried our best to get to know each other as quickly as we could – I told her my hopes, dreams and ambitions and she was good enough not to laugh in my face. She told me that her passion were wildlife and Maddur vadas.

Well, as fate had it, we would experience both very soon.

The wedding itself was a very forgettable affair for me. She didn’t tell me, but I think she hated it too. There were too many people, too little space and the food was too bland. In the peak of summer, it’s never a good idea to cram too many people in a small space and not feed them well. But, it got done with, and the parents were satisfied that their duties had been completed. They were clear of their obligations and their only job now was to wait with bated breath and annoying interjections for my wife to push out a kid or two or three.

Being a mediocre, middle-class white-collar pencil-pusher, I did not have the means or the luxury to afford a fantastic honeymoon at an exotic location. I could afford no honeymoon and I told Rani this the day before we got married. I could sense the sadness in her voice as she told me that it was all right and that we could go sometime later, after saving up a bit of money. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that with my current income, the concept of ‘savings’ was as alien to me as color to a blind man.

A couple of days later though, a friend of mine told us that he was a member of a time-sharing holiday scheme and that he wanted to gift us a weekend getaway to Masinagudi. As a man whose best friend for long had been thrift, I jumped at this offer, told him how grateful I was (I was. I truly was!), and decided to surprise Rani.

I was still in the initial phases of the relationship – a phase where a lot of time and mental effort is spent in trying to surprise your partner with gifts of love and affection.

I didn’t tell her where we were going until we reached the bus station and boarded a bus to Bandipur. She was ecstatic with joy and hugged me so tightly that I thought I’d implode. I could see that she was happy. Though she’s a tough nut, I did see a few tears.

The bus covered the 250-odd kilometer trip in under six hours and I was thankful when it ended. Our only stop on the way had been at Maddur, where we had stuffed ourselves with the crunchy pieces of heaven known all over the World as Maddur vadas. My legs were cramped and my bladder was full and bursting when I relieved myself by the side of the road at Bandipur, oblivious to the odd stares. I thought to myself how lucky we had been to be given this break. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to get away from it all until I’d gotten away.

We hired a taxi from the station and started the 20-kilometer trip through the jungle to reach our resort. It was an expensive ride but we had no other option, given that the forest department would close down the roads at 6 in the evening.

The drive was breathtaking. The undulating roads and the clear blue skies danced a mesmerizing dance with the trees that lined our way. A herd of spotted deer waved us by and a group of monkeys looked on in curious disbelief as we drove. Soon, we crossed into the Tamil Nadu side of the forest and the jungle became thicker and thicker around us the deeper we went.

We were having a fantastic time. Rani snuggled up to me as the evening progressively grew darker and colder. With about five more kilometers to go, I thought nothing could dampen our spirits. That’s when I heard the dull, sickening thud that signaled disaster.

It’s a misconception that tires burst with a great big bang. They actually give out with a thud, and if the driver is experienced enough, he/she can manage the momentary loss of steering control. Our driver wasn’t and the little taxi lurched menacingly to the left before he over-corrected and sent us flying to the right, where our joyride came to a screeching halt as the car dove into a ditch, nose-first and stayed there. The sudden change in directions and the inertial forces acting on us as we impacted threw us forward, the front seat-back smacking the both of us in our faces with an inhuman amount of energy. Rani’s nose cracked under the impact, sending little bits of cartilage and bone gushing out with blood. My upper lip split and my two front teeth ripped themselves out of their oral prisons and flew into the air, and joined the million shards of glass and stone and metal hurtling about. The driver’s head arrested the momentum of his body against the steering wheel, and I think he didn’t have the time to let his whole life flash before his eyes before he died. The whole thing took less than 3 seconds.

As the sun went down and the night officially threw her cloak of darkness over us, we were too stunned and too much in pain to move or react.

It took me about ten minutes to get my bearings right and to realize that were quite vulnerable out there. I looked around at my wife, who was slumped in her seat. From the faint light of the remains of the dashboard, I could see that she was breathing, which was a relief.

I opened the door of the car, which yielded surprisingly easily, and stumbled out to the forest floor. I could hear the sounds of a million crickets singing around me, the occasional whistle of a bird going to sleep, the rustling of the dry leaves, which I prayed was due to the wind, and the occasional bursts of deafening silence. I was afraid. I was shaking uncontrollably with nervous energy and adrenaline pushed me to my feet. I hobbled over to the road and tried to spot any oncoming headlights. At the back of my mind was the knowledge that the forest gates closed at 6 in the evening but I kept ignoring it. Surely someone would realize that a car that had entered the forest hadn’t exited. Surely someone heard the sickening crash. All I could see was an ocean of deepening darkness on either side, punctuated by the ominous red glow of the car’s taillights.

I stood there for a long time, in the red glow, trying to figure out my next move, while my head reeled and my body cried out in pain in a thousand places. When I heard that agonizing cry of pain, despair and sorrow – a cry that would haunt me for eternity – I turned and ran to the other side, to my wife. I feared the worst. I reached her side and was about to open the door or smash the window if need be when I saw what had made her cry out.

I guess my teeth weren’t the only things that had dislodged when I hit my face. I almost lost my balance.  My legs felt weak and I held back a gag when I saw Rani, my wife of ten days, cradling her husband’s crushed head in her lap.

I really shouldn’t have done this trip.

Image Courtesy: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.in/

Letter To Cupid, 2012

Statutory Warning: The following post contains words and imagery that some people may deem as inappropriate. I have used the word ‘fuck’ twice and I talk about raising my middle fingers to someone, giving that someone the message to go fornicate with themselves. I have used a photograph of a winged child-thing found dead, face down, with an arrow in its back, lying in a pool of its own filth. If you or anyone around you find(s) my language and mannerisms offensive, please click here. Else, continue reading. 

Cupid is Dead

Dear Cupid Asshole

Here we are again, in 2012. I’m still here, single as fuck, and you’re still there, dancing around with your gay wings and your gay arrows. I wrote to you earlier, around 4 years ago and you promised me that the next time would be different. You are a filthy liar and nothing more. If I look back on this year, all you’ve given me is hope, despair and embarrassment. What the hell is the matter with you, jackass? Can’t you just do your job right?

So, in the light of all that you’ve done for me this year and for the past so many years before, I raise both my fingers to you. Go suck an orange, kid.

Do you remember how I signed off my last letter to you? You don’t? Drop Dead.

In all sincerity,

Go Fuck Yourself.

The Christmas Nightmare

scary santa penguinEvery year, around Christmas, I am blessed with a nightmare or two about things that truly scare the shit out of me.

Very few things scare me as much as penguins do. Yeah, it’s a rare phobia to have, and I am one of those very few people in the world who are afraid of the flightless demons. They are evil and they won’t hesitate to kill you and eat you, every chance they get. They walk like they are on a mission to hunt you down and their stare is enough to turn your blood cold.

Last evening, I had one of my frequent penguin nightmares. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I dreamt that I was being hunted by a penguin dressed as Santa Claus.

I found myself in a strange room with three doors and no windows. A loud, disembodied voice called out to me, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Nikhil!”

More intrigued than scared, I looked around the room frantically to locate the voice. From somewhere, a draft of cold air blew threw me and I shivered involuntarily. That’s why I realized I was naked. There were absolutely no clothes on me at all. I tried to search for the source of the breeze but couldn’t find any. There were no windows, as mentioned, and no vents or cracks in the wall. There was no furniture, no electric sockets or appliances of any kind. Despite the lack of light bulbs or any other artificial source of lights, the bare room was strangely illuminated in natural light. I wondered what the hell was going on.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the voice again. It was a deep, guttural voice that was a bit menacing as well.

“Santa?” I whispered.

“Have you been a good boy this year?” asked the voice in a lilting tone, as if daring me to say yes.

“Wh.. What? Yes! Yes, I’ve been a good boy!” I stammered, now thoroughly scared. I could feel my bladder filling up.

“Liar!” screamed the voice. “You’re a liar!”

“No, No! I swear!” I yelled back.

Then, the door on the far right flew open with a bang and I couldn’t see beyond the darkness of the doorway.

“Run,” said the voice simply.

I stood there, frozen on the spot. Where was I? What was going on? I took a gingerly step towards the open door when the door on the far left flung open and there, framed in the dark doorway, stood a penguin, three and a half feet tall, wearing a blood-red Santa hat and brandishing a gleaming knife. It had a sneer on its face that almost seemed to tell me that my time was up.

It waddled towards me in the sinister way that penguins do, and spoke in the same creepy, bone-chilling voice, “I said, run.”

Then came the laugh. The laugh that echoed all over the room, penetrated deep into my very soul and made my balls shrivel up into tiny dots. The laugh that seemed to cut open my skin and suck all my blood out. The laugh that echoed all around me and inside me and threatened to rupture my brain. The laugh that forced some feelings into my frozen legs and made me break into a run through the open door on the right, away from those menacing, blood-shot eyes of the crazy bird-beast.

I ran, sweating and panting and unable to scream or shout out for help. I ran as fast as I could in the darkness, not knowing where I was headed or where I was stepping. I could hear the pitter-patter of the beast’s tiny flippers chasing after me. I could still hear it laughing as it ran, as if the beast were toying with me.

“Run faster, Nikhil,” it called out to me. “Is that the best you can do?”

I could feel the voice growing louder which could only mean one thing. The penguin was gaining on me! I increased my speed and felt my lungs burning for oxygen. Every muscle in my out-of-shape body ached and screamed in pain as I forced my legs to work faster.

“Merry Christmas, Nikhil!” said the penguin-beast and laughed out one last time. I could feel the cold steel on my leg. It had caught up t0 me and was slashing at my legs! I found my voice and screamed out loud.

I woke up, drenched in sweat. I saw a Santa hat lying on the floor next to my bed, the hat that I had purchased from a roadside vendor that very same afternoon, in my misguided Christmas cheer. I glanced at my clock and saw that it was almost time to wake up. I swung my legs off and stood up, snatched up the Santa hat and threw it in to dustbin. I put the trash out and made sure that someone picked it up and recycled the bloody thing.

Merry Christmas, you say? I’d say it’s a fascinating start so far! Even now, I sit here and wonder: what might have been behind the middle door, the one that stayed shut?

Twilight Dawn

Twilight DawnOppression filled the foggy twilit dawn, the recherché feminism of the morning light danced an undulating number with the mood of the solitary cyclist as he wound his way up the serpentine path to the crest of the craggy peak, bathed in the soft glow of the fiercely burning star billions of miles away, still under the horizon. The tires of the mountain bike crunched the partly-dewed leaves, much as innocence caught under sin’s cruel tires, all its spirit squeezed out.

The cyclist himself was an old hand at judging the curves – both of the road and of the weather – and immediately realized that the hiding sun was an aftermath to something oppressive that was in the offing. That’s when he felt the oppression. The Shah of Persia had once prophesized that an oppressive feeling was an indication of impending misfortune, but the cyclist had neither heard of nor had cared for the kingdom of Persia. So when he hit the pick-up truck that was barreling down the slope head-on, he attributed the accident to plain bad luck.

The cyclist’s name was Michener, and he was a hopeful for that year’s French circuit, when his career and his life had been cut short by an obese, drunk, hardly conscious idiot thought he could do a seventy on the slope, on the way down. The first thing Michener was aware of was an intense pain in his head – in fact, the pain seemed to originate from his head and spread its claws all over his numb body. Numb, that when he recognized the perpetual numbness. He couldn’t move an inch, let alone open his eyelids. There was a consistent hum in his ears that blocked out all other noise, but even the loudness of the hum didn’t feel in the least painful. It was, on the contrary, a soothing cacophony that seemed to say, “Hush, now. It’ll all be over soon.”

Through the pain, Michener amassed enough strength to force his eyelids open. He was staring at a black expanse of nothingness. The blackness confused his numb brain – he couldn’t tell for sure if his eyes were open or closed. All he was sure of was that, he could “see” the darkness clearly enough to deduce that he was, perhaps, blind. Though this thought didn’t particularly affect him, it shook him up a bit. To live a life without having to see it, to see the beautiful face of his two-year-old daughter, the twilight dawn, and a lot of other million things worth seeing, forced some tears to his eyes. Funnily enough, he couldn’t feel the warm tears flowing down his face, but could taste the bittersweet on his tongue.

This brought new hope to Michener, and at the same time, a new sinking feeling. Hope, that he was still alive, and had the use of his mouth, which probably he could use to call out, and despair by the thought that since he was alive, he had most definitely lost the use of his eyes and ears. Then, all of a sudden, the humming in his ears stopped and was replaced by memories – memories of the time when he had first heard John Denver sing “I’m leaving on a jet plane”, the time when he had first heard his mother put him to sleep with the story of the Three Little Pigs – her voice was particularly vivid – and the time when he had his daughter cal him “Da-Da” for the first time – and he found himself trying to smile, only he couldn’t tell if he was already smiling or not. The numbness was perpetual. The hum returned with a vengeance and filled his soul with a detached horror – a horror he couldn’t feel; a horror he would have given anything to feel.

Michener had heard the expression “Light at the end of the Tunnel” for years, and was not surprised to learn that it was a load of hogwash. There wasn’t any such tunnel, let alone light. His mind freed, his soul released, his life over, Michener found enough strength to close his eyelids – again, he couldn’t tell if they were closed or not, for the blackness lingered. Salacious thoughts entered his mind and he quickly snubbed them away. He forced himself to think of something else – he remembered the time his saloppete had torn on the ski slope and he had been the laughing stock of the entire lodge back in the valley, and he tried to smile.

His soul felt a lot lighter when he could sense it! He felt the smile spread slowly across the face! He could feel the gentle stretching of the skin across his cheek. And then, he saw her.

And when he did, he knew he was really dead. There she was, the only woman he had ever loved – his wife, who had been cruelly wrenched away from him and his daughter a year ago, also, ironically, by an accident. He had always blamed himself for her death; he should have never let her cross the street alone. But when he saw her standing there in all her beauty and radiance, he could see that delicate nose, those deep brown eyes he had missed all these days, and the lithe figure he had fallen in love with. His soul felt a thousand times lighter and he felt himself standing up – it took hardly any effort – and he walked up to her.

“What about Amy?” were the first words out of her mouth.

“Oh, she’ll be fine,” said Michener. “I’ve finally seen it.”

“Seen what?” she asked.

He held her tight and kissed her on the lips long and hard, then hugged her. He could still smell the intoxicating perfume that lingered in her golden hair. He would never let her go again. Amy would be taken care of by his mother, who would be heart-broken at first, but she had always been a woman of astounding mental strength. It never is bliss to attend a funeral, but for a parent to arrange the funeral of her son was punishment enough for her unnamed sins of her past years. Her chastity and her unquestionable purity of this life was a mockery to that effect.

“I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel, darling. It’s you,” he said and they both held each other.

Image Courtesy: TrekEarth.com

Second Chances: Best Non-Fiction?

Something interesting just happened. A story that I had written more than four years ago just won the APAC Regional Literary Award for best non-fiction. I don’t get any money, its just a recognition. And I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was completely fictitious. Anyway, here’s the story.

PS: Special thanks to Shruti Srivatsan for the nefarious idea and the inspiration.

SECOND CHANCES

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”

 – Elie Wiesel
American Author
Nobel Peace Prize 1986

second chances One of the greatest attributes of life is its ability to deny us what we really want and give us what we really need. My life has been a constant game of badly-played chess, with every move as unplanned and sometimes, as stupid as it can get. Talking about friends and how they helped me reconstruct a broken foundation takes me back three years – a time when I almost convinced myself that I was a burden to everyone around me and decided that there isn’t anything else that I can offer to the world.

My time here was up, and I had to make a quick exit – to end my life and escape to that blissful afterworld where there’re no more complaints, no more angry glances, no more walking into a room filled with people who stop in mid-sentence and look at me as though I’m an unwanted piece of garbage, no more hints and subtle suggestions about me being a loser – and I chose the tried and tested path of a blade to the wrist in a bathroom alone at night.

It was in my second year of undergrad course that I found out I was really a loser. The faculty treated me with disdain as if they were teaching me only because they were forced to, and my classmates never even acknowledged my presence, let alone talk to me. What was the point to all this, I thought. Why am I here? I don’t belong here because I am not wanted.

The situation at home wasn’t any different as my parents never really had the time to sit with me and talk about anything. There was a big pile of unopened progress reports on the refrigerator, and every day I looked at them in the hope that at least one of them would be opened. My grades were good but not great, and I just wanted my parents to know about the time I got a 25 on 25 in math or the time when I cleared the physics paper. I wasn’t asking for a pat on the back and I wasn’t asking for a present in return. All I wanted was for them to smile at me occasionally, or at least look at me. I returned every day to an empty house and an emptier home. My time was up.

There was only one person in whom I could confide everything and he was the only one whom I could call a friend, in the truest sense of the word. Aziz was a fellow undergrad in my school and we’d met each other during the first semester in the English class. He was also an introvert and this is what drew me to him. I looked at him and realized that we had a lot of things in common. He never spoke in class and was always very calm and quiet and kept mostly to himself. The friendship began with a mutual smile and a lunch.

We talked about school work and girls and chess (we both had the dream of playing for the school chess team) and how we never could muster the courage to enroll. We became good friends and met up as often as we could and as frequently as our very different class schedules allowed us. I could call him a friend.

There’re times in life when we expect something, and something totally different happens. A better way to put it would be, “Things never happen as planned.”

After a month of fighting with myself, I finally decided to confide in Aziz. I picked up the phone and called him. It was perhaps the most important phone call I’d ever make. Holding the blade tightly in my hand, I was crouching in the corner of my room, and watching the thin rivulets of blood dripping through my fingers from the force with which I clutched the blade, when the call went through and he answered.

Today, as I sit here in Buffalo, NY and write about this, I feel tears weighing my eyes down. The journey from being a hopeless loser to crossing the Atlantic and arriving in USA for a Masters has been entirely due to that phone call. Aziz spoke to me over the phone for three hours even though it was almost two in the morning, and spoke to me about things so important that I’d never really considered. Being twenty-one years of age and ending my life would never allow me to discover myself. There’s a solution for every crisis, and it’s not suicide. Life has so many things to show us and teach us and it will, only if we give it a chance to do so.

Ending one’s life is so easy, but re-building it isn’t.

Aziz died on June 27th, 2006 in Bangalore, India, after being diagnosed with a malignant type of blood cancer. I held his hand in the hospital on the 26th and told him that I’d got an admission into SUNY Buffalo to do my Masters’. He smiled through his pain and squeezed my hand tightly. He had lost his speech a week ago, but I knew what he wanted to say. “You’ve given life a chance to show you the world; don’t take that chance away.”

It’s been almost a month since I’ve come to the USA and every minute I spend here, I owe it to him. In a strangely ironic twist of fate, I landed myself an on-campus job at the Roswell Park Cancer Center. There’re people like Aziz in all of us and there’re people like the old me in all of us as well. It’s important that we make the right choice.

I did, and I’m thankful for it. It’s worth these tears. He’s worth it.