Sunday, April 30, 2006

The face of a sleeping angel

When I was a little girl, I used to spend my summer holidays at my grandma's place. I remember that particular year very clearly, even though it happened ages ago. It was my cousin Sid's birthday, and a grand party was going on. The kids were all on the terrace. Sid and his friends were playing a wild game of 'Run after the hapless Sayesha, burst a balloon near her ear and make her cry'. After an exhausting game which went on way past our bedtime, we started randomly flopping all over the big room upstairs. I did not even realise when I fell asleep.

The next morning, I was woken up by the sunbeams streaming into the room through the glass windows. As soon as I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. It was a face of beauty, of serenity, of innocence. It was the face of a sleeping angel.


It was the face of Som, Sid's best friend.

Freaked out by my own staring, I ran out of the room, and proceeded to avoid him for the rest of the summer. And this continued in the years to come. I'd be playing nonsensical games with Sid and his brothers, and as soon as Som walked in, I'd walk off. Whenever they'd be going to the park or to eat pani puri, they'd ask me to join them, and I'd decline.

Scared of the unfamiliar feelings I had experienced when I had looked at him that morning, I just did not want to see him.

Years later, something strange happened. I think I was about twelve or so. There was a letter in the mail for me. It was a 'love letter' from Som, telling me that he could not stop thinking about me. He'd got my address from Sid just so he could tell me about his feelings. All that at the age of twelve. He had enclosed his photograph and had asked me to send mine, with the specific instruction not to tell anyone about this. Puppy love. Sheesh.

I showed the letter to my sister. Then I went and told my Mom and showed her the letter. I believe she and Dad had a good laugh over the letter.

I believed that one day, when both of us were all grown up, Som and I would have a good laugh over it too.

But at that point in time, he was screwed. He knew that if he received no reply from me, it would mean that my Mom knew. And he was terrified of my Mom. Because my Mom and his Dad were childhood friends. And if his Dad found out, he'd be taken to task.

But Mom was wise enough not to make a big deal out of such child's play, and I was thankful to her for that. Sid pretended not to know anything, but he'd tease me now and then about Som, and say things like I was destined to get married to Som. "He wishes and you wish, man!" I'd say.

The next time we went to grandma's place in the summer holidays, I did not see Som around. Earlier he'd be at our place every single evening. But that year, he had completely stopped coming to our house. He'd turn up for Sid's birthday party, but he'd completely hide from me. He even came up with secret codes to avoid seeing Mom or me. He'd ring the doorbell thrice to indicate that it was him at the door, and Sid & co would go off with him. This continued for a few years.

I finally saw him a few years later. He was still very very good-looking, but he had put on a lot of weight. Prosperity does that to people, they said. His Dad was one of the richest guys in town. They owned a movie theatre, a hotel, a restaurant, a sweets shop, and had some other businesses too. Som, Sid and Sid's bro rarely ate at home. They would eat most of their meals at Som's restaurant. And all that unhealthy food was showing on him. That year, I bumped into him in the living room and we exchanged polite hellos. It was weird to meet him after so many years, to not have him run after me with an inflated birthday balloon pressed between his hands, screaming, "I'm coming for you, Sayesha! Watch out!" I guess we had finally grown up. And I thought we could go back to being friends the way we were. But we could not. There was an awkward silence in the room, and Sid and he left shortly afterwards.

In the years to follow, something or the other came up and I could not go for my annual summer holidays to grandma's place. But I did hear about Som now and then. About him neglecting his health, about his drinking, about some issue with some girl. I started to feel more and more negative towards him.

"He is spoilt rotten, and he's spoiling you guys too!" I'd say disapprovingly to Sid and his younger brother.

"But he's my best friend!" Both of them would say. Sheesh.

"First of all, decide whose best friend he really is. And if he considered you guys his best friends, he wouldn't be ruining your lives, along with his own of course. All that unhealthy food, the drinking... the getting into fights... "

They wouldn't listen and I'd get angrier and angrier at the guy. Of course my cousins were to be blamed just as much as he was, but somehow I saw Som as the leader of the pack.


The last time I saw him was at my cousin's wedding last year. He had put on more weight, and had a goatie that I found quite disgusting. He was not the handsome Som anymore. I was also told of his 'accident' where he'd lost a tooth, but no one would tell me what exactly had happened. I am sure it had something to do with a gang fight. The guys were involved in a lot of gang stuff. During the wedding reception, we were all dancing on stage and he spoke to me briefly afterwards. Nothing much, just casual 'Hello' stuff. The guys were drinking a lot, and we cautioned them to be careful when on the way home.

The same night, Som was involved in an accident due to drunk driving. When Sid recounted the incident to me the next morning, he looked so terrified. "You know Apa, when I saw him lying on the road like that... not moving... I thought he was... dead, you know." He was still shaken.

"Sid, what is wrong with Som?? Why is he ruining his life like this?? He's such a brilliant chap, and he can do so much with his life. But every now and then, he goes and messes up somewhere. And I hope you guys are not aping his lifestyle!"

The truth was - they were. And it worried me. And what frustrated me most was that I wanted to care only about my cousins. I did not want to care about Som. But I did. We had grown up together, he was my childhood friend.

But that year, I gave up on Som forever.

"Is ladke ka kya hoga?" ("What will become of this chap?") I thought dismissively.

I had not expected my question to be answered in the manner that it was.

A few days ago, Mom called to tell me that last month, Som suffered a stroke resulting from high blood pressure, and was immediately hospitalised. They operated on him, but he went into a coma. Sid and his brother flew down to India from London to see him, but it was too late.

Thousands of miles away from me, a guy my age, my childhood friend, had passed away on his best friend's birthday. He had died of something that people our age don't.

I wasn't close to him. I hadn't even sorted out my feelings for him. I shouldn't care much. But for some reason I do.

Som and I never really had that laugh that I thought we'd have. In fact, every time I met him, I disliked him a bit more than the last time.

But when I close my eyes and picture him, I don't see the drinking, I don't see the unhealthy lifestyle, I don't see the disgusting goatie, I don't see the missing tooth, I don't see the excess weight. I don't see the rich spoilt brat that I had grown to loathe over the years.

I see what I had seen years ago on the bed in that big room on the terrace.

The face of a sleeping angel.



29 comments:

shub said...

ouch.

Siddhu said...

Poor guy!

I almost can't believe it...terrible!!

I hope your cousins are out of the vicious lifestyle that this guy had.

In the beginning, I wondered if it would be a sweet love story or something - nothing seriously prepared me for the end.

Oh, andyeah, silver!

Macho Girl said...

Things change i guess... Unfortunately, things change for the worse quite often... Thats quite a sad thing to happen to the sleeping angel...

pandora said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pandora said...

a touching one...can't really think of what to comment!

feelings well expressed...

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Uh, sad. I really don't know what else to say...unfortunate.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

ouch!! sad, really. i pity the parents too..

Rohit Talwar said...

Really sad. Jeezz.. Very.

Deepu said...

A touching post...

Sayesha said...

#Shub,
:(

#Siddhu,
My cousins have realised... I just wish they didn't have to learn in this way :(

#Macho Girl,
Yeah... it was quite a shock to all of us... even though we knew he was screwing up his life, I never thought he'd lose it so soon...

#Neha,
I know yaar... even I don't know what to think or how to react...

#World Girl,
Yeah... it was very unfortunate...

#Ipanema Girl,
Yeah, I can't even imagine what the parents must be going thru.. :(

#Rohit,
Yeah...

#Deepu,
Thanks... I just hope that wherever he is now, he's happy...

jade said...

life is traitorous.... or is it us?
i'm sorry to hear abt Som.
i didnt expect such an end to the post...

chandu said...

touching!!

really sad to see such an abrupt end at an early stage of life.

Vikram said...

Holy Molly...

It's really unfortunate the way he passed.

But I don't know if you can say it's the drinking which caused it. It was probably in his genes but drinking just speeded it up.

I don't know why people always mention drinking and the kind of person in the same breath. You are what you are and drinking is not going to change you. "Oh he has taken to drinking? That's so bad". How can it be bad? I agree you wouldn't be in your senses when you are intoxicated but that doesn't mean certain events won't be under your control. Drinking just breaks the barrier of expressing your inner most thoughts. If he already had an idea about getting into gang stuff, then drinking just made it easy for him. Drinking didn't give him the idea to get into it.

Seriously, sometimes I feel people are being friviolous when they say "Dinking causes all bad things to happen". I mean, drinking doesn't cause anything bad to happen apart from a few health disorders. Everything else is still under your control even if you are wasted beyond recognition.

Anonymous said...

I think Vikram, u need a drink..:P

cheers,
TIG

Nandya said...

poignant.....

Anonymous said...

The bible says "The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10:10)
The life of a young man has been destoyed. Bible also says "God created people to be upright, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path" (Ecclesiates 7:29).

There is only one way to over come this evil in this life. That is to have God in our lives and allow him to protect us from we being led in the downward path. Jesus said "I am the way truth and life". In Jesus everyone can find the fullness and abundant life.

Vikram said...

@Anon,

Jesus?! What the hell is wrong with you dude? Don't try to cash in on this situtation to preach christianity. I have seen enough of that and even faced them face to face to say that they are freakin' wrong to take advantage of vulnerable people. Just keep it to yourself ok? If people really wish to be "convert" to a differnt religion, they will do so. Please don't commence this propoganda about christanity bulls*it.

Sayesha said...

#Jade,
Thanks yaar... no one expected such an end :(

#Chandu,
Yeah... every time I think about the fact that he was my age, my heart just sinks. :(

#Vikram,
It was not the alcohol, it was the amounts and the irresponsibilities associated with it... like drunk driving and all that... his high blood pressure was probably caused by his unhealthy lifestyle, perhaps his genes too.

#TIG,
Viks is just getting hyper cos he feels alcohol is being attacked. Pagal kahin ka.

#Hotwinter,
Would appreciate if you don't make a mockery of this.

#Anonymous,
You're welcome to have your own thoughts on this, but please don't bring the whole Jesus thing into this incident, as it has nothing to do with this.

#Viks,
Thanks yaar.

HOTWINTER said...

True, Life is so short.

Manish said...

really touching way to express abt ur childhood fren !

Rays Of Sun said...

:(
Very touchy post, cant stand to see someone depart:(

Sayesha said...

#Hotwinter,
Yeah... short and unpredictable...

#Manish,
Thanks yaar.

#ROS,
I wasn't there to see him go. I dunno how I would have reacted then :(

Rebellion said...

A very touching post Sayesha...

I don't really know what to say, apart from the fact that the story was painful.. kinda got tears in my eyes (Yeah.. am that stupid senti!)

Don't know what reminded you of him but... just hoping your fine.

God rest his soul in peace.

Take care,
Aarti

Sayesha said...

#Hey Aarti,
Thanks for your wishes yaar... I hope too that he is happy wherever he is.

Nandya said...

poignant...

i was ignored the last time i left this comment

Sayesha said...

#Nandu,
Oh no! Sorry I missed your earlier comment! It wasn't intentional! :O I wasn't ignoring you re... I only ignore anonymous commentators who have nothing useful to say.

Arrowhead said...

Sayesha, I read about your loss. This is what I believe.

Life is like an oil lantern. We don't really know how much oil there is in the lantern. But we do have the choice of protecting the flame from the wind. If I have done my best in protecting the flame, I'd say I've lived my full life. If I didn't watch the flame and if I'm snuffed out, I can't blame anyone but myself. There was still oil left in the lamp.

I don't drink but I do eat junk. I don't exercise and I stress sometimes and I don't lead life as I'm supposed to - balanced. I'd say I'm not protecting the flame. If I die of a lifestyle disease, no point saying 'it was time' (woulnd't make a difference at that point but you get my drift..).

Pri said...

very touching...i almost had tears in my eyes...the conclusion especially...the thing that struck me first was not of the death somehow...what struck me was the goodness of ur heart sayesha...i thought it was beautiful...aft all the pain u;ve gone thru with this person...aft everythin that happened...the memory that lingers is of that angelic face u saw years ago...somehow i got reminded of this fwd i received..."Time does not wait for u or me
days pass...
years pass...
u lose ur loved ones
u move away from ur loved ones...
ur life changes...
friends change ppl change
BUT>>>
ur heart has those special moments etched in it whether u want it or not...makin u happy at sad times and even sad at happier times...
moments in a corner where no one can see what it is...they ask seeing ur faceand u jus smile and say...NOTHING

Spiderman said...

"TIME IS VERY LESS DESITNATION IS FAR V R SOMETHING AND OUR FATE IS SOMETHING"

VAKTH KUM HAI MANZIL DOOR HAI
HUM KUCH HAIN AUR HAMARI KISMAT KUCH AUR HAI