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Pune Memoirs (III): Dedicated to a friend and lifetime’s bond

Pune Memoirs, Third Year (2005-06)

Savera/Namaskar, Pune, 2006:

The ceiling fan slowly whirred to life in BJ Wadia library at Fergusson college and hot air percolated to battle the flies in the British style architectural marvel as the head was buried not inside the boring notes but the wooden table. I was feeling sleepy. It was a tale of swimming against the tide. Exams were around a corner which looked like a marathon run to cover ground and cursing the self for not studying for the entire year.

I accepted defeat and strutted my feet in the sweltering heat to wade past FC gate, crossing the road to land at our mecca, Savera. Sweat dropped on my face and the sticky skin.  I ordered coffee and removed a classic mild fag to lit. The huge table was shared by a couple of usual suspects and a dude that I came across and exchanged fleeting Hi struck a random conversation to ask who is my favorite actor.  I said Amitabh Bachchan. I never know that the Bachchan tag would stay forever with me by the entire gang and everyone knew me by that name in college. I almost forgot that I am Vishal.

He was a rockstar incarnate with the long hair locks and always sporting an unkempt beard to give the Beatles dude a run for their money. Meet Sudhendu. He became a friend in the short span of time that I have known him in Savera and the gang that we became with Koko, Chanda, Beast, Regy, Ajitabh Bhaiya and so many of us, laughing over mundane stuff and of course, muttering fuck bhenchod, madarchod over every small thing that we fret about. One dude that waded leisurely on FC Road and sitting at Savera with a diary and pen. There was no pretension and he defined what easy meant to souls. I can still see him in the Monsoon wearing his jeans pulled till the knee and strutted as if trouble never existed.

The first monsoon shower hit Pune and in the flick of seconds, heavy rains lashed on the city. I was bored sitting in the flat since during the afternoon and came to Savera looking for people to chill out with. The rain plopped inside our tea glasses as we sat outside in the smoking zone.  It was the carefree days. An era to be cherished over tobacco stench and intoxicating spirit of rain, friendship and sprinkle of water. College was over and was just hanging around in the city.

I was sitting at Savera wearing a favorite white shirt tucked inside the jeans. The rain shooed everyone away from Savera but I sat inside enjoying the rain and the crowd. He hailed me from outside, “Bachchan daaru piyega?” I was humphed with an ‘abhi’ expression alluding to the heavy rain.  It was simple and casual, “Baarish mein hi daaru peene chahiye (Rain is a good time to booze). He hailed me with his hand to join the gang.

The apartment was 10 minutes walk away from Namaskar. I ran back home to take money and scampered back to Namaskar which was just behind Savera and the inside compartment housing Dewar inside which are all part of the same compound. The entire gang was sitting outside and sheltered by the umbrella under the table with alcohol and starters flowing. I ordered the favorite Imperial Blue whisky and lit a smoke every now and then. In those days, I was a chain smoker like most of us in the gang…carefree smokers and monsoon bhewre. It was a monsoon treat offered by Vasant bhaiya and later Ajitabh Bhaiya joined the fun, along with Sudhendu we were having so much fun. I poured a peg of whisky and mixed with soda and ice. Sudhendu remarked, “Yeh apne hi jaise pita hai.” The rain was not in a mood to be tamed and after fighting under the umbrella, we decided to shift base inside the warm comfort but we witnessed moment with Vasant Bhaiya sitting in the heavy rain outside and adjusting the umbrella to save his alcohol from the rain when everyone was taking shelter inside.

The fun continued inside Namaskar and we were joined later by Koko whom I have met in a blank and eye moment at Savera having chai. It was the start of a long and lasting friendship. I already downed a couple of pegs and found myself shifting from English to Hindi when Sudhendu remarked, “Daaru pee ke ab Hindi mein baat kar raha hai.’ Today, it feels like a life-long memory and a dream sequence as if those priceless moments just happened a few seconds away.

The bamboo thread separated Savera and Namaskar. One moment we were sipping chai, coffee and SPDP. The next, we were having alcohol inside Namaskar to beat the cold that engulfed our legs and warmed the throat after being drenched in the monsoon magic of 2006. I remember that Friday when I was sitting with Sudhendu along with someone else, drinking inside Namaskar when he saw a chick walking out of the college gate past 7 p.m. She happened to be a classmate. We were smoking outside when he saw her. She was quite a hot mulgi in college in those days. He ran in the rain and asked her out for beer. We waited and expected the girl to accompany him inside. Sudhendu came alone. What happened was hilarious. The girl declined the beer invite and came up with this lamest excuse, ‘I am in a hurry. I have to go home for my Mom is waiting for me.’ We all laughed. A sheepish smile flashed on Sudiya bhai’s face.

Our conversation always veered to films, spirituality and of course, chicks. There was not a time when Sudhendu never spoke about girls to me and something which someone remarked just after he left for his destination. You should introduce me to the girls…how do you know her…she’s hot yaar. We spoke about sex life and we were like how things not happening in our lives.

I knew that he has always held me in high regard and remember the day that I hopped to Mumbai for my admission since I was planning to move there when the train blast happened in July.  He scrapped me on Orkut with, ‘Bachchan! What’s happening in Mumbai?’ It was his way of checking if I was fine.

There was a book that I was reading in those days, ‘Maximum City’ by Suketu Mehta at a time my fascination for Mumbai grew in leaps and bounds. The days of dreams and nurtured the aspiration of making it big in the film industry the time I would shift base. No wonder Maximum City gave wings to the dreams and the book was passed to Sudhendhu as well as to a couple of friends. It was Diwali when I came back to Pune and we were boozing in the car with C, reminiscing of the times spent with Sudhendhu who told him, ‘bhenchod dhyand se rakhna yaad se dena yeh Bachchan ka kitaab hai. Genuine hai Bachchan.’

There was another anecdote that happened much before we hit it off and it was in the good old Namaskar when he was sitting and drinking with some friends. I said Hi and joined them for a while but sensed some discomfort. I don’t remember well but I think he told me that they are having some reunion. I left but was somehow awkward and felt bad. But a couple of days later, he explained emphatically to me in Savera, ‘Sorry for the last time. But, you know they are very old friends and they won’t understand.’ It touched my heart for not many people would explain things. It’s on very rare instance that you meet such pure souls.

Savera was always the first place I hopped and a second home for us in Pune. I couldn’t imagine spending a single day in Pune without sitting inside our favorite hangout which has now pulled its shutters due to some court dispute. A couple of flaneur days were spent in Mumbai and came back to Pune when I walked past the table when I saw him sitting in the non-smoking zone with some chicks. He was like where I’ve been and me being me said, amchi Mumbai. He was a bit flustered on hearing it from my mouth since I do not hail from there and conveyed to me. I don’t remember what I said but something along these lines that either the city has adopted me or showering love on Mumbai that already embraced me. He cheerfully said, ‘Hum Saab ka Mumbai’ and adding prose to it, I was like, ‘Aap ka Mumbai…Mera Mumbai.’ Such was our friendship with the gang.

Sudhendu was one guy who always gave me cool names and was the first person who christened me with Bachchan pseudonym. But, it was not the last one. Cut back to the final year in college with two new entrants in our gang, A and S, a newly married couple who shifted from Kerala to Pune.  It was a lazy afternoon. I took S around for a guided visit inside our huge campus at Fergusson College and when her husband came in the evening, she enthusiastically told him that I showed her around the campus. Sudhendu being him and gave me a name which didn’t stay, Raju Guide.

The last time we had a conversation in Savera was long after I moved to Mumbai in the same year and came back to Pune which has always been home to me. It was probably the last time we met over coffee and smoke. We spoke about the Osho ashram and he asked me what’s the plan post-Mumbai, to which I said it’s settling back to Pune.  I vividly remember him telling me, ‘Most welcome.’

Post script:

The time I moved to the hostel in Mumbai, I lost my brand new handset, the prized Nokia 3330 and was out of touch with everyone. But, Orkut was the grace and small mercies to keep in touch. I haven’t logged on Orkut for a very long time in the cybercafé since I was down with malaria. The rain continued unabated in the city and after I logged, I received a scrap. I couldn’t believe it. Koko sent me, You must have received the terrible news by now…Sudhendu was washed by the rain at Khadakwasla Dam. I didn’t know what hit me on the head. How I hope it wasn’t true at all. A friendship made in such a short span of time but didn’t stay for long. Sudhendu’s death took along with him an immense part of the memories. But, I know he is still here and last week made 11 years when he passed away but I know that some equations are too hard to find but stays forever. He cemented our bond again.

We shall meet my friend someday in the sky and I know you are smiling reading the post.



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Pune Memoirs (III): Protesting against reservation, ideology and friendship

Pune Memoirs, 2005/06:

Third year in Pune

May 28, 2006:

The TYBA (Third Year) exams were finally over. Everyone waited in anticipation for the results that were delayed forever. I was constantly making this stupid joke of pulling a Rang De Basanti (RDB) climax at the University, reeling under the effect of the film that could be a mass movement in college. I was not the only one under the effect of RDB, it seems.

We were all counting the days, sitting and whining time at our college hang out in Savera with the gang. A bigger movement was taking shape all over India and it spread from one city to another, that ultimately reached Pune. Students all over the country, from  MBBS, engineers and arts, were angry over the latest measure announced by the Government and the HRD Minister Arjun Singh to go ahead with the reservation of 27 percent seats in premier institutions like AIMS, IIT and IIM for the OBC castes. We were young and reckless. After all, 20s is the age to protest against discrimination, misplaced merit which we viewed as negative discrimination to garner a vote bank.

It was a Sunday. I was bored sitting in the flat.  On that day, I took off early morning at Savera, picking up the morning newspapers and sipping countless cups of filter coffee and chai. I received an sms from P who became a close friend during the last year in college, where we were hanging out together at Savera to puff and indulging in gup shup. I walked back to the flat that was minutes away from Savera on FC road to take a shower and hastily walked back to my favorite restaurant for a quick meal. I met Sudhendhu on my way out when P buzzed, asking me to wait outside since she is on her way in the rickshaw where I’ll be picked on FC Road.

The movement was hosted by Youth For Equality and everyone would assemble at Saras Baug, Bajirao Road near Swargate where we would march from Saras Baug to Tilak Road, Deccan Corporation to end our march at Shanivar Vada. As we reached the venue, we could see flags flying against reservation and cops surveying the students’ movement with rumors spreading like wildfire that students were lathi charged.

Fortunately, nothing of the sort happened the time we reached post lunch at 1 pm and things started to move fluidly where we walked peacefully and in a disciplined manner following the crowd on a line on the bustling roads in the city. It was quite a long march and can’t remember the last time I plodded my feet for so long. We strongly believed in ideology and a quest for a better and equal India that shouldn’t have a room for discrimination.

Image credit: India.
An outside view of Sambhaji Garden off JM Road in Pune.

Today, it’s a different story that my ideology has shifted drastically away from the misplaced capital system where I find myself more in sync with leftist socialism. Needless to say, I have a significantly altered view-point on the whole reservation issue after reading several scholar articles on groups lacking access to education and there is a certain ground reality that we cannot ignore.

As we sweated it in the sun, we indulged in discussion on the whole issue between sharing fags and P rightly observed that this march wouldn’t make any difference to a chai or paan wala who is more concerned to make both ends meet, ensuring that his children don’t sleep on an empty stomach and on how to send them to school. It’s a valid point that has relevance even in today’s times. Time was flying fast on this otherwise boring Sunday where it didn’t struck us that it was almost past 4 pm as we sat at the Chattrapati Shambaji Garden on JM Road sipping chai and resting our tiring legs.

It was fun times to be in the city. I constantly pulled P during the entire year in Savera and she would get angry, protesting at my antics and the next breaking into a cackle of laughter. But, we were thinkers who could also have a passionate debate about issues. We spoke about a classmate who was planning for DU (Delhi University)  and has boasted about how he will never go through reservation under foreign quota, but would rather give entrance exams. But, sometimes, ideology fails when it doesn’t suit your interest. The man who faced the truth about the DU exams decided to opt for a seat under the quota, ultimately. It can happen with people where all their self-claimed ideologies go for  a toss. I found it ludicrous. Why boast about ideology when you will ultimately choose the easiest route?

At that time, I was trying for Mumbai University to do my Masters and was eligible under the NRI quota but decided that I am not going for it. As a proud Indian, I told the administration that trying under the merit list suits me when my results will come. It was either a do or die situation for me. It was one of the reasons that I was anxious about the result getting delayed and desperately praying to secure a first class. Ultimately, I sealed my seat in the Second Merit List at Kalina Campus. Delay meant not being in time for admission and there was always the risk of being royally fucked in the ass. I shared it with P who told me, ‘I am so proud of you Vishal.’

We parted ways in the evening. The cherry on the cake was that we crossed the path with N who was apparently the darling of college dudes and on whom I had such a soft crush in the first year. We cheerfully said Hi to her and exchanged pleasantries, talking about the reservation march for few minutes before she disappeared.

It was one of the memorable friendships carved during the college days with P and the bond that makes everything so vivid as if it was yesterday only. How I wish time would never fly so fast! I mean, we take every good thing for granted and at that juncture in life, we never realize that nothing stays forever but the only thing that would matter are the memory, friendships, and bonds. It was the last days that I was spending in Pune where good things were escalating one after the other that would make one miss the place like hell. College life was almost over. The best in my life.




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Wisp of memory, friendship and a mark sheet

A lifetime may not be sufficient to add zing to existence as we revisit old papers, certificates, and postcards spanning over more than a decade. The memories carved and wreathed in our soul makes it feel like a dream that never happened and burst like a colorful balloon the moment we are up in the morning. Friendships, silly pranks and silent wishes or wisp of happiness, fun, and bonding billowed like smoke disappearing in the sky and dust.

One often wonder where have all those years smacking of goodness or jelly moments disappeared in the flit of seconds. It feels so unreal when one harks back to the past that empowers and continue to define our present. Maybe our future, too. I just feel like blowing colorful balloons with tiny messages in paper chits and let them flow and soar higher in the sky. I never thought that after 11 years or more, I will laminate mark sheet, revisiting the first dash of Mumbai Monsoon in 2007.  It was in those days when I received the TYBA results and landed in Mumbai just after the train blast to speed up procedures for past grads. I just graduated in Pune. I remember calling friends to tell that I am fine and not to worry post the terror attack. It started raining in the morning when I woke up and crossed the road towards the Xerox shop that was opposite the hotel to get the fresh mark sheet laminated in Mumbai Central.

But, this time it was the best friend’s FYBA’s mark sheet that I laminated and sent to him by post two weeks back. It’s intriguing how his first year mark sheet staying with me for more than a decade. In the earlier posts, I told you that he got married in Mumbai but yours truly missed it. So, I decided to send him a wedding card. Yeah! I still prefer hand-made cards to this whole online wishes in the form of a card. I am old-fashioned that way for I doggedly believe that a proper card with ink poured over paper and writing a postal address brings so much warmth. The surprise gift was the mark sheet and last week, he whatsapped and so happy that he got the same. We tried to remember how his first year result stayed with me. There are two possibilities, one when he travelled with his ex and gave me some documents since I was the one who collected his results and secondly post our final, I had to get him some paper from college. But, I ain’t sure how the document conspired to land in my personal file. In the hum-drum, I hastily moved to Mumbai since our results came late and one year later, he hopped to the Kangaroo land, Australia.

The man was happy to get back his mark sheet which is intriguing to both of us since he told me that he always keeps handy first year Xerox.  It’s what you call friendship and the deep bond we shared that always binds us.  The past can do wonder to hearts and souls where a simple thing as a document can weave the strings of hearts strummed like the sound of music to touch us in places. Of course, I did make a Xerox as a reminder of those carefree days of friendship, leg pulling, smoking in the pot and alcohol flowing in the veins.

Time flits so easily that it knocks us in such a way that we don’t stop for a while to think about the moments that elapsed in front of us. I really wonder, where have all those days gone when we made the most of life and it was calling living, unlike now. We were not much into social media during that time and warm conversation plus laughter were shared over a cup of chai or coffee. Time is karmic. The worse with Karma is that it doesn’t give you the time to take a breath and hold the memories like pearls flowing inside the palm of your hands. Collecting memories can boost our mind. The dream of the impossible to thrust time backwards to relive those moments is the delusional thing that we humans may not be willing to do. Will time let itself not to flicker with speed? Often, I am plagued with such questions in skeltering with time.

The month of June was also Dad’s birthday where he would have turned 75 years old. It been 11 from now that he suddenly sunk into a coma before passing away. I was in Mumbai and had to rush home in no less than two days. Luckily, I saw him still alive on the hospital bed and one week later he breathed his last at home in front of me. The childhood moments that play in the mind and Dad’s voice whispering in the ear during my sleep is a sign of presence. I shall leave before this whole post becomes emotional and be back in a brand new post next week, speaking about Dad and the signs our loved ones send from heaven.



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Relationships, love and complexities

A dear blogger friend whose views resonates with me and whose opinions I value a lot wrote on her space about relationships, hope and the act of busy falling in love with friendship and people. It’s a dichotomy of the sort as we get used to people and most of the times, we fail to see the blurred line between falling in love with people and getting used to them. It can get very tricky. Read this post on The Idea-Smithy blog.

It got me thinking how often I have fallen in and out of love with various people during the carefree, student days and in not too recent times. But, truth be told, as I age, it’s been a tale of perfecting my art of running away from love owing to the fact that the most serious relationship didn’t work out. It hurt me a lot and questioned my belief in what we call love. Why the fuck that we fall for people? It left me wondering whether I will ever find love, as it is I am in my mid-30s? Being a seeker is my most favorite phrase to describe the self.

Relationships are tricky and complex. Love is an oxymoron. What we believe is love can be as simple as just getting used to people. It’s true that we don’t want conflicts in our relationships and expect things to be honky-dory. I don’t want to commit or carry the burden of long-standing relationships. But, it’s also true, that there is the inherent fear of rejection. Yes, it makes me insecure at times.  Over the years, I have grown up not believing in marriage as an institution since I am bothered about it taking away my space as a person or stifling my emotional freedom as a person. Or, truth be told bluntly, I fear being turned down. It’s my belief that marriage can be suffocating and prevent human growth since we are trapped into society’s beliefs of what is wrong or right.

It has been a habit with me in the past to fall into people with whom I connected with. See, I am an emotional sucker and thrive on them. But, that doesn’t mean that I like to suffocate people. It’s the last thing that I can ever think of doing. It’s also true that I don’t want to hurt the self in a relationship for the strong belief instilled in me that I am done and dusted with that. But, should it be reason enough to run away? When that relationship didn’t work out, I choose to run away from Mumbai. Yet, I was armed with an unflinching hope that things would finally work between us and like some magic, love will surprise me. It was a relationship fraught with complexities, I am Hindu and she is Muslim. I hail from a conservative family and our respective parents would never accept to sanctify this relationship. That’s the issue with us humans: We are always looking for social sanction. How flawed our value judgments are?

I am always in two minds, whether I should be in a relationship or not. At one moment, I tell the self to close the eyes and go for the kill and the next, it’s like that I don’t have time for all this. It’s the biggest lie. Why as humans we want to kill the hope and optimism as free birds in relationships? I am aware that I am no longer in my 20s but mid-30s where mature decisions have to be taken? But, then, a heart knows no reasoning or logic.

It always happens with me when I fall in love with friendships where there is always the fear of risking it and ending losing both love and friendship. Love may reach an expiry date but friendship never does. I guess, there is no clear-cut answer when it comes to dating, love or relationships. We should never shy in dating someone for it teaches us a lot. There is no guarantee that the relationship will stand the test of time because who knows what will happen tomorrow.

I think it is important for all of us to be positive and build on hope, in all our relationships or interactions in the routine of life. As humans, we are shaky and an upset, big or small can pull the trigger to make us vulnerable and losing faith or trust in people. I have realized there is no point in crying hoarse over regret and be open to dating without prejudices or expectations. True, loving freely without expectations work for me since I am nurturing the idea of not indulging in self-hurt.

With love


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Changing equation of friendship

Strange things are happening to me.  It’s been a few days that I am getting carried away by an emotional turmoil and today I felt the pang which compelled me to ping a friend on Gchat. I told her, ‘I need to vent things out’. It’s a guilt feeling inside. I dunno whether I am feeling better or not after uncorking the bottle of feeling.

In Dil Chahta Hai, the three best buddies Sid, Sameer and Akash head to Goa where the latter watch a ship at a looming distance which he equated to their lives and will disappear in a while. Sid says something about how the three of them will chart unique destinations and no one knows where life will take them. In ten years time, it will be almost impossible for them to meet once. Strangely, it is happening to me right now.

My best friend just got hitched in February to his childhood sweetheart and he came down from Australia to get married in India. Since we are in two different countries, I couldn’t fly to India to attend his wedding and it was something that I was so fucking sure to do. I am still feeling so bad about it. It came to my realization how in 10 years, it would be impossible for besties to meet and it was in 2006 that he left India and I moved out in 2008.

How time flies! We take our lives for granted, right from the time I and Adi spent the most wondrous moments in college, to playing silly pranks and fighting over mundane things. I never thought that we would be sitting on the opposite end of the fence and that life would make us sink in the humdrum of making money, shifting jobs and starting things all over again. I mean, we are so caught up with things and circumstances that sometimes we cannot take the time to be with those who have seen the best and worst of us. I am feeling very bad not to be with the bestie on one of the most special days of his life. Has friendship grown so thin as time flew!

It got me thinking about how the whole equation changes as someone ties the knot? Have you ever thought about it? There are friends with whom we make lifelong memories and hang out together or on Whatsapp, chat or phone if you are in different parts of the globe and suddenly he or she makes the announcement of getting hitched. Time suddenly takes its toll on friendship and life. Things will not remain the same as the person gets married and moves forward in life. It’s the changing equation of friendship. After all, they have to make their life or start a family. It matters. Friendship does matter.

It’s been bothering me for quite a while. I know that it can look stupid in places. After all, life never stays static. I mean, I am someone who was never close to family or relatives but my life always revolved around friends who means the most rather than the former. Technology is replacing relationships. Circumstances make relationships evolve over time and what remain are plain memories of crazy times spent together which gave us the impression at that time that things shall never fade away. The priceless moments keep playing in the head as if it was yesterday only you were meeting your friends in college, going bonker over your latest crush and your bestie ingenious way of devising a plan how to get introduced to that chick. Memories and life beyond that!

It’s true that you need to live with this fact of life that things change once you are settled. The phone calls would be less or may be, the communications would be restricted to Facebook, a once-in-a-blue-moon message on WhatsApp in exchange for a smiley.

How much we give to friendship without making the effort and we bond, getting attached to each other as human beings? Why it happens with some people and not the others? Such questions are plaguing me. I mean, it’s humanly impossible to run away to your closest friends after every single issue and you cannot obviously fly now and then. Like in my case, I was super confident that we would meet and was looking for a personal loan to travel but since I couldn’t pay the previous one on maturity time as a result of my earlier job where we were paid salary after two months since the company was facing losses, I stood disqualified.

Such is life, circumstances, and friendship. The equations change and not everything is in our hands. But, it taught me a lesson: Save for rainy days and take an insurance if one’s savings is zero. In friendship, I believe and memory treasured. One should make the most of life for we never know where that ship may leave us that it would be impossible to spot our own shadow in the stormy sea and crashing waves.

This post is also linked to #MondayMusings on Everyday Gyaan.





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Fiction: Come and kill friendship, you emasculated terror force!

Dhaka, Bangladesh:

The sun shone bright in Dhaka on this Friday afternoon. It was a special day to celebrate friendship that flew from India, to Bangladesh and reached United States. It’s been six months since Neha, Arfaaz and Chrissy crossed the seas and oceans to study at Boston University in United States where they met each other in class for the first time and in no time, bonded over theater and dramatics. The three became inseparable friends whose hearts longed and pinned for each other like burst of oxygen that make nerves alive.

Neha hailed from New Delhi and was a huge fan of water sports, cricket, football and drooled over Virat Kohli. Like Neha, Arfaaz loved his home country Bangladesh and would never miss an opportunity to watch his favorite team play cricket. Of the two, Chrissy who came from Switzerland remained objective to the game of cricket and was naturally coaxed into following the game. She was a witness to the  friendly squabble but heated at times between Arfaaz and Neha who fought valiantly when India and Bangladesh played each other. The trio breathed pure friendship and longed for each other in a language that only pure hearts can understand. They were one soul intertwined in three bodies, rising above prejudices that humans have.

The adventures and silly jest played by Arfaaz  in the middle of the night made the girls yell in the middle of night when Arfaaz would scare them to death, playing a wandering white ghost.  In turn, he was blessed with words such as jerk by the girls. The trios were characters that came straight out of movies and were like the flawless lining in the white cloud. Neha, Arfaaz and Chrissy always roamed together at the university and cycling past the green field, wearing same colors like triplets, born from different mothers in uniquely vast lands.

Arfaaz who is a pious Muslim, never missed a day of fasting and as Ramzan was approaching, he packed his bag to join his parents in Bangladesh. The girls were missing their best buddy when they decided to surprise him during the holidays. They book their flight one frosty Thursday at JFK International airport to reach Bangladesh the next day. It was on Friday that they checked in a hotel and the chirpy girls decided to beat Arfaaz at his own game. They messaged him from a local mobile, pretending to be a local Bangla girl smitten by his charm for a date, or else, she will land  in front of his house. Poor Arfaaz had no option but to meet the mysterious girl, wore his most expensive tuxedo on a plain white shirt and blue denim to reach the cafe.

He walked inside, scanning the crowd with his eyes and sat on the table where the waiter greeted him with a birthday cake. Arfaaz had a sudden inkling that someone has pulled a fast one on him when his phone beeped, ‘Happy birthday Jaanu.’ He was taken aback and messaged back, ‘How do you know it’s my birthday?’ The reply came in the flick of second, ‘I know everything about you.’ He almost lunged from his chair when two voices chortled behind his back and blasted in his ear, ‘Happy birthday, Jaanu.’ Arfaaz couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Neha and Chrissy and jumped off his chair where the three hugged like long-lost siblings.

A stirring thud was heard outside the cafe, festooned with artistic scribble, paintings and decorations. Rifles were tossed and the floor buckled under the feet of Arfaaz, Neha and Chrissy who clung to each other, shaking in fear. A cohort of men wearing black fired at their whim and fancy, powder rattled the cafe that exhaled smokes and humans fell like ripe mangoes.  Two of the gun men heckled the three friends in a corner as the girls bellowed at such inhuman massacre, their legs tripped on blood soaked bodies lying on the floor. The terrorist asked in a ferocious voice, “Your name?” He shook in fear, “A-r-f-a-a-z.” He urged him to go away while Neha and Chrissy, the infidels, were tightly clutched to each other.

Arfaaz meekly protested, “I am not moving away. We will die together. We belong to different wombs but are one soul. There can be no bigger power than love and humanity. Your hatred can never destroy us. It’s my Eid wish. Allah believes in peace.”

The gun men pushed the three friends and banged their forehead to the wall, “Then, die and languish in hell with the Kafirs.” Three gun shots hit the forehead of Arfaaz, Neha and Chrissy who collapsed on the floor, hands locked and tumbled together. They remained united in life and death.

Friendship is like the flowing river and smeared in blood, thicker than water. The three friends stood for the power of love and undying quest of passionate friendship that defeated fear and terror on the day. Some wars are won in death, something which is beyond the faces of hatred and terror.

Make love not war.

Post script: It’s a fiction and inspired by the lives of three friends Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain who choose death over life by staying with his friends, Tarishi Jain and Abinta Kabir who perished in the terrorist attack in Dhaka. There are some wars that can only be won in death. Power to such friendship and people like Faraaz honors such friendship with sacredness. The story is a tribute to lives lost by forces of hatred in every place in the world.

With Love