When I was a child, I had a friend in the neighborhood. A smart (and slightly nerdy) kid, not unlike myself. We used to hang out, play badminton and do physics experiments. By the time we were teenagers, we kind of drifted apart, as our paths diverged. Later on, I went the IIT-USA, global-citizen-route and ended up in Singapore. He, of more modest ambitions, stayed back at home, and got a job roughly similar to what my father used to do. I kept hearing of him, although I never really ran into him. He got married, probably had a couple of kids, and everything must have been going smoothly, even a bit dully. But a couple of years ago he suddenly died of leukemia.
The news of the death of a friend is a bit of a milestone in life. It is a reminder that your generation is beginning to wilt and wither, falter and fall. This particular death was actually the fourth one (that I know of) among my contemporary friends and classmates. Yes, we have begun to fade away.
This death also gave me a sense of incompleteness, or the opposite of closure. In order to explain it fully, I have to tell you about my strange relationship with pens. It started early. When I was about four, I smashed my dad’s favorite pen, as a favor to him. About ten years later, I lost another fancy pen, which resulted in a lesson in tough love – presumably a favor to me. The tough-love treatment probably left me depressed for a while, and this childhood friend of mine kindly and selflessly gifted me his own fancy Parker pen to ease my pain.
It was secret project of mine to get him a decent Parker pen some day. I always felt that I had time, and never got around to doing it. All of sudden, I find myself too late. I do have couple of other secret projects like this one, I hope the targets and I stay alive long enough to see them through. But who knows, may be the completion of the project may have been a flop, an anti-climax. When I hand over my precious gift, heavy with long years of anticipation and emotions, the recipient may well say something like, “I don’t know what you are talking about, mate, but thanks anyway!” I guess the gift is not so much for them, but for myself, and I do hope I don’t run out of time again.