It was just three days before Diwali when she got the call. Celebrations had started. Delhi had already started beautifying itself with the lights.
My roommate was quite upset about having to celebrate Diwali away from home for the first time. My heart ached to see her like that. But then, unexpectedly, her family made arrangements for her to visit home. I was so happy for her. I could see the excitement and happiness in her eyes.
But then later on, she got another call from home, and within no time, I saw how her expression changed, how her face had turned pale. She started shivering, tears started to well up in her eyes. I held her and asked her for the reason; she couldn’t form coherent words to answer me. I took her phone to ask the person on the other side about what she had been told. I heard something, but I thought I had heard it wrong. Her aunt repeated it to me again: “Arti passed away.”
My eyes filled with tears, my heart cried, my lips fell silent and my mind stopped to function.
My roommate’s best friend, Arti, had died in an accident. The best friend she would talk about for hours on end; the best friend she had some misunderstanding with and a result they had not spoken to each other in a few months. Yet, my roommate would talk about her to us, about the bond they shared, about the memories worth remembering.
“Give her the phone,” said her aunt to me, “I’ll tell her that she’s not dead, that it was just a rumor because she had met with a little accident. We’ll handle her once she comes home; for now I think we should say this lie to her that her Arti is safe.”
When told, my roommate quickly believed in the lie, perhaps because she didn’t want to believe what she had been told first, and she knew her best friend had to be fine in order for them to patch up and be friends again.
“Just pretend to act like everything is normal,” I repeated in my head, again and again.
That day, she kept talking about her best friend throughout the day. On hearing that her friend was fine, she was on cloud nine. She had decided that the first thing she would do, on reaching home, was to set aside her ego, leave behind their differences and go meet Arti.
But I didn’t know what to say to her. I couldn’t tell her that it was not going to happen. That she will never get to talk to her friend again.
She felt that this time the festival of lights had really brought back the light in her life. What could I tell her, that I could only see darkness?
Without her knowledge, I called her friends, telling them not to disclose anything to her. They understood why: she was away from home. She’d need her family when she learns of the truth. We are good friends, but we have only known each other for three months.
I had never met her best friend, and yet, it was all so painful, so shattering, so agonizing! Losing a friend, a true friend, is never easy. It, in fact, is one of the most difficult tests that life can subject an individual to. I don’t remember how many times I cried that day, I don’t know how many times I hid my face from her so she wouldn’t see me cry.
Later that day, she came up to me and said, “Will you accompany me to Archies? I need to get some cards for Arti. I’m finally going to talk to her and I have to make up for the time I lost while we weren’t on talking terms.”
Those words killed me inside. Why are you testing me this way, God? I thought.
At that moment, I felt like I could stand it no longer and I scolded her. I shouted at her for thinking of something so outdated. But what else could I do? She kept talking of Arti all day. At one point, she told me, “I was too excited to go home but I don’t know why I fear it now. I fear going home tomorrow. What could this feeling be?” To which I responded with the typical ‘I don’t know’ look.
I felt really sorry for her. In the evening, after she went to sleep, I kept crying silently. I kept staring at the ceiling, wondering why things go the way they’re least expected to. I stared into the darkness, wondering if dawn would come. The night seemed long, far too long.
The very thought of losing a friend shook me from head to toe. Friend, joy, loss, death; how tragic!
Death, no doubt, is inevitable. We are all bound to meet it someday. But death of someone with whom you have shared your seconds, minutes and hours is absolutely an irreparable loss. It is something you can never erase from your memory; an unending pain!
Who amongst us would want to lose such people who fill our life with vibrant colors. Obviously, no soul would ever want to witness such tragedies. How difficult would it be for my friend to live with this pain deep inside her heart.
In the daily hustle and bustle of life where people hardly have the time to think of others, it is reassuring to know that we are not alone and that there is someone with us and for us. It is friends who make us have faith in ourselves and believe ‘we can’ when we think ‘we can’t.’ They inculcate in us the will to win and the urge to succeed. They illuminate our path when darkness surrounds us, beautifying our life with vibrant colors. They stay beside us in pleasure and in pain, in success and in failure – today, tomorrow and all through.
In this materialistic world where everything is counted in terms of money alone, finding and having a true friend comes as a great blessing indeed. There are people who befriend others just for their own selfish motives. To them friendship, in actuality, means nothing! And yet, there are some who live just for others’ happiness. They never think in terms of ‘I.’ Only such people understand and value friendship.
When we fall down, we can hope that someone will come to help us get up. When we don’t know which way to go, we can be sure that there is someone who will take us towards the right path. When we fail, we can hope that someone is with us, imbibing in us the belief that we are capable enough to succeed. We can feel assured that there is someone who won’t be jealous of our victory or be happy about our failure, someone who doesn’t derive pleasure out of our pain. When our faith is running low, we can depend on someone to lift our spirits. When we are lost, we can expect someone to locate us even amidst that crowd. When we cry, we can harbor the hope that someone is there to wipe away our tears. And when we are happy, we can be equally hopeful that someone is there to share our laughter. If you find such a person in your life, be thankful and proud that you have a true alter-ego, a crony who’s not simply ‘a part of life’ but ‘the heart of life,’ someone who adds more color to our life.
I know my friend regrets not having spoken to Arti, though she doesn’t say it. She regrets having waited for the ‘right time’ to talk to her best friend. Every day, she remembers Arti in every little thing she does or says. Arti left (not from her memories though) but gave her some lessons for life. She often recollects that moment of being told about Arti’s death once she reached home. She remembers how she had refused to believe it, even after seeing the newspaper carrying stories of the accident. But she had to believe it eventually.
She couldn’t give any surprises to Arti, but instead, Arti gave her the biggest shock of her life.
She doesn’t know how she’s managing to be strong but she proudly says that Arti always taught her to be strong, to take things as they come and to live and love life.
They say ‘the value of a thing is seldom known until it is lost.’ So let’s not fail to recognize the worth and importance of this relation or we will regret it later on. Let’s be grateful enough and bow our heads in the praise of our creator who has bestowed upon us with this gift called friendship. It’s truly a blessing from the heavens! Let’s value friends and friendship.
As the saying goes: “A true friend is a sure shelter. He who finds one, has found a real treasure.”