Death is the only constant in our lives. We know that. It hovers behind us, every waking and sleeping second of our life and that of our near and dear ones. But we would not be able to get through life if our mind were constantly contemplating that. So, our mind banishes death away and most of us tend to live our lives as if we are immortal.
Our mind convinces itself. Yes, that old man died, but he was old and had had a fulfilling life. Yes, that baby died, that was tragic, the parents must be devastated, but I did not really know them.
And then it hits someone your age and someone you knew for almost 20 years. Someone you knew from your formative years in college. You took a big leap and moved to a new country and she was that old familiar face there. Someone who was incredibly creative, funny, intelligent. Someone you looked up to, one of the few people you respected and was honored that she considered you as a friend too.
I read the update from Shub and my mind just exploded. I could not comprehend it. This cannot be true. I search on Twitter and her husband has shared the news too. So it sinks into my heart, like a dagger. This is true. This is not going away. This is not a bad dream.
Memories, that is all that is left now. And I start pulling back on those strings.
When did I first see her? There I am, waiting to catch the RVCE college bus on my very first day. Engineering, a huge step in life. The busstop, RV Girls Hostel, 5 minutes walk from home, near Madhavan Park Circle. There is that pretty and nerdy looking girl at the busstop. Seems like a newbie too, going by how she is talking to her senior-looking females. I was not in her class initially, but we would say Hi and exchange names, promptly forget those over the next year. She is just a regular and familiar smiling face from college at this point.
After the first year, I move into Computer Science and she is now a classmate. We go through 3 years together. Seeing each other at the same busstop and at class, we now know each other. She turns out to be involved in several creative activities, has a beautiful handwriting and is one of the toppers. College cultural fest. I do not even need to pull out the photos I took with her and the other female classmates, all dressed beautifully for the occasion. It is that vivid.
College is over. We both end up topping the university rank list. Our faces are in the newspaper. The college hosts an award ceremony in its teaching college, near Ashoka Pillar. There I am with my parents and there she is with her parents. Hi and hello are exchanged between parents and us. A long winding ceremony, terribly boring. We get our awards and byes are said.
A few years later I have to pick universities after handing in my GRE and TOEFL tests. She is the only one I know who has studied at NUS in Singapore. I add NUS to my tests, only because of her. If she had not moved to Singapore for study, I surely would not have. I end up picking NUS for a Masters, and then a PhD.
Mutual classmates from college visit Singapore on a trip and that is when we end up having a dinner together, all of us. Thai Express, Holland Village. She recommends Thai mango salad. That is the first time I try that.
Was she on Livejournal? Cannot recall that. But on Twitter she becomes a steady friend. Arun wins a Grammy nomination. There she is on the red carpet at the Grammys! I know a celebrity now! I name drop her to everyone I talk to.
And it is finally on Twitter, now far away from Singapore, I learn she has passed away. She had occasionally tweeted about health issues, said she lost weight a year or so ago. I never realized it was something this critical. She passed away in her sleep it seems.
I cannot comprehend the news. I remember all our memories. Her Twitter handle roshnimo now mocks at me. Who is going to deliver that clever quip or comeback on Bollywood now? I am just in a bad dream or a different timeline? How could someone I knew through all these shared experiences for 20 years, yes half my life, be gone like this in a poof? Here I sit, silent in the living room, on a winter night, halfway across this planet, contemplating it all. Not being able to fit this puzzle.