A decade and a half, nearly, of working together daily. Of practically living in each other's pockets for days on end. Of finding, thanks to his company, that life can be lived with irrepressible joie de vivre. Of observing, though not learning, that provocation can be brushed away as less than pinpricks. Of finding that, if you are capable of ignoring the prickles, most people can be sweet.
Of shifting to Bangalore, leaving behind, geographically, someone close to you, with the firm thought that absence shall not mar the friendship. Of finding that friendship does last, though we do not meet. Of meeting, once a year, with the same warmth that we used to share when we were together. Of keeping the friendship alive in the mind, but losing yourself in the day-to-day activities of your current environs.
Of learning from someone else that your friend has been diagnosed with cancer in the third stage. Of knowing, shockingly, that he had known it the last time you met and had not let you know by word or gesture. Of talking to a man, still full of cheer, who did not want his troubles to mar your enjoyment. Of vowing to call up more frequently.
Of trying to call up a few times and not being able to connect. Of lapsing back into the routine of the day and letting things slide.
And, now, knowing that THAT lamp of joy is guttering out, to be extinguished some time soon.
When Yudhishtir said that the greatest miracle was that people, seeing others die around them every day, still lived as though they would live forever, he was effectively saying that people ought to prioritize their actions based on the assumption that they may not live to see tomorrow.
The bigger tragedy is to live as though you will be able to connect with the people close to you some time in the future - and finding that THAT is not possible. Regrets and guilt are for the living to experience - and not all the regrets will bring back all those lost opportunities.
His family's will be the greatest loss. Mine is loss enough - and I wish that it were a loss not tinged with regret. Regret that I left for tomorrow what should have been done today.
And a lesson I hope not to forget again.
For some things, sometimes - Tomorrow never comes.