This Friday started normally. My friend A was travelling to Mumbai for some work and had left home early. We have this little tradition to call and wake the other up, collecting well wishes at the beginning of each journey. But our conversation didn’t last long; it was impossible to hear each other over the noise of the bus speeding down the highway. Other than that, it began as a day like any other.
Then he got a phone call, the contents of which he relayed to me while his bus stopped at a food mall. He sounded like his usual enough self, so I hadn’t the faintest notion he was about to tell me something shocking.
“You know my friend MK?” He began.
I was silent, even a little absent-minded and sleepy, having been woken up earlier than usual.
“You met him over drinks last Saturday. The tall guy. He bought us all Tequila shots, we celebrated his job placement at Mumbai, remember?”
My brain finally caught on. “Yes, of course I remember”.
“He had a heart attack. His brother had called with the news. He’s no more.”
He was talking so calmly with just an added undertone of wonder, his words took a while to sink in. “Are-are you sure? He was fine last week, he even drank and smoked!” I exclaimed.
“He was online on Whatsapp an hour ago! I keep checking!” His voice almost whispered, in a tone that said, ‘I don’t think this news is true. MK’s going to reply to my messages, you’ll see’.
I tried to lower the shock and incredulity in my voice, for his sake at least.
“How can he have a heart attack, he was 23, wasn’t he?”
His voice finally broke. “This cannot have happened. We can’t lose MK!”
I could only say quietly, “I’m so sorry”, silently shooting up a prayer to help him and everyone close to MK to get through this.
In his remaining journey to Mumbai he told me stories, sent me smiling photos of his time with MK. He had been a positive, happy person and was never one to bow down to life’s pressures. I’m sure he will be greatly missed, and that seems evident from the torrent of love and grief showered on his Facebook timeline. A kept alternating between recounting the happy memories, to being stricken with fresh grief the next moment, for MK’s dreams and aspirations taken away so unfairly and unexpectedly, at such a young age.
I could well understand A’s reactions. First comes disbelief. Once the initial shock subsides, grief will set in.
The whole incident had taken me right back to when I was 15, and a classmate committed suicide. He had joked about killing himself for weeks before that, and no one had taken him seriously – until he really did do it. The reason was never understood. After our collective shock, grief and exam-cancellation novelty ended, all that remained was an empty chair, his sunlight-kissed desk near the window, slowly accumulating specks of dust, and a fading memory.
I kept thinking of MK’s mother, who, being a doctor herself, declared her son dead from a heart attack that morning. I thought of his friends, who would now think twice before smoking another cigarette. Who knows how much time will pass before their group meets again over drinks, talking and laughing together carefree, without being painfully aware of their friend absent from their midst?
I thought of MK, dreaming up his own future in slow motion, little knowing life had him racing toward the end, leaving paths untrodden.