“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
My best friend died yesterday. I guess I still cannot fathom the magnitude of my loss. I spent a sleepless night foraging the deepest recesses of my mind for memories long forgotten. Life had dealt us a rude blow when a few years back she took ill and withdrew from normal activities and I plunged relentlessly into my new found obsession. We drifted apart. We did meet on a few occasions, promising to see more of each other, to catch up, to reconnect. Alas that did not happen. I guess we thought there was enough time. How wrong we were. Today I cannot even tell her how much I wanted to spend time with her and put forward my terribly paltry excuses knowing she, if no one else, would understand. But that was not to be.
My mind has been on overdrive, recalling all the precious moments we shared and I am amazed at the sheer immensity of what we lived together. We could have met as little girls as our fathers were colleagues. I guess we did meet once of twice when still in our pigtails, but those brief encounters held no meaning. It was much later when I started teaching at the University that life brought made our paths cross and run along side. Believe it or not she was my student and an exasperating one at that, coming to class late a mug of coffee in hand. It was much later that I discovered that she had a young child and was a master at multitasking! Yes my friend was a free spirit in every way imaginable. Some would call her marginal, others avant garde. She wore green nail paint at a time no one did, and parrot shaped earrings that I got her from Mauritius that no one I know would have dared adorn. But she did with poise and elegance. She was unique.
The student teacher relationship soon turned into a one of a kind friendship. I do not know how we became soul mates but we did, though everything screamed to the contrary. We were as different as chalk and cheese but put us together and we became one. The next years were a roller coaster ride. I left teaching and embarked on a new career. When I decided to set up my own conference services she was right there with me providing the sane counterpoint to my impulsive ways. I could have never succeeded had she not been around to slow me down. How can I forget the nights and days and nights spent in Conference venues drinking bad coffee and getting documents ready in time; the cold and foul chicken pakoras that made me sick each time I ate them ( I was to discover much later that I was actually pregnant); the long waits in the dark of night,in true Sherlock Holmes style, to trap the person who would clear much delayed payments. How can I forget these wonderful moments shared with her. Each one a perfect cameo worthy to be enacted. Those were the Conference years never to be forgotten.
In the midst of these mad years, our families too connected, our children became best friends. She somehow managed to juggle all responsibilities far better than I ever could. It was thanks to her that my kids visited museums, went to festivals and fairs. I never seemed to have or I guess find the time. When my younger daughter went through trying times at school and the tutor I found her was too harsh on her, my friend stepped taking on the persona of Madame Medusa and making learning fun for my troubled child. When I needed a shoulder to cry on she was there whatever the time of day or night. No day was complete without at least 2 or 3 phone calls and thanks heaven in those days of fixed phones local calls were priced @ 30 paise no matter how long you talked. I cannot even begin to remember what was shared in those interminable hours. I only know it felt good.
She was an exceptional soul and the kindest human being that walked this earth. I must admit that I quickly learnt to check myself before expressing a desire as I had found out that she was a true Fairy and fulfilled every wish, no matter how inane. I remember a day when I was opening birthday presents and bickering about the useless gifts I had received. I said, en passant I guess, that I wished people gave you useful things like a month’s groceries! The words were said and forgotten but not by my special fay as lo and behold the next year she descended on my birthday party with carton boxes filled with groceries sufficient for a whole month. She had not even forgotten the matches! That was my friend an angel walking on earth to make it a better place.
But there is more to this incredible woman. She was super talented. A super mom who was always there for her kids and who even baked their birthdays cakes in every shape imaginable whilst I sheepishly ordered mine, she took her kids for music classes, martial art classes, dance classes. I never did. She was a super wife who stood by her man through thick and thin, she was a super friend who in many ways made me who I am.
I had always had a cherished dream: that of writing. At one point of time we were given a carte blanche to produce a magazine and it was a ah ha moment for both of us as she was a prolific writer. I took on the mantle of publisher whatever that meant. We did produce two issues of the magazine that we proudly called Aviva before discovering that the person who had pushed us to do so was actually a fraud and just wanted to avoid taxation. But though the magazine died a silent death we were extremely proud of what we or rather she had produced single handedly. I remember her telling me that to be a successful writer one should write as one spoke. A lesson I never forgot. I did write a book and I wrote it as I would have spoken it. Dear Popples could not have happened if she had no come in my life.
When I set up Project Why she was the first person I turned to but the Fates had other plans. She fell terribly ill and slowly withered away till the fateful day when she left us for a better world. We were not worthy of such a beautiful soul or the Gods had got jealous.
I will always live with the terrible guilt of not having spent more time with her in her last days. Seeing her unwell caused me unendurable pain as I could only remember the vibrant, feisty, spirited and adorable person she was. She will live in my heart till the day we meet again.