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    Today, once again, early in the morning I was woken up by a phone call from Sukhwinder Singh. He is a Granthi in a Gurudwara in Faridabad. But he also happens to be my friend, in the abstract spirits of comrade-in-arms. It appears he has a satellite connect with God and is able to figure out. When, over a period of time my entire self goes into a depression, thinking about my younger son, whom I lost some six years back. And just then he calls up.

    He doesn’t understand English and I can’t talk fluent Punjabi and so we make the most of it in Hindi. His occasional calls pep me up but I am not sure if it’s the other way round too. And, unlike most Sardars he is short and stout and often wears a saffron patka. We came together in life because we both share the curse of losing our sons in a space of a week.

    It was sometime in mid-February when I had admitted my younger son, when he was towards his last in a hospital in Faridabad for palliative care, where I found Sukhwinder’s son also admitted for liver disorder. He was in serious state, around twenty years of age; and the next day he expired. Our rooms were adjacent and so I had enough opportunities to picture and frame him in my mind. And, upon the sad and untimely death of his son, that afternoon, I walked across to his room and paid my deep sense of condolence. Thereafter, in a ballooning bundle of grief, he along with his wailing wife, family and the body of his son left the hospital.

    I was feeling sad for him. But I too wasn’t far behind. As my tragedy too, befell upon me within the next four days. I was thereafter on leave for a couple of weeks. And when I resumed office. Every morning I used to drive past a Gurudwara where one day I spotted Sukhwinder. I stopped my car and went up to him. Just to ask how he was, and quite frankly also to discern, better or worse than me. He was looking the other way when I put my hand on his shoulder. He turned around and without wasting time, I reminded him of the hospital and politely enquired about him, post his son’s death. He could recollect me in seconds and asked about my son. I gave him the tragic news. He sounded hurt. I decided to leave after a brief chat, but he ordered for a cup of tea. And our friendship thus began.

    Since that day till the time that Gurudwara was on my way to office, once in a while we used to meet over a cup of tea and he used to narrate quite a few invigorating episodes from ‘Granth Sahab’ and ‘Gita’ that helped me tide away, and soften my tragedy.

    It is now more than six years we continue as friends and we make it a point to talk to each other at least once a month just to share happiness and sorrow, and probably one day when we stop receiving calls from each other one of us will know the other has kicked the bucket.

    Our world is full of affinity, when it comes to being from the same religion, sect, ethnicity, language and food. But after I lost my son I realised there is also an affinity that takes birth out of unusual tragedies in life. I and Sukhwinder had similar tragedies leading to a very unusual experience in life not known and felt by many, and that brought us together.

By Kamlesh Tripathi



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