While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.
Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.
As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.
As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.
A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.
He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.
Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.
He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family. But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.”
Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!”
I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take! As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.
This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.
There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.
After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.
I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!