Wednesday, February 07, 2007

That Birthday, one e-mail and life goes on.

It was a birthday party at my work. One of those birthdays when we mostly just gather to have a piece of cake and a break. The famous cakes of this land look so yummy and delicious but are so terribly sweet that I can never grab more than two bites. We sang the birthday song, cut the cake into generous pieces and luckily I had the camera with me to take photos. Taking the photos for me was the best part. I could send them to my maa and father so that they could have a picture of my colleagues, the people that I talk about so often over our telephonic conversations.

Although, birthday parties are never that eventful and people just come to say happy birthday out of the mere sake of politeness and to eat a piece of famous, good-looking cake. But the fact that it broke the normal routine of my humping behind my computer, cheered me up. I was happily humming when I returned to my domicile. Jumped on my big chair and tried to resume my work but there was a mysterious force in the air. A power that made me go to my mailbox despite the fact that I was behind in my work. I told myself: "Hey, you sure do not want to miss your internal audit meeting, do you? So, be nice and finish your work." Yet that power in that air was much stronger than the mere thought and I opened my mailbox.

Surprisingly there was only one new e-mail from an old friend of mine. We knew each other from college days, when I was in second year and he was my junior in the same school. He was a brilliant, fun guy studying chemical engineering who had a passion for literature. And it was this passion that became our starting point. I met him in a trip with a bunch of common friends. One of those trips to the green, green north of India when you gather round the fire at night and have a casual talk. You talk about politics, the latest book that you have read, the poet that you like best, the hot crush stories among the batchmates and then you all sing a song together while the fire is lighting up your faces in red and orange colors. Then you live a life of those songs, those voices and those talks, those faces turned into red and orange under fire, wherever you are for the rest of your life.

He was one of those people that I discovered around fire. His solid voice talking about "if a winter’s night a traveler" of Italo Calvino drew my attention. It was the sparkle to talk about life, the dreams of our young lives and how to set goals. Goals those were so vivid, tangible and attainable then, at a time when we were not even at our twenties. The sparkle lasted long in our eyes, in our hearts till we crossed roads, years later, when I saw him again in a foreign land with the same eyes and bright smile. Looking directly at me and asking that famous old question: Remember "if on a winter’s night a traveler"? It has become a legend for us to remember that we have to stick to our goals in life. And I laughed and saw that orange and red face of years ago without any fire to reflect its light on it.

He came to Paris two years ago. At the beginning we were in constant touch but as things started rolling for him, we were both so busy that although we were lucky enough to live in the same city, we hardly got the chance of talking to each other, let alone getting together and talking face to face. That’s how life is in Paris, as we all know.

Anyways, with all these memories marching before my eyes, I opened the e-mail and read it. For five minutes my mind was blank. My brain had stopped to function. As soon as I could move the muscles of my mouth, my first reaction was whispering loud: No, it is impossible. A few minutes later, the tears found their way and came down my cheeks although I was constantly repeating to myself: No, this can’t be true; he had made a mistake when writing this. I read his e-mail two, three times. Tears in my eyes falling on my keyboard and I could never close my browser:

Dear RC,

This is a shocking news to you and it is with immense pain I share with you the sad demise of my mother.

I am feeling lonely and lost in this world and I wish that you were near me as you have been forever so far.



I searched for the phone but could not even think of what to say, how to ask if that was true. I remembered his mother so clearly. Such a vivid, sociable creature that was always laughing and so happy. And she was so young may be in her mid fifties. May be even younger. I was weeping loud in my own world, when my neighbor from the other cube brought me back to this world: "RC are you OK?" .I just replied with broken words: "Yes, I am". What could I say? How could I transfer all those emotional load of memories and young dreams in a sentence over the wall of my cubicle? And he did not say anything. That is the role in here; you‘ve got to respect your privacy.

Gathering my mind, I tried to picture him during the past two years. He had come to Paris on a student’s visa and he was a certified chemical engineer, after long years of study and work back home. He got admission with great difficulty, with a clause to work on weekends. It was his dream to work and go for a part-time program in Paris, a paradise for a literature lover. Yes, as an outsider he had a long way to go, to be able to get a residency, with the rules becoming more stringent for immigrants globally.

I remember his words at the early months: "RC, I am not born here, I am suffering every day, why should I start everything from scratch to just say that I studied in Paris? All this pain at what cost? As an outsider, I can choose only limited fields to specialize in, may be two or three and not even what I like. I can never even get into the field that I want. Just I have to stick to internal field chemistry and thank good Lord."

I said: "Hey man keep trying and something positive would work out but still if it is really that bad- winking- why don’t you go back home and make to the best of schools there?" He looked at me kind of upset and laughingly said:"Ohhh. Common RC, you have been there, you know how that hurts. What can I do? Drive taxis round the city after all these years and with all those big plans? Remember "If on a winter's night a traveler"? Can I leave all my wishes? A man is alive as long as he makes wishes! I can not." He lowered his head and I could feel the tears coming from his eyes.

I looked at his big brown eyes and preferred to just keep quiet. What could I say? I knew at least in Paris, he was able to realize what he had in his mind, if not today and tomorrow, but in 5 years, 10 years, just one day. One day before he would give that warm flesh of his body to the cold earth. Before all those brain cells under his hair could stop producing those big thoughts. How could he be cruel to all his dreams? He should stay and fight and I am the one to tell him, now that he is desperate, now that he needs a push.

Moments later there was me talking about the beauties of the utopia of his dreamy universe and how he has to try hard. How his maa would be proud of him one day. One day when all flourishes and once again its he who would rest his head on the bosoms of his kind, loving maa. He can invite his parents soon as he would be a doctrate in chemical engineering cum specialist and they would feel proud.

He looked at me and I could feel that. He loved his parents especially his maa so much. Just the thought of it worked and he started his swim against the stream of time.

He said in a firm voice: "RC you are right. No pain, no gain and it has been our destiny.. pain, pain and when comes the gain? Only GOD knows..." And then he giggled.

He took the exams, Level 1 and Level 2, scores were so high that I was more proud than he was and both of us walked down to a small brasserie in the rain for the celebration. He was offered a residency in Chemical Engineering Department. Things were turning even much better than what we had expected. How he was happy and how I could hear him calling his maa and Papaji from the other room and saying:"I am changing my visa status, they will take care of my work visa as I will start working as a resident in Paris. Hey start planning! I will send you the invitations and in summer, you should come to visit me. We will be altogether again and I will take you to Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Galeries Lafayette for shopping". Then added with a lower voice "and you do not need to worry about the funding aspect of my education. Now, I will be working, now you wait for my money coming your way" and he laughed so happily that I told him to knock on the wood so that evil will not hear him. He gave me one of those meaningful looks of: "hey, you superstitious creature". But when I left, I could hear the voice of his fingers knocking on the wooden door.

Suddenly I remembered, last time he was talking of starting to work in 4 months after the work permit work paper was done and his visa status was changed. And now? Has it been done? Does he have a different visa? Oh... my GOD, under this new bill for outsiders, he could not leave this country and come back. What does he do now? Knowing him, I knew that he would think of going back home definitely. I should talk to him as soon as possible.

Can’t wait any more, so picked up the phone and it was me talking with such a strange voice. A young woman answered and told me two unbearable, unimaginable facts: he doesn’t want to talk to anybody and he has locked himself up and just mourns. My heart was beating and tears did not let me talk but I had to talk to him. So, I just insisted and asked the lady to mention my name. I was his old friend, the friendship made over a fire and I could not let go all his efforts so easily. It worked and finally it was he on the phone, his voice was slow, interspersed with sobbing.

"RC, can u believe?"
"No, never. I could never even imagine".

"RC she is gone re. She is not there any more. RC my maa is no more. Do you hear me?" (Yes, I hear you with all my heart. Can I still talk about a fight for life, for goals now? Never.) I was torn apart, I heard my voice saying:"I know, how you feel.. It is all so bitter."

"RC, I am leaving this land in two days."

Now I come back to the real life. I should do something, something to prevent him from leaving .He is leaving but he can never come back or at least not so soon. My mind is filled up with that new bill. No more immigrant visas. He has tried so hard in this land. He is close to thirty years old now. How can he start it all again? How many more years should he go through the pain till there comes the gain? I remember all those petitions but never knew if it would be a law or not. More likely to become a law. Oh GOD! How I wish more people had signed that petition. I wished there was no bill but there is one now, what happens to him now? Are they all gone, all those efforts? He can never return, his efforts are all gone, he cannot go home, but how can I say that? "No. If you do, you know all you did is gone for good, you know".

He said, " I don’t care, how can I not be by my Papaji. Huh... How can I even not be there when he needs me so badly? How could I let my maa suffer all this time? I gave her all the pain of loneliness and separation. She was crying all the time that we talked on the phone, and asking me to come back. How do you want me to stay here and live? What is the worth of this life for me? Even if now, I can not go and be there for her, for them for the very last time."

I heard him weeping and then a door that closed. I better shut up; sometimes logic is nothing but a piece of mud to slide on.

I hung up the phone, closed my eyes and made a wish. Wish GOD treated us differently and was a bit kind to my friend.

Si seulement Dieu pouvait nous traiter différemment et être un peu gentil avec mon ami.

Keep reading and remain connected.

[Note: This is a fictitious story and is not based on any individual, on the intricate laws and rules of any land. The word maa means mother and Papaji means father.]

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At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

really good.


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