Sometimes life seems all too well planned to go wrong. And sometimes it feels like you have fallen into a scheme built against you - built so well, that it seems almost impossible to get out (remember: only seems). And then there are these other times that seem too out of the ordinary- no matter what emotion forms its bedrock - joy, sorrow, anything- that the event refuses to be go down your memory into the 'ordinary events' folder . They blare out of your memory collection with a lot of unanswered questions tagged to it. No matter how many times you look back at it... there will always be whiff of enigma and a dash of intrigue attached to it- till you get , if not all, some of the answers . An encounter almost supernatural in taste- just almost. And thats how it felt meeting Farook again. Farook was my batchmate in my final year of school but from a different section. We had our own group of friends in our own sections- hers 3, mine 4, but everyday we'd all have lunch together. Reshma Farook posessed an open & congenial nature with no facade - with an almost child-like innocence, blessed with a natural gift of an easy access to everybody's funny bone. She just somehow knew how to get anyone to laugh with a great sense of timing. We weren't real close or anything, we just simply enjoyed eachother's company. Almost never called eachother up, & never had visited eachothers homes in our schooldays. And with school comming to an end , soon we were in our pre-university colleges(PUC), running in our own hamster wheels - the two groups lost touch. I never met Reshma again. Some where in the final year of my PUC(ie 2nd year) ,Reshma called me up over the phone. She was having problems at home. Reshma was the youngest child to a fairly progressive parents and belonged to a highly respectable family who were liberal about girls not having to wear a head scarf and who gave women the freedom to run businesses . We were around 17 back then and Reshma's Granddaddy(who took charge of the major decisions in the family) was planning to get her married. Just as it would have been for any girl- including me, Reshma was unprepared for a marriage and scared. She needed to share her fears with someone at that time & somehow, astonishingly she chose me. It did surprise me a great deal 'cos i never thought of my self as being the natural choice despite the fact that the other two in her group were out of reach. But all my life i was used to people comin & tellin me their woes, and this instance was no exception - i listened , i comforted as much as i could. She was scared but very strong- never cried. This went about for a month till my exams came up , got busy and once again we lost touch. I took for granted that she either got her way or she eventually gave into her Granddaddy's wish. This was three years after we had become friends. Another 3 years went by- I am doing my third year in Engg , i never ever remebered her. And perhaps she didn't too. One day as I & my brother were going some where, our car broke down. We made calls to the garage guys and decided to wait till help arrived. We were stuck in a residential area and it was a hr or two past lunch time. As we waited in the luxury of our lifeless car ,doing nothing , we, naturally, stared aimlessly . One such subject of our observation was two young girls who were getting into the house , right opposite to where our broken car lay. For the first time in years i remembered Farook. The reason being - one of the girls sporting a scarf over her head looked very much like Farook but a lot younger. I kept looking at the girl with adoration as nostalgia swept in and took me to my school days . Once the girls got past the gate to the house , it looked like they had an argument. The Farook-look-alike wanted to go out & the the other girl kept pulling her back in. And i was still looking at them. The scientist in my brother took over & he drew up a theory that the shoving match could have had something to do with my staring ,"She looks like Farook alright, but nowadays a girl looking at a girl can freak a girl out, so I'd suggest you stop staring." So I simply did. Just another one of those incidents where you find a familiar face that doesnt match with a recognition in you memory. Soon I forgot it. 2 weeks later i get a call , which to my surprise,i instantly recognised to be Reshma Farook. I had faithfully forgotten the Reshma-look-alike incident. We spoke . Did a lot of catching up. We were 20 year olds then. She hadn't married. She became the first woman in her whole family to finish her PUC. She was on chemotherapy ,fighting ovarian cancer. She faced a surgery and now was almost done with her treatment. I was surprised that she still had my phone number with her -for all these years. She said ,"You wont believe it girl, i haven't got them written any where but i know them". And read out my second phone number from her 'memory' with ease. I thought she was kidding. And then the revealing moment , "You know why I remembered you after so long? I happened to see someone just like you a few weeks ago." Just the perfect time to tell her that I too had a similar encounter- but just as I had said- I simply had forgotten the incident. Then she said the magic words that triggered a pointer to the memory allocated to the incident..."I saw this girl just in front of my cousin's house ". That rang the bell. But i needed to be sure, so i waited for her to finish the rest of the details...Red car, a guy sitting in the back seat, girl with curly locks.... Holy cow, that was me! We shared our findings & had a good laugh. We for the first time in 6 yrs had got to see eachother & didnt realise it. Six years! school girls grew into women. Apart from the maturity that comes with the metamorphosis, she was still the good-ol' Farook- high in spirits & strong as ever. I was going thru my share of difficult times back then- my Mom had to gone into a surgery to remove an infected salivary gland. But along with it came a lot of depression, fear, hoplesness. My Mom who was otherwise a strong woman, was turning weak & scared. And sometimes nothing you say or do helps. Surprising enough, we discovered that they both had their surgeries in the same week in the same hospital just a skip & a hop a way from each other. My Mom and Reshma bonded. Their illnesses were perhaps far from similar, but they shared if not the same but similar changes to what was once their normal lives. It bought hope & courage into my Mom's life. Farook would talk on the phone to my Mom. They would help each other channelise their energy into recovering.We decided to meet up, and what could be a better venue than 'the house'- the house just next to the one we had seen eachother was her home. I spent a day with her. She wore the scarf to cover her hair loss & eagerly observed its growing-back. She enthusiastically told me of her plans of starting a boutique after recovering. She had no trace of cancer in her- she had completely cured. We all felt relieved & grateful to some great power. I got busy with my semester exams & she left to Hydrabad to spend time with her elder sister & family. She'd be gone for two months- but could come back sooner. I called a couple of times to her place- but she hadn't been back. I got busy with my projects & about a month later called her home. Her sister was back from Hydrabad and she picked the phone, and i as usual asked for Reshma, to which she replied with a tinge of astonishment ,"Reshma died."
I have written somuch to explain all that happened till now, to actually express this moment. But thats what precisely this write-up will find difficult to achieve.
Was it shock? Was it pain? Was it anger? I think i just went numb with a whirlpool of fellings inside me. The shear inability to come in terms with reality left my throat aching to cry. And I did. I cried & cried & Farook's sis, tried her best to console me. Then the feeling of betrayal in me spoke, "But she said that she was completely cured?!!". To which her sister said,"We knew of her stage a long time ago. We wanted to shelter her from the truth. We hoped she would live her life to the fullest till time & health would allow.The cancer had spread all over. She was in a lot of pain whe she died." She told me,"We had informed all her friends from the numbers in her directory. Looks like it didnt have yours in it." She told me to pray for her & to pay a visit home.And the conversation ended. I wasnt in the condition to pray. She had plans for the life that lay ahead of her - plans that would out live her life! She was just as old as me, Damn it! It felt unfair. It took me a couple of days till the numbness wore off. Then my mind got into reconstructing her last few days . I wondered if she wanted to meet me. Guilt poured in. Then i remembered her sister telling me that my name wasnt in the directory...& then i remembered Reshma saying,"...I just know them !...". She wasnt joking! she really remembered my number for six years and needed a directory to remember the other 6's (friends from school)!!! The others were informed . One attended the funeral.
She had my number in her memory for six years. Why? Did some invisible intervention put us in places where we had to meet at the time we had to meet, when we had something to offer to each other? Or was it an incident that demonstrated 'What goes around come around'/'Pay it forward'(I consoled her , she consoled my mom)? Sometimes somethings are better left unexplained.It seems more beautiful that way. A death for any one , of any age is an overwhelming incident- more than anything else it makes you look harder at life than death. I saw something through my meeting Farook again. Something i learn & understand better as the years go by- its not once in a while you will find someone like Farook with a message for you... its every single day- day in ,day out, every single moment. Sometimes we manage to read it, sometimes we fail. Sometimes we understand it, sometimes it just leaves us with a question mark. May be there is something for you here or you might have something for me in your comments. This is perhaps the longest i have written in a very long time(since school, to be more precise) & definitly the most gratifying. The reason to why i chose to write on Farook is that , i see a Farook in each of you- my friend or not, we meet or not,we know eachother or not, everytime you pay a visit , in a wierd way you are making a contribution in my life by just taking a part of it with you. So here goes- I dedicate my first entry to Farook in other words to all of you out there. Welcome to 1forevery1!