Once upon a time, she was my best friend. Way back when we were geeky-looking seventeen-year-olds in the same class in junior college. She was what most people would call a simple girl, able to be lost in a crowd. But she had intelligent eyes that shone behind her glasses and an enticing smile. Our wavelengths had matched and we enjoyed each other’s company. We would marvel at how our names had similar meanings and comment how we were close friends as well. Girls of particular ages do these sorts of peculiar things!
For a year and a half, we hung out together all the time: during classes, in the laboratory and in free time. Together everywhere, like two peas in a pod. But it was strange how we had never been to each other’s homes. Perhaps the large distance and the hectic schedule of an important educational year contributed to keeping us away from visiting. From what she told me, her family’s financial condition was not very good but it was apparent that through sheer hard work, determination and the smart use of good brains, she had secured admission to our junior college. She was an example of success stories one hears about good students from lower middle class backgrounds achieving something commendable. She had set a target to obtain specific high grades, ones that would guarantee her admission into a reputable engineering college.
And she achieved those grades.
And got admission to the reputable institute.
And got a distinction grade (the highest) almost each year of the four years of engineering studies.
And secured a good job that paid her very well.
And …oh, how I wish the story had ended here!
After junior college, we had begun to drift apart like two sailboats following different currents, heading to separate institutes albeit to the same shores of engineering. Our phone calls dwindled to one every three or four months and then dropped to zero. Never on purpose, it just happened. One time, we met at a technical event and waved to each other from across a crowded classroom, she unable to come out and I unable to get in since the event was in progress. And thus, we grew up and we grew apart.
Almost three years passed. The year we graduated, I ran into her in a busy marketplace. We were happy to meet each other after ages. She, in fact, was glowing and excitedly informed me that she was getting married the month after. However, the happiness was tainted because her parents strongly opposed the marriage and would not be present for the wedding. Where her fiancé worked and his educational qualifications gave a slightly disappointing answer. He did not seem to be very well educated or in possession of a job as good as hers.
We could not manage to keep in touch after that meeting either. Studying abroad, I just heard snippets about her from a friend’s friend. News of her married life, although very rare and vague, was troubling. I yearned to glean more information in every phone call to the friend providing the updates and felt very unhappy for her.
A year and a half flew by. It had been three years since I had last met her. One morning, six months ago, an email forwarded by a friend reached me while I was at my workplace. I opened it with great concern since the subject line said that there was sad news. Another friend in India had originally sent it to this friend. My eyes hurriedly scanned the email.
‘She’ had committed suicide the previous Sunday.
My stomach nearly fell to the floor. I read the line again and again. There was a lump in my throat. Tears pricked my eyes and rolled down but were wiped away frantically, conscious of being seen by co-workers. I called up the forwarder of the email. She was sad too. We both couldn’t believe it.
It was a bad day. I wrote to the girl back in India, who had given the news, asking for more details about reasons for such a drastic step. She did not have much to offer. The man she had married was not well educated and was unemployed. She had still been working. Her parents never supported her after her marriage to him. I searched the newspapers online. All they offered were matter-of-fact reports of the incident, no explanations were provided.
Questions nagged me. Was there absolutely nobody she could turn to? What if we had remained close friends and kept in touch? What tormented her so much that it had to come to this? Wasn’t there no support from anyone during dire times that had befallen her? After all, we are human; don’t we all make mistakes? Alas, the questions remain unanswered.
She had everything going for her. One mistake spiraled out of control; and she decided to throw everything away. My heart aches not only because we were close friends once upon a time but also because someone precious and gifted died; perhaps lonely and having reached the limit of deep emotional wounds. Committing suicide for a normal person is a sign of having reached the edge; it speaks of unfathomable, vast sorrow. Anyway, she is gone now. The bright ‘flame’ has been extinguished. Thinking about it still makes me want to cry.