My dear Jean, Paalu, it has been two years since that fateful day. And somehow, somewhere, I, we have still not come to terms that you have left us forever. We, I, miss you and your ever smiling face and silly jokes more than ever. While you will live on in our hearts forever, do look in over us once in a while :(
Thursday, April 30, 2009 (Originally written)
They say, bonds established at the very beginnings last the most, and we shared this invisible bond even though we moved on our different tracks later in life. This is a story of friendship and brotherhood that spanned 21 years, which could’ve lasted for much longer, if only fate hadn’t so cruelly intervened. We grew up together, right from January 1988 in Std 1 and a half when I joined Girideepam, right to that day, on the 18th of February 2009, when he left us all in a car accident at Domlur in Bangalore City. We were close to each other even though not physically, connected through the radio frequencies of mobile service providers and escapades which were never recorded and witnesses of a friendship who never omnipresent, memories that live in hearts, one of which is immortal today.
Jean Jose Palackal (1981 – 2009). Friend, brother, compatriot, part of my soul, a void that can never be filled, a memory that can never be erased. How can I ever forget you, you were my “first friend” whom I can remember back to those beginnings of my life that I can still recall from my battle-scarred mind. I learned my first lessons of life in my formative years which would later shape me into myself. You are a part of what I am today, and I will always remember you, and some days, I look up to the skies and try to imagine what life would’ve been in an alternate universe where that fateful day would’ve passed uneventfully. I hoped one that we with our “once in a month conversations”, could still get together, could still celebrate when we found the loves of our lives, could introduce our kids as ‘family friends’, could grow old together sharing a mug of beer at Pecos, looking back and laugh at our life and the memories that shaped us. Dreams they were, dreams they will remain.
It was sometime in February 1988, 21 years ago, a long time even by today’s globalized standards, when I first met Jean Jose Palackal. We were both imprisoned in a boarding school, which was for our little minds, only a couple of shades removed from being a fancy concentration camp. When you are seven years old, and are separated from the warmth of your parents to be thrown into a cold building manned by nannies and nuns patrolling the premises with one-metre long canes, you quickly turn to each other for survival, Those hallways and stairways are still flooded with our tears of loneliness and longing, of being unable to understand why we couldn’t stay with our parents like all the other kids. It is this, when your heart is broken for the first time, that you establish those bonds that will last a lifetime. And it was this when Jean Jose Palackal became my first friend. Without him, I don’t know how I would’ve weathered those horrible young years of my life, and if I would’ve emerged more disturbed and screwed up than what I would end up.
Anyway, we grew up. We looked after each other, shared juvenile fantasies and indulged in our ‘boarding-school-law-breaking’ escapades, we survived together, and all that still forms at the core my values of freedom, rebellion and the tendency to question everything, including my insecurities. We shared everything we had in the narrow confines of that boarding school for 4 years, unconsciously becoming part of each other, like soldiers in a battle. Though I never admitted it, l looked up to him how to take on life and how to get ahead of my nemeses. He was always the one in front, outspoken and extrovert, leader of the pack, as to me, introverted and shy. He showed me the first lessons of my life, as to what to learn from the competition, how to overcome adversaries which are more within you rather than outside. He moved out of the boarding, as did I, as his parents established base next to the school and my parents a good 15 km away. The school’s students shuffling exercises seemed futile as both us ended up in the same division all the time. We gathered lots of common compatriots: Sherin, Nittin, Juby, Subin, Liz, Renu, Roshen, Joseph, Renju, Sajan, Geevan, Vivek and many others. Though with time we kind of grew apart as our circle of friends widened, we always, had that mysterious force inside that linked us together and would keep us close.
Life moved on. We grew up, shared little secrets of new found knowledge, roamed our town, found new vices and little rays of happiness and discovered that life is a long lasting Medley song flowing though bus stops, tuition classes, movie theatres, supermarkets, girls, private buses, simple evenings spent chatting, hot tea served by a loving mom at a friend’s place, the famous coffee shops and thoroughfares of our town at sunset, and so on. Well, He went on to become a great athlete and captain of the Girideepam Basketball team, while I wandered around without any particular aim, preferring to stay in the background of everything. Our schooling lives ended in March 1997 with the SSLC exams as we completed secondary school and moved out into the big bad world. We hardly met during the six years of college, as we were all out to seek different and new experiences and people. Though we kept tabs like once in a blue or green moon.
Later we both moved to the IT capital of the country. Me, as an MBA aspirant; and he, as a struggling professional. Though we lived 8 km or half an hour apart, we never met, except for a couple of “get togethers”. We had a lot of commonalities. We got our first cars within a distance of 2 months, the same make and model. We had our first car accidents at exactly the same spot on Mysore Road. He struggled through night shift contract jobs, part time software jobs and finally found a career that would realize his dreams and aspiration. We met for the last time as part of one of those organized meetups. Even though we did meet only once in a while, we knew what was going though in each other’s lives. And I, like in the old days, looked up to him.
A face that was always smiling and always planning so much about life and days ahead, despite all the setbacks his career life threw at him, would take others’ troubles as his own and try to console and see them through it, even putting them ahead of his own far more troublesome issues. This kind heart deserved to be on the earth showing us the way, but was cruelly taken away, leaving is stuck in the rut.
My dear Paalu, whatever it may be, I will never forget you, and all that you taught me during our early years. You live on, in our hearts, forever. I don’t want to mince more words; I love you, as the one who has taught me the first lessons of life. Love and prayers, you and your family, forever and always, fate was too cruel that you had to leave us so unexpectedly leaving all of us so heartbroken. You will live forever in our hearts, in our words, in our thoughts. Bless us, for we will never forget your smiling face.
Godspeed, brother. See you on the other side.