08 June, 2007

DefCol cycle rickshaw ride

by Tripti Lahiri

I still can't believe you're gone. I can't.

I pass your block all the time and so naturally I think of you and then I think back over this past year and I realize how much I saw of you, how many, many conversations we had, how much of a part of my life here you were.

Most of the people I meet now I feel like I met with you, or through you or at some gathering where you also were. When I see people we both know I feel sad we'll not all be in the same company again.

I think of you a lot. It's been exactly two months. But two months and a day ago you were still here. I thought about calling you that night to see if you were around and wanted a drink, but I didn't. I had worked till late at night and was feeling low-energy. I remember you being amused at how early I could fall asleep.

I first remember meeting you on a rooftop in Nizamuddin and chatting for a really long time, bonding over being ex-New Yorkers. I was so wrapped up in the conversation that I never even had time to notice that there was a shaven-headed man lurking always in the background around you and that you were married.

It suited you so well.

And then we exchanged numbers–as one often does at parties in Delhi. And we met randomly the very next day at brunch in Safdarjung.

I didn't really expect to hear from you–one exchanges so many numbers that sometimes I look through my directory and I don't know who most of those people are–but then you called to make plans to go for coffee, to tell me about a poetry reading, to invite me to hang out when you and Jeet still lived at your mother's. You expanded my life so much in those early days when I didn't know very many people here.

Sometimes I wondered if you weren't too cool for us to be friends. Yes, I know that's a little high school. But I don't think you thought about things like that.

If time went by and I didn't call you, I would hear from you. You were so good at making friends. I think it's because you were a good listener, you were interested in what other people had to say. Sometimes talking to you felt like sharing secrets, even when you weren't, you always had this vaguely conspiratorial air about you.

But I liked that aside from meeting at parties and other things, we met separately and talked. I always came away from those conversations feeling so stimulated, so refreshed. I felt we were both sort of in wonder and awe at where we suddenly were and at our physical surroundings and it was so good to exchange observations with you.

You loved gossip. That's something I'll always remember so fondly about you. You were the nicest gossip ever. You didn't have a mean, "gossipy" way, but you just liked to talk about people and their doings or sometimes their antics. And then you would analyze whether you would do such-and-such a thing yourself if you were in X's place, or what did it mean that so-and-so did that other thing. Sometimes I think it was a way for you to ponder the vagaries of human nature. I'm glad I had a little gossip to share with you the last time we met. I wish I could update you on developments since then.

This is stupid and meaningless but I keep wishing I had treated you to brunch that time.

You had to send back the eggs because they were sweet. The bacon was too salty but we ate it anyway. I complained to the cook that he shouldn't automatically put sugar in the eggs since no one expects it. You said it was very "gujju."

I was late to meet you and you picked me up near the drain in a cycle rickshaw. There was something so funny about that. I just saw you approaching in the cycle rickshaw, telling me to get in, and I remember telling you it was the first time I had ever been picked up in a cycle rickshaw. It seemed so unorthodox. You were wearing a lemon yellow t-shirt and big sunglasses and you looked so well.

I remember one time we were out after you had just been unwell and someone greeted you with, "Shakti! You look so tired!" You weren't impressed.

You gave up dark lipstick and most everyone was pleased. Me too. I didn't really think it suited you, it was just too distracting in your pretty face. But I thought maybe it was a left-over goth thing from earlier days so I didn't comment on it until you dropped it.

You told me in the rickshaw that you had been all around Defence Colony in a cycle rickshaw just to explore it. I liked that.

Once we talked about doing "field trips" in Delhi together. One of the ones I suggested was Darya Ganj. You had already been and you screwed up your nose and said it wasn't all that.

I went later and meant to tell you I agreed but I forgot. We never did go on any field trips together.

I wish I had seen more of you after New Year's. I was a little out-of-touch with most people, distracted by something, which I told you about when we finally had a chance to catch up.

I thought I'd have more time to spend with you.

I'm so sad I'll never get to know you better than I know you now, or to keep knowing you.

One day I was seized with a blind panic that of all the people to fall out of touch with, it couldn't be you, my friend almost from the beginning. I called you up to go for brunch. I thought you'd like the departure from the usual drinks or coffee outing.

A week later you were gone.

Shakti, you are so missed.

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