The past comes back to stake its claims on you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve moved on. You cannot move where past cannot reach you. Because past is within you. Any effort to part with the past is counter-productive.
Social networking has made it easier to connect with ghosts from past. But those ghosts don’t necessarily make good companions. It’s hard to relate to them, especially if you aren’t the same you. Which you rarely are.
I have — just like you or most of us — nominally connected with hundreds of such ghosts on Facebook. I have debated whether to accept the friend requests with many I don’t particularly know anymore. “But that is the idea, to know them again!”, some will say. Some, who are optimistic. Some who are kind, generous. Unlike me. I’m highly pessimistic, and indeed snobbish, when it comes to people. Or myself. I’m certain if they don’t get on my nerves, I will on theirs. And so I’m careful about who I call a friend. And I only, really, stay in touch with friends.
Till, one not so fine day, I hear about the death of one, who I used to be friends with. He was the Dill (To Kill a Mocking Bird) for us; me and my sister. He used to come visit his grandfather who was our neighbour, on Diwali or summer vacations. Typically, both. He was (and I almost wrote is, which would have been true till a day before) the most innocent guy I knew, then. And not many I have met later in life can compete with that, forget about bettering it.
Sachin, my childhood friend, passed away yesterday. I last saw him maybe fifteen years back. Or even more. I last talked to him about five years back, after a gap of ten odd years. That was the only contact outside facebook I had with him over all these years (and on facebook, also minimal, mostly he liking or commenting on a post or comment). There wasn’t much to talk, beyond asking what some common acquaintance was doing, where we are working, and the like. We made vague plans to meet up. I knew I wasn’t serious. The years had put a gap between us that I didn’t quite believe we — or rather, I — could overcome.
I learned of the news from a common friend today. The first thing that came to my mind is, maybe I should have believed that we could fill the gap, and insisted on meeting him. I wished I knew how to borrow a belief.
I’m terrible with deaths. I don’t believe in the rituals post death. Death is a wrong time to be rebellious, to be aloof, to be yourself. People who love you, depend on you to not be stubborn. They want to see you going through the motions. I’ve disappointed people close to me because I don’t know how to go through the motions. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean it disrespectfully — going through the motions, not in this context! They must have their use. Closure needs an algorithm. If we can’t write one, we catch on to whatever is known to have worked for someone, anyone. I have a, even if short, list of apologies I could never offer. I could never gather the courage, once the moment had passed. And when you haven’t found closure, that moment flies by you as you mourn torturously, alone, having abandoned the healing that mourning with a group may offer.
I remember so many stories. I know when I will next meet some of my cousins who know him, or our common friends, we’ll share some of those stories. And Sachin will bring a smile on our faces, again, after all these years. And in those stories, in that borderline laughter, I’ll find the only partial closure that’s possible for someone like me who is closure challenged.
RIP Sachin. You’ll always be remembered fondly. And while I will try to avoid tears, and fake a sense of normalcy by going through another set of motions, as a weak substitute, a part of me will always mourn for you. I didn’t exactly have you in my life in all of my adult life. But do pass on the shared innocence, in the hope that I find a way to reconnect with some ghosts from the past before they actually become just that.