I woke up every morning looking forward to going to school, and to spending time with my friends. It was a twenty-minute walk to the school, before the years of riding the bicycle.
One school day, perhaps in the fifth standard it was, I was walking back home with my best friend back then. We started arguing about the spelling of a word. The name of a flower. Bougainvillea. The argument was about whether or not there was an "e" in the word.
Soon, we traded the few "bad words" we knew. When that colorful language was not enough, our arms started swinging.
Before I knew it, my shirt pocket was ripped and I had a tear that was beyond repair. My school uniform shirt. We stopped our fight right then and there. We knew we were in deep trouble with our parents.
The rest of the walk was in silence. When we reached the roundtana, we went our separate ways.
I reached home and explained to my mother how I ended up with a huge hole in my school shirt.
And then I rushed to check with the dictionary.
He was correct.
Of course he was, as I had suspected was the case all through the argument and the fist-fight.
As if that fight was the cause, which it was not, we slowly drifted apart as we got older and became teenagers. I visited with him a couple of times during our undergraduate years, before he withdrew from college in order to follow his true love of writing.
After a long gap, I met with him, and his parents, about six years ago. We laughed about the infamous bougainvillea incident.
Today, there was an email from my brother:
Not sure if u heard the newsMy old childhood friend, Vijay Nambisan, has died.
If not sorry to let u know
Vijay now joins two other wonderful childhood friends--Manibaba and Rangayya.
Vijay was remarakbly gifted and talented. He was one of the very few that I have known in life who were exceptional in the analytical and the creative. He was truly one of a kind. I wish we hadn't drifted apart. But that is what life is--we grow into our own personalities, and we live our own lives.
I picked up from my bookshelf the book that I got from him as a gift more than forty years ago. His friendship, and the fight over the spelling of bougainvillea, were even better gifts of life.