Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Deepu Thomas

People usually have a best buddy in school when they are growing up. I

was fortunate - I had two; Anand and Deepu. Eventually - the 'growing

up' did end and fate placed us on different points of latitude and
longitude, prohibiting contact for months, sometimes, years together.
It is at Anand's request that I write this article today.

Try as I may, it is impossible for me to write this piece without
being overwhelmed. And so, if I err, I kindly ask you to forgive me
just this once. I write with enormous compassion and great humility
today - for today's article is about our best friend Deepu Thomas.

I was 5 years old and 2 feet tall when I first met Deepu. Since, I
clearly can not claim to be mature at the time, it is entirely
possible that those numbers are a trifle off-mark. What I do remember
clearly, was the universal likability of this boy. Quiet, shy and
easy to get along, Deepu had the makings of the perfect 'good boy'
from an early age. Anand joined us soon after. Indeed for a large
portion of my school years, we did everything together and soon
enough the school teachers had a rule of not letting us sit together.

If Anand portrayed intelligence and I portrayed arrogance, Deepu was
the living definition of simplicity. Immensely talented, yet
endearingly humble, he was the kind of boy who talked less yet spoke
more. His presence had a way of unconsciously teaching life long
lessons through the smallest of actions.

Lunch hour was an unusually tumultuous time in our lives at the time.
And so I wasn't surprised, but agitated none the less when it reached
new heights one day...... We were having our usual 'peacefully
chaotic' meals - when a bigger boy toppled Deepu's lunch box. Deepu
was never the one to get into fights and probably wouldn't have said
anything, so I took the honorable duty of hitting the boy as hard as I
could. This clearly took my adversary off guard as he must have
thought me to be mad to take on a boy his size alone. Needless to say
- his following punch was a great set back to my morals. I looked at
Deepu with a "Now what??" expression - and so in our common interest
he joined the battle. Fortified with new valor, I launched into a
fresh assault on our enemy - this time targeting his nose, using his
ample long hair as hanging ropes... through the corner of my eye, I
caught a glimpse of Deepu randomly hitting the guy - and so we kept at
it - till our enemy thought he had enough and decided to make a run
for it.

Oh yes! We were then made to kneel outside the classroom. I must admit
I felt a little guilty, to make Deepu suffer the punishment with me.
He looked at me kindly though, and we giggled our way through the
lecture. Later on Deepu showed tremendous restraint, as I play-acted
(over acted) the fight to my friends over and over again. None of us
was smart enough to observe, that my versions were varying in detail
at each iteration.

Alas! our glory was short lived! Soon later, seizing an opportune
moment, our former Mr 'Big Boy' trapped me at the end of school one
day. Behind my back lay the steep walls of "Cretch Grounds" -
impossible to scale and the only exit out of the ground was cut off by
Mr "Big Boy" - only this time, he had ensured back up in the form of
two other equally Big boys. It was the end of our P.T. session and my
class teacher was leaving with other students - already out of the
grounds, I could have yelled for help - or might have even ran away
with a little scuffle, but neither of these options were viable
without loss of honor, and so terrified as I was, I decided to put on
a brave face and face my enemies.

Needless to say, I was pounded mercilessly. The grounds provided with
ample stone though, which I proceeded to use, except I forgot, they
would use them too. Pinned by two boys on either side, I was beaten
left, right - centre - there was no escaping it. Deepu, must have
noticed I was missing, since he came back to the grounds, looking for
me. I still remember being enormously relieved to see him. Yet, it
was clear - there was no escaping this day...

He plunged into the fight right away. And then........ we both got
pounded. Neither of us quit, and we would have probably beaten
ourselves up for good, had it not been for another teacher, who broke
the fight. Our attackers ran away, and we were taken to the first
floor staff room, torn clothes - cut lips - yup - we were quite the
sight to see. Amidst detol induced tears - I looked at our sorry
states - and yet, felt immensely proud and light...

Throughout the ordeal, Deepu never made extravagant claims nor did he
blame me for causing trouble.. Silent and quiet as ever, his actions
had spoken much louder than any words I could ever speak. To, this
day, I keep that incident as my standard of friendship, simple and
always true, such was the lasting influence of my friend on those he
came in contact with..

Our friendship took new dimensions when Anand joined us. Sparkling
with intelligence and delightful humor, he took my mischief to new
heights. Whatever be the venture, Deepu would always end up being a
reluctant yet assured accomplice.

It still makes me laugh to think that Deepu hadn't seen a porn film
till he reached junior college. Anand for sure, saw this as a flaw in
his education and decided to remedy it by procuring a 'Blue-Film' -
it is telling that he instinctively thought of my home to be the
perfect venue, for watching it! I was more than happy to help - and so
it came to be - that Deepu lost his visual virginity in my living room
as Anand and me kept guard.

"If it hurts them so much! Why do they do it??" - Deepu asked.

"Thats the whole point!" - said Anand. (which seemed to have confused
Deepu even more)

"Oh! Most of the times - they are faking it." - said I - with the air
of one who has seen things beyond his age. ..

Little did I know - it was the last time I would see him.

Soon after Deepu went to pursue his bachelors in southern India. Me
and Anand stayed in Mumbai and pursued Engineering degrees. During
those four years, I remember meeting Anand twice, but I could never
meet Deepu. In another three months after I finished my Bachelors, I
flew to the United States to pursue my graduate studies, Anand I
heard, had flown to Baharain, to work in his Dad's firm.

My first return to India took longer than I had anticipated. And so it
was only after a long 30 months that I saw the twinkling lights of
Queens Necklace again.. During my stay in the U.S. I had made it a
point to meet international people and ask for specimens of their
currency. We had a hobby of collecting coins from different countries
- back in the school days... I intended to surprise Deepu - on my
return - with the collection of coins and currency notes, I had so
diligently preserved ...

I met my favourite school teacher - the very next day and we chatted
happily about my experiences in the U.S.

I had a sumptuous lunch and got ready to leave.

"Where next??" - my teacher asked.

"Oh - to Deepu's house, I have a coin collection for him, hes gonna be
so excited!"

"Sit down Sanket." - my teacher commanded. And so, I did, confusion
and bad omen filling up my mind.

"What is it??" - I asked.

"Hasn't anyone told you??" - she asked.

"Told me what!"

"Deepu died a year ago - in an accident " - she said.

I spent the next fifteen minutes in denial and anger, and smashed a
glass in her house. "How could you guys not tell me! This is not

I left her place - remembering to be as angry as I had ever been in my
life. After, I came back home, I yelled at every person I knew and
was disoriented for quite some time.

I asked my sister, "What happened?"

"He was at a bus stop - when a drunken truck driver hit him. He was in
coma for a while, but couldn't survive the accident." - she said.

I was never a religious man, but I remember, locking myself in my old
room that day and asking GOD a repeated question - " He never harmed
anyone - why him??? why him??"

My sister later told me ...

'The school his funeral was filled to its capacity with people from all
walks - some knew him as school friend, some knew him as a student,
some as a friendly boy in their neighborhood. Every single one of
them - were gathered that day, grieving with deep sorrow - they had
all lost a person very close to them.

Courageous, loyal and wonderfully simple, Deepu - was the finest human
being - I ever knew. No contest.

As I try to collect my thoughts today, I am at a loss to explain, what
it is to have such a person being taken away - so mercilessly - so
unjustly ....

A wise person once said - "Many that die - deserve to live, and many
that live, deserve death, It isn't up to you - to give it to them"

Deepu Thomas certainly deserved to live, live much longer and happier
and his loss is undoubtedly one - that we shall never quite repair ...

All, I can say to coming Don Bosco students - is "Gear up boys! You
have some big shoes to fill! May you always strive to be as virtuous
as my friend and buddy - Deepu Thomas"

Offering as proud a salute as I can.

- Sanket


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