“The stars are not wanted now, put out everyone.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods.
For nothing now can ever come to any good” – W.H. Auden
Past tense is a bitch. I stare at this blank piece of paper, and I am assaulted by the impossibility of ‘was’ in my hollow words. I struggle in how to translate the vividly coloured images of my memories into a coherent elegy to my friend. Through our four years of co-existence, the images of him in my mind permeate every aspect of our surroundings. Everywhere I look, brings to mind another link in the bond of shared experience. Sometimes, there are images which should have been long ago discarded into the shredder of time, but they now cloud my senses. So real in their intensity, that I relive them with every thought; they are harsh in their attention to detail, from the angle of the light of the sun, to the shape of the shadows of night. I recall exact dialogues from the seemingly infinite number of moments spent together. From this flood, I attempt to mould inadequate words into hopefully an apt memory of Muski.
The first time I met him, was like a portent of things to come in the next four years, was during our first week in IITK; in the Hall – 2 Quad. He was being lambasted by someone for smiling like crazy which he couldn’t wipe off his face. Even then, till now, that mischievous smile never left him. We used to joke that he couldn’t help smiling as his bones were bent that way. Through all the ups and downs of life, whether in happier times or trying ones, he put his best smile forward. And even if we took his case all the time, we loved him for it, Muski ki muski...
We became friends in our second year, as members of our HEC. As the maintenance secretary, he really wanted to change things. He was determined to accomplish whatever he had said he would. We worked together to get wooden beds installed in rooms. And even for such a trivial thing, he put in his heart and soul. Faced with discrepancies in the tender process, he took it upon himself to do things the right way, even if it meant that they took forever. What followed was one of the most learning experiences of my sophomore year.
We took the tender out ourselves, to ensure that everything went as it should. We were approached by contractors with not unsubstantial bribes to subvert the process. Yet Muski was determined to do things the right way no matter what. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know the ABCD of how to go about it. Even if he had to do the same thing thrice, Muski did it with gusto. We had so many meetings with the Dean, we were almost on first name basis. Muski ensured that he got his work done the way he wanted it done. It was this free spirit (stubborn to the core) which I admired, because once he decided to do something, he got it done, period.
It was another one of his endearing qualities; he was always there to help you when you needed it. If you wanted to get something done, you talked to Muski. What always shone through was his confidence in dealing with things. He was always a man of supreme ‘jugaad’, he would just flash a trademark smile and solve all your problems. This smile was recognised everywhere, whether it be the DOSA, a SIS guard, the chai-wallah at MT, or even the guard at Rave Moti, or the Station Master at Kanpur Central, everyone knew him. In the time I got to spend with him, there were many such invaluable lessons about making sense of this crazy world and its inhabitants.
A reason why everyone liked him was because he connected with everyone. Any given point of time you could count on him to have an anecdote about some wild thing that happened to him. About a time when he got lost near Nainital or when a professor commented on his beard in class or when he hoodwinked a senior for a treat. And when you got to know him, you realized why he was such a repository of stories. He loved to have fun, every time you asked for his help, you could rest assure he would make you pay, whether in the form of a coffee at Barista, or chicken at China Town.
One morning in third year, we were sitting on the top of a water tank on the Hall-2 roof. And Muski had this sudden crazy idea to go to Moti Jheel and have Banarasi chai and bun-makkhan. It was dawn and we hadn’t slept, yet I knew it was futile to resist once he had had the thought. And off he went, first he called to ask for a bike/scooter, nobody picked up (it was after all 5:00 a.m.). He then dragged me to Hall-1 to wake up a senior, who told him that the keys were in Hall-8. Then we trudged to Hall-8, half awake. We finally reached the scooter standing in front of the Basky Courts. Flush with happiness, he punched the keys in and kick-started it.
Nothing. A tilt. Another kick. Nothing.
I finally thought, this will be the end of it, and started dreaming about my comfortable bed. I should have known better. He made me walk all the way to the Gate, and in continuance of our good luck, there were no tempos. I tell the truth when I say this, he flagged down a bloody truck and arranged a lift. Finally we went on our way, in a rickety truck stuck between the driver and his conductor. I don’t know where I might have breakfast in the future, but those five cups of tea, and almost a loaf of bread each will be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying breakfasts I ever have.
On our third cup of tea we had a deep philosophical discussion on what we want to do in life. I, as expected, had no idea what I was going to do. Muski, on the other hand, knew exactly what he wanted. He said he had a dream of owning a small company on his own, which would impact the world in a small but meaningful way. From what I knew of him, I knew that he would do it someday. And he pursued his dream with a passion which I can only hope for in my endeavours. I saw his and Dons’ (Ankit Singh) company germinate as an idea, and over the course of a year develop into a budding business.
We believed in them. In fact, they took out a group loan, where the whole wing of poor stingy guys like us, who wouldn’t give you a dime for your dollar, gave him loans of 2k-3k each for starting capital. Everyone gave it to them, because all of us had confidence in their devotion and hard work. In return we got a vote on the name of his company - ‘Fusion Craft’. And we were justified in our faith too; he made it a point to pay off every single debt as soon as he could.
Recently, their efforts were showing promising results. They were being approached by venture capitalists who believed in their business and wanted to invest in it. When Muski told me this, I could almost see stars in his eyes. He was dreaming big, and it warmed my heart to see him so successful. We used to talk about when we would be older and successful men, what we would do to have fun. How we would look back on these days, and laugh at our past selves. Tragedy has a way of screwing up good things.
In the condolence meeting that was held in his memory, I realised how many lives Muski touched. I am grateful for having been lucky to have him as a friend. Over the last four years, we all changed together, each influencing another. Perhaps, everyone that knew him has their own story to tell of how he made an impact in their life; this was mine.
He taught me many things. He taught me how to distinguish between good and bad chicken. He taught me Macroeconomics. He taught me how to use a DSLR. He taught me how to shave. Most importantly, he taught me how to live life. He taught me not only to dream but to have a passion to crystallise them into reality. He taught me how to dream.
But today, I dream about my friend who was.....but will always remain my friend whom I dearly miss.