Childhood friends are special. In that age, friendship is based on pure love and sacrifice, free of jealousy and competition. We realise it only on facing the odd ways of the world in later years.
As children, we were three thick pals. Jantta (now Gurjant Singh), and Vali (now Vali Mohammad) were the other two. I was a Hindu Brahmin, Jantta a Sikh boy, and Vali a Muslim. Teachers called us tigadi (trio). In all community celebrations, we'd be together.
Born just two or three years after Independence, we had heard, and were even taught in school, how painful the freedom struggle was. We felt a prick when teachers told us about the bloodshed of Partition. Many children had separated from childhood friends.
Our trio earned a reputation for selfless service. We would perform seva during religious functions, and participate in social activities where common good was the objective. With could spare just enough personal time to complete homework but we had the knowledge of religions different from our own. We would sit at sacred places and tell people that God is one.
After matriculation, we parted ways to make our careers. Jantta flourished in business and hired 150 workers. Vali became a top-cadre administrator and I got into the life of a psychologist, guiding people to keep their mental health.
A few months ago, the three of us reunited at the birthday celebrations of my grandson. Our grandchildren were thrilled to meet and became friends in no time. Out of innocence, my grandchild said: "Grandpa, we hear people of different communities fighting each other but your friends are so affectionate."
I tried to find suitable words to tell the child that the people of no community were bad at heart. "It's only the outsiders who spoil the show," I said. "But who are the outsiders?" he said. "Those who forget their humanity, and their roots, and that we come from the same mother, our Earth," I replied.
"Jantta and Vali are my brothers," I told the child, "and we will remain brothers always, forever." That gave the child something to think.