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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

A life less lived

Col Avnish Sharma (retd), Hindustan Times   December 11, 2012
First Published: 00:07 IST(11/12/2012) | Last Updated: 11:28 IST(11/12/2012)

He was born with a silver spoon. Affluent, his parents hoped he would shoulder the family business one day. As a child, he was cute and he grew up to be exceptionally handsome.

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I suppose he had a record of sorts in adolescent affairs. I remember the trip to Shimla, just the two of us, soon after our school-leaving exams. The train journey from Kalka in the early '70s was memorable. Running alongside the toy train, we raced ahead easily. But later girls watching us from a compartment literally mauled him, leaving me envious and depressed.

He wanted to study and leave his small hometown. He forced his parents to send him to a university in the national capital. His folks had different plans but gave in to his insistence. A casual smoke led to chain smoking and he graduated to more potent ingredients and in no time he was hooked to drugs. All this while love was brewing up too. The young lady was a wonder of sorts. An intellectual and grounded, she was indeed a prize. She worshipped him but the fellow failed to mend his ways.

Alcohol became his favourite beverage. Priorities, slowly shifted from studies to vagabonding. More and more moollah was imported from home for wrong deeds in the guise of 'higher education'. The man was slipping despite the meaningful intervention of his lady love. His was a notable absence at my wedding with a likely reason of an overdose. They got married too and we hoped things would fall into place. The lady had dreams and they took them overseas to greener pastures. Blessed with a son, the picture seemed complete and we all heaved a sigh.

Years flew by and we remembered him occasionally. My psychologist wife looked forward to meeting this much-hyped personality. It was at last, during my tenure at Mhow that she finally got to meet him. He looked a harried replica of his erstwhile self. His expressive eyes had turned cold and stony. The hairline had receded. The walk was sluggish and unstable. The separation with his wife and son was for good, the latter simply not willing to reconcile.

My friend was alone when he returned to his parents 15 years after he left them. His folks were left high and dry. Their dreams of him shouldering the family business and being their pillar of support in their twilight years had been shattered.

The next stop was the hospital, which eventually gave up on him too. My friend declined all advice to check into a rehab centre. Suffering from jaundice, he was adamant on attending my son's wedding since he had missed mine. This gave him an opportunity to soak in the festivities literally. I could sense that the rejection by society, his friends and family, was taking its toll. He was indeed drinking himself to doomsday.

As I drive back after his funeral, my moist eyes reminisce those 52 turbulent years of self-abuse and over indulgence that snuffed and drowned a life full of promise and hope.

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