Some friends are never meant to be forgotten
Among all my college friends JD was dearest to me. He was JD to all, even the teachers. Few knew that his name was Janardhan Dutt Sharma. At college, we spent only two years together, sharing just one common class of geography. Outside classes, however, we were together most of the time.
We were different in many ways, but these differences never came in the way of our genuine friendship and mutual affection.
JD bicycled daily to Government College, Ludhiana from his village Alamgir, which is about 10 miles from the city. I lived by myself in our own house near the college. Often he would come to me first and then we would go to college together. After college he invariably accompanied me to my house, sometimes he stayed with me. We talked, laughed, discussed books and films, shared family problems, made plans for the future and above all gossiped about girls – some real and some dream girls.
Our tea sessions at Pandit’s dhaba in the GhumarMandi chowk were lively and enjoyable. The dhaba was strategically located at the southern end of Lovers’ Lane, which led to Gurdev Hostel for girls and Government College for Boys; whereas towards the east quite close by was Government College for women. We patronised the dhaba because of its location and the quality of tea. Pandit died years ago; the dhaba disappeared and in its place came a big departmental store. The place still retains its old name Ghumar Mandi, but it’s a posh shopping area of the city today. And there lie buried sweet memories of my youth and the happy moments spent with friends like JD.
Ours was a group of village boys, who were first generation college students. In a way we were yokels and new to city ways. JD was an exception; he had visited Lahore and Shimla (then Simla) and talked about Flattie’s and Devico’s and the attraction of those magical cities. He was my guide in table manners, in handling the knife and fork, in artfully combining colours when dressing, in tying the knot of the tie, in addressing the ladies properly, in selecting good books, in using correct English pronunciation, in watching standard English films and above all in choosing the ‘right’ friends. No wonder he remained ‘Englandi bachha’ to us. Who knew then that one day he would go to England to study, to settle and to die?
While doing his master’s (English), JD married a Kenya-born girl of Punjabi origin, who left for Nairobi soon after marriage. JD followed suit leaving his studies incomplete. Subsequently, he emigrated to England with his family. We exchanged letters regularly. Once he did not write to me quite for some time and I sent him a one-sentence letter: “How have you managed to forget your past?” It jolted him, and he wrote a long letter.
On a visit to India years ago, he insisted we spend some time together at a hill station, so we went to Mussoorie. We had a wonderful time there. We climbed up to Moti Tibba, went down to see a waterfall, sat on grassy lawns lazing in the sun and reminiscing. It was a perfect holiday for both of us. JD had a knack of making each moment lively and memorable. As the sun was sinking behind the hills and we walked down the Mall, I saw a bright red print displayed in a cloth shop and spontaneously remarked, “how beautiful.” He asked me whom I loved most and when I answered “my eldest daughter,” he went into the shop and bought a shirt-length as a gift for her.
JD was a handsome person, fair, tall, with big blue eyes. He had a powerful voice, which he used to good effect while conversing. He was no intellectual but possessed ample practical common sense. He loved the good things of life, enjoyed them and encouraged others to do so. He was not interested in futile discussions on religion, philosophy, communism etc, subjects which interested many students of our generation. He took life as it came and tried to enjoy each moment.
When his wife left for Kenya only a few days after their marriage, he wrote to her the lines of a song popular then: Jiwan ke safar mein rahi miltey hain bichhar jaaney ko; aur dey jaatey hain yaadein tanhai mein tarpaney ko (Companions in this life meet us only to be separated, and leave us with memories that torture us when we are lonely.” She felt bad then, but these words proved to be prophetic.
They reflect my state of mind, now.
JD had been suffering from blood cancer for two years but he did not reveal it to any friend or relative. He passed away on September 3, 1976, in England. I have never forgotten him and can never do so. He visits me in my dreams. In our culture, it is said that if we remember the dead so much and too long, their souls suffer. I do not wish to cause his soul any pain, but I simply cannot forget him. His company was the joy of my youth; his memory is the solace of my old age.
Surely, no bond is stronger and more satisfying than sincere friendship.
(The writer is a retired professor based in Ludhiana)