Sunset Boulevard | Friendship: A bond that transcends time
I pity those who do not have friends; I detest those who betray them. I admire the courage of EM Forster, who wrote, ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’.punjab Updated: Jul 30, 2017 16:18 IST
Sincere and selfless friendship is the strongest human relationship. Even blood relationships weaken or break. Friendship is the spice of life. It lasts throughout life and even transcends death.
Memories of friends, who are no more, sweeten my sunset years. Jeetu, Jangir and Lakhmir were my friends in Middle School, Mallah. Our vernacular final examination was to start on February 5, 1947, but Lakhmir, whose village was 15 kilometres away, did not return after the winter break. Our class incharge, master Zafar Hussain, threatened to strike off his name if Lakhmir did not attend school the following day. Three of us went to his village on foot to fetch him. On our way back, we continuously recited romantic poetry from Waris Shah’s Heerand Milkhi Ram’s ‘Khoon Da Payala’. Jeetu and Jangir died young, Lakhmir passed away after he retired from the army. Waris’s Heer is my constant companion, it always reminds me of three childhood friends.
Mehar and Mittar were close friends at Government College in Ludhiana. Both were fond of Urdu poetry. Mittar even composed poems which he shared with me in his letters.
Mehar migrated to England but regularly wrote affectionate letters in Urdu. Once I advised him to sort out his domestic problems. In a reply, he sent only Ghalib’s couplet : ‘Yea kahan ki dosti hai, keh baney hain dost naseah, koi charasaz hota, koi ghamkhawar hota’.
His last letter written from a London hospital on February 8, 1987, reached me after his death on February 11. In two paragraphs, he enquired about my family and the last line was, ‘I have written to Ajit (a common friend), a sort of will, if I die, if possible get it executed’.
Mittar wrote regularly to me for 60 years. His poems lay buried in his letters. Shortly before his death, he wrote, “I was fortunate to have a friend like you. If there is a life after death, I wish to enjoy your friendship again.”
It was to preserve his poems and the memory of other friends that I translated their letters into Punjabi and published under the title ‘Chithian Mittran Dian’.
Fortunately, four dear friends from school and college — Jaswant, Kulwant, Harnek and Rachhpal — though settled abroad keep in touch with me. Twice we planned a reunion at our Alma mater. The platinum jubilee of my friendship with Rachhpal is in April 2018. I hope he will come from Canada to celebrate it with me at our school in Mallah.
I pity those who do not have friends; I detest those who betray them. I admire the courage of EM Forster, who wrote, ‘If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country’.
(The writer is a retired professor based in Ludhiana)