It is sometimes nice to reminisce over the good things that had happened to you at an early stage of your life. And as you do, your thoughts are inevitably transported back to the time when those events had unfolded....events that have embedded so deeply as memories within you.
It was the year 1973. Like everyone else my age, I was still studying...doing my Form 5 at BM High School. It was not so much the education that I choose to remember although I was a high achiever in class like everyone else in my group, if you can pardon the immodesty. It was the sheer joy of being with a group of friends who shared a special bondage with each other. The friendship was so exciting in many ways that we looked forward to each day in class....simply to be able to enjoy the pranks that we play or the jokes that we create. It was so much fun and laughter. We were not naughty...just plain witty and slightly mischievous.The teachers did not mind it and sometimes they too enjoyed the pranks that we played.
There was Jalil, the assistant monitor of the class who was more into slapstick. He went on to join the police force and ended up marrying his childhood heartthrob, the girl who swept him off his feet while still in school.
There was Singh, the class monitor who didnt like childish jokes but all the same, he usually ended up the brunt of our jokes. He was later to emigrate to Australia where he settled down.
Hari was the school sports captain. His 400 metres record was not broken until about 10 years ago.A tough guy with body-builder physique, he was one who could be relied upon to in fact virtualy protect you , if such a situation were to arise. He later went on to become an elite commando.
Imbaraj was the one person in the group who made a deep impression in me. He was a quick tempered guy who initially did not succeed in maintaining long term relationships with his friends. But those who could understand the man behind the mask found everlasting and true friendship with him. He gives a new meaning to the word friendship if you get past the many hurdles along the way. I was later in life to adopt the phonetics of his name in naming my son.
The other mischief makers were Chan (Keng San), Radzi, Farid and of course Nazir
(a teacher by prefession now who now blogs under KATA TAK NAK). Together we called ourselves JACHFRINS, a letter taken from each name to form the accronym. (Chegu Nazir had written an excellent piece about this in his blog sometime last year).
When we were together, there was never a dull moment. We always tried to play out one another although we were such thick friends. I wonder if the present school going kids are capable of engaging in such relationships.
Fast Forward 2003......30 years later!
Unfortunately, the friendship that was nurtured and cultivated so tediously during those early years was not sustained after that. At least, we failed to keep in touch. Contact was lost with most of them. It was only Imbaraj and I who continued growing up together, so to speak. But whenever we met, we never failed to recall those school years and the fond memories of Hari, Singh, Jalil, Nazir,Radzi and the rest. And it always ended in the resolution that we will do this and do that to reestablish contact and hold a reunion. The excitement lasts for that day only. The next day, we went back to life's mundane tasks with the so-called resolution taking a back seat.
Then one morning in the year 2003 as I was flipping through the morning papers while having breakfast before starting the day, I was jolted out of my seat by what I saw next....for there smiling back at me from the obituary column was our dear friend Hari!
I frantically called up some common friends that we have to find out the circumstances behind the tragedy and soon learnt the truth.....that Hari had been involved in a road accident about two weeks back and had succumbed to his injuries. I still could not believe it, or accept the fact of his death. I felt extremely guilty that I had taken things for granted for far too long.
When the reality of the situation sank in, I realised how much time we had wasted in pursuit of our goals and dreams and had actually neglected on friends that we made, who had been part of us during our formative years...how selfish! There was a time when they meant so much to us but along the way of growing up, we have had a change in priorities and had pawned away the relationship. Is this the price that one pays for pursuing his goals?
I immediately called up Imbaraj to break the news. I told him to look up the obituary column himself as I could not bring myself to tell him about it.....for I knew that Imbaraj was closer to Hari than I was!