You are deaf, and I am dumb!

Pragna woke me up from the deepest sleep. ‘There’s a bad news?’ I feared the worst. But never imagined what she told me –  whispering, incoherently sobbing – Satish is no more! Sleep alluded us. We talked into the wee hours about our last meeting(s) with him – when we were in Goa. After a few days, with my mind still trying to grapple with the loss, I wrote this small eulogy – which I am sharing now. The pain never dulls, and never a day without remembering my friend, Satish S. Sonak.

Indian Mythology:

“How did you know that the stranger is a foreigner?”

“For one thing, I have never seen him in our city. Secondly – he is so skinny and positively very undernourished. He is dressed very shabbily. Even the beggars of our city are dressed.”

On further enquiries, the soldier revealed the name of the visitor to the palace – “Sudama”. And Krishna jumps, runs – oblivious of the status or shows – towards the main entrance of the palace.

Krishna is the Lord, whereas Sudama is the destitute Brahmin. Their paths crossed in their early childhood – at a school –  resulting in a very strong bond of friendship.

The childhood friendship is the purest – and most unselfish. It doesn’t weigh the benefits nor is it deterred by economic divide. Friendship for what it is – just friendship.

The Present:

Let’s compare (most of) the friendships ‘cultivated’ in the later parts of life. Remember – childhood friendship happens – just like love happens. The other friendship is ‘cultivated’ – as in the fields and farms – you cultivate the potatoes and plums. The former has no expectation or form, the purpose of the other is ‘fruits’ in any format.

The mind zips into calculations – at a speed that surpasses supercomputer. “If I befriend her, then through her (or her contacts), I can reap economic or other rewards. The question is how?” You are very much involved in cultivating friendship. You are immediately on guard – when someone tries to befriend you. ‘Judge others – as you are!’ The brain storms into super-computer / calculator mode. “Why is he or she so chummy with me? What does she want?”

No doubt you have few hundred friends / followers on your social media. All your posts and pictures get multiple likes and comments. But when did you actually meet your ‘close friend’? Or talked to him? Today’s friendship is aptly summarized in the words of W. H. Auden’s poem ‘The Unknown Citizen):

Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

When was the last time your friend and you roared with laughter? ‘ROFL’ is the only thing you get. Really? These days, you can hardly discern the difference between the genuine guffaws at your jokes and the ingratiating fakes. It is sad truth that the rich man’s ‘poor jokes’ earn maximum applause.

Krishna and Sudama:

At constant prodding of his wife (“She Who Must Be Obeyed”), poor Sudama visits his childhood friend, Lord Krishna. Instead of being jealous (as a normal being), Sudama revels and rejoices in the wealth and glamor of his childhood friend. The friendship had yet to pass the tests. Nobody in the city would guide the poor Brahmin to Krishna’s palace. Various reasons: Sudama resembled a mad person, or at best a poor beggar; and Krishna needed to be protected from such vagabonds. Against all odds, Sudama at last arrives at Krishna’s palace; and is stopped from proceeding further by the soldier on duty. At his persistent requests, the soldier approaches the Lord, and announces the arrival.

On hearing Sudama’s name, Krishna jumps to welcome the childhood friends, and gives him utmost, undivided attention. Forgetting his daily chores and duties, Krishna’s entire focus is on Sudama, the mission to make him comfortable.

After a few days, its time to move on. Sudama goes home, without having received any material benefits. Honour and utmost, unselfish love – YES. Money and wealth – NO!

A modern friend would have called names – “stingy, miserly, close-fisted”; and then cursed his own misfortune. Not Sudama. He continued to revel in his rich friend’s fortunes. Only when he reaches his own place, he finds that his place (a hut) has been replaced by a palace. And his ‘poverty-stricken penny pinching existence’ had been changed by Krishna. For ever, forever! Mysterious are the ways of the powerful friends.

Light clicks on:

“Veni, vidi, vici” – applied aptly to Satish. I was born in Panaji, Satish entered Panaji when he was about nine. Immediately, we were inseparable friends. With passing years, the bond of unselfish, undemanding friendship became stronger. We read the same books, ate the same (vegetarian) foods, chased the same interests (butterflies and girls?), and shared our deepest secrets and desires. The time took its toll; and we went different ways. He became the unspoken Lord; whereas mortal moi toiled away in different country. Satish came, Satish saw, and Satish conquered ALL.

The bonds of camaraderie and love for Panaji brought me back to Goa – again, and again. And at each time, Satish and I managed to spend quite some time together. Despite his busy schedules, court dates and pressing engagements, he ‘managed’. He gave me – time permitting – ‘utmost, undivided attention’. Many times, we would just travel in the vehicle on way to his appointments (all over Goa), and share our news / views. We discussed everything under the sun and also the dark. He took time to re-introduce me to brand new Central Library at Pato, Panaji – and showed me several books for which he was instrumental in getting published.

And every time, on my returning home – I found that he had changed my ‘poverty-stricken penny pinching existence’. He enriched the very existence and the life. He was truly Krishna and all of us – Sudama!

The light goes out:

His untimely death shook me very much. Where is he? During our various meetings, Satish and I discussed a lot about re-incarnation and ‘life after death’. Our favourite quote was “Is there life after birth?” Once we agree on it, we could discuss about life AFTER death.

All I say with watery eyes – Wherever he is –

Is he free? Is he happy? Is the question absurd?
Everything is so wrong! His voice – it never be heard.

4 Comments

  1. Vinay

    Hello Atulanand ji, Great read. This one is straight from your heart . Of course, you have head (and brain with lots of gray matter) on your shoulders to produce another master piece. But the apt use of sudama story reveals your deepest connection with your childhood buddy. We are sorry for your loss and I am sure you will meet him in reincarnated form some time in future.

  2. Dear Atul
    Well expressed
    There is hardly a day when I have not remembered Satish.

  3. Dear Atul
    Well expressed
    There is hardly a day when I have not remembered Satish.

  4. Rachita Shah

    I had tears in my eyes when I read the first bit. Of course, I also knew Satish Uncle and I can feel your loss.

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