His sunken eyes and frail body greeted me. Lying on a non-descript hospital bed in Gwalior was once an 80-kg gregarious friend of mine who had been reduced to the present 50 kgs of spectre. Past few months he suffered a severe duodenum affliction which affected his food intake and health considerably. I was shocked to see his condition, and the sight left an indelible mark on my mind. Was what I was witnessing real? How could this happen to such a healthy person, I wondered? For a few minutes I was speechless. Gradually, I gathered my bearings and sat next to him. As the doctors had advised against speaking he kept looking at me and Anita with a sad smile on his face.
His deep sunken eyes looked at me and he held his gaze. I held for a few seconds but couldn’t for long. I looked away. I dont know the reasons but I was unable to look into those eyes for long. What were they saying to me, I wondered? I think I saw helplessness and worry. At the same time I thought were they expressing something more? Like, I appreciate you coming here but I dont want you to carry back my present vulnerable condition as a memory. I didn’t understand his frustration then, seating next to him but now I think it makes sense. We grew up together in Scindia, in a residential school. Did those many crazy adolescent things together. That memory is still fresh and strong – the power of youth brimming with energy, the care-free attitude and the easiness with which challenges were accepted and conquered. The boisterous zest with which we lived our lives is a strong emotion and perhaps instrumental in deepening ties amongst friends. Even now when we Scindians meet we become boys, going back memory lane, re-living our adventures, pranks and mindless inanity. Those were the days is a common refrain. Compared to those carefree days when one was in control to the present condition of becoming dependent and anxiety-ridden state is hard to bear and accept, and surely difficult to present before others, even if they are friends of yore.
I now understand his predicament, but what is difficult to digest is my inner turmoil. What my friend needed was my support and care in his dire situation. My initial reaction was to run away. In the present age of compressed times and other priority do we have the time and energy to offer our selves in service of others? Do I have it? Would it be possible for me to be just there beside someone who is a friend, who needs me and not worry about my so-called commitments. What and how could I offer myself for the well-being of others? Isnt this what friendship is all about? And how would I respond if I was at the receiving end? Would I accept being dependent and helpless? I dont want to, and am not very inclined towards spending time in hospitals. That is one reason I have become conscious of my well-being and its connections to food, physical work, avoiding stress and tensions, emotional well-being, developing friendship, and trying to live in the present….
I cant remove the memory of those eyes. Perhaps they are urging me to change!