When some people pass on, I get the strong, unshakeable feeling that the ideal person that could nurture me through the grieving process is that person itself. The magnitude of the loss and enormity of the vacuum created by them are so large that only that person – in their absence, their memories – will help gradually fill the void over time. That is exactly how I feel now that my friend since second grade has left me prematurely, irreversibly. While people’s views on death might be variable, could we agree at the outset that 40 is no age to go?
Ramadhyani Narayanan – Dhyans, to me - was an incredibly important person in my life. We were classmates in Chennai from 2nd grade till the 11th. After we finished school (1998), we had never lived in the same city. Our respective journeys took us to places such as Memphis, Irvine, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Hyderabad, Dubai, Mumbai and so on. Never were we in any of those cities together except for when we visited each other in a couple of these places. I don’t know if the lack of proximity in fact made us more ‘responsible’ as friends. We never, ever lost touch with one another. Through our respective life experiences - joys, lows, unfettered elation, unbearable despair – I just knew that there was this fellow that I could always count on. And let me hasten to add, this was a comfort that he gave me even before technological conveniences such as Whatsapp existed.
The Dhyans that I befriended in 2nd grade was not the Dhyans that I interacted with recently. Of course not, you might think. He was 7 then. He turned 40 this year. What I meant was that I have had the sheer luxury of seeing different faces of this marvelous person over the different phases of our lives. He has, at different times, been an impish guy, a happy-go-lucky chap, a daredevil, a risk taker, an insouciant fellow and, in recent times, an incredibly mature, thoughtful person whom I could turn to for measured, personalized advice on any topic. The golden thread that tied the different knots in the story of our life had been his understated affection and immense kindness. He was incapable of meanness. Read that line again. The guy did not have an unkind bone in his body. And if you knew that, his ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to relationships was impossibly endearing, never infuriating.
Two stories that I shall share will hopefully reveal both the lighter side and the more thoughtful side of Dhyans.
The first one happened in November 2005 when we had gone to a mutual friend’s wedding reception in Bangalore. We had traveled as a big gang by train to Bangalore. And while returning, only the two of us were traveling. We had never traveled by air together and we decided to indulge ourselves. The morning of the return flight, instead of preparing to go to the airport, we went to the open ground in our friend’s apartment complex to play cricket! We knew that we were cutting it close but how could we possibly miss a game of cricket? We didn’t.
I am happy to report that I was the first to signal that we were behind the eight ball - not in terms of run rate in the game that we lost - in terms of preparing for our air travel. Dhyans could care less. Not only did he want us to finish the game but also insisted that we eat the piping hot breakfast that our friend’s Mom had lovingly prepared for us. Bangalore road traffic and two hours later, “Boarding closed, gentlemen” was the unambiguous verdict from the airline official. Did that faze Dhyans? Nope. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Vidra, train pidichikalaam!” And off we went to the train station and hopped onto a train whose every junk food item we tasted by the time we reached Chennai hours later. In hindsight, I am just glad that I got to spend six hours with him on the train rather than one on the flight. Life is too short to not be shared enough, you know.
The second story that I would like to share is from 2018. My grandma was in a bedridden state following a massive heart attack. I was seeing Dhyans after a few years. He mentioned to me that he would come to my place at a certain time. I had stepped out only to return a little late. Dhyans was already at my place. I saw his big boots outside the house but couldn’t spot him in our living room. A few seconds later, I saw him by my grandma’s side, gently giving her palms a massage because she had been experiencing excruciating pain. It is not just the gesture that touched me but the casual, unfussy style in which he said, “Dey, Thathama thinks that your massage is no good!” And he turned towards my grandma asking for her confirmation, which she happily gave him. And for the rest of that trip of mine, whenever Dhyans was in the house, he was my grandma’s unofficial physical therapist, exhorting her to do stretching exercises in his absence and assuring her that she would convalesce. She didn’t recover, passing away two months later. But the fact is that Dhyans had alleviated her pain in a manner only he could. Did I say he wore big shoes? Yes, not shoes that can be filled easily.
I constantly complain how the saturation of social media makes us want to just shed spotlight on the peaks of our lives. Dhyans never had time for that kind of superficial brandishing. He was much too deep for that. He wanted to share with and partake in the heights and depths of people whom he trusted. And what more, he extended that kindness to my entire family as well, not just my grandma.
I am grateful you existed, Dhyans. You were one of a kind. Thank you for being there with me and for me till your last day. You know, I could get through this phase better only if you were here.
Rest in peace, my friend, my well-wisher, my brother.