One of the great gifts of life is knowing people whose stories you want to tell. To be uniquely situated to tell these stories is a bit like a case of the Goldilocks zone — one cannot be too close lest you are swallowed by the heat of the story, and one cannot be too distant so as to be left untouched, cold and frigid.
So is my situation with my friend Kabi*.
My friend Kabi, who on the occasions of our annual reunions in Kolkata would press into my hands yet another cloth-bound Writers Workshop published book of poetry. His books of poetry. “You’ll recognize a dear friend among those who I thanked”, he guffawed.
My friend Kabi, whose continuous struggles with his bipolar medication meant the coexistence of highs when he would deeply believe that he, as a 34 yr old with a damaged knee, could compete in the Olympics, to numbing, dumbing, lows, when 12–14 hrs of sluggish sleep were commonplace.
My friend Kabi, who on the eve of my move to the United States in the winter of 2011, abruptly turned to grasp my arm and said “Sachin, don’t forget, satsang.” Precious words I never forget, as if they were not his, but through him, at a time when I needed them the most.
My friend Kabi, the forgiving victim of my invariable late-coming — to Flurys, Dover Place CCD and Baked ‘n Fried — and who taught me to accept and just be with the mild discomfort of restaurant patrons staring at your excitable companion.
My friend Kabi, whose faith in Thakur was the fragrant backdrop to moments of shared silence, and which faith, I hope, will find every single dark spot in Kabi’s tumultuous life and illuminate it irreversibly.
My friend Kabi, who met me at a cafe shop in the bucolic lanes of Dover Place, with anguish writ large, bared the stitched inside of his forearm, and spoke of the rare but immensely painful moments of self-destructive rage that would occasionally come upon him, like a great river of madness in which the boats of our resolve are swept up like toys, out to sea.
Kabi, the rooms of the facility where you are now confined can hold you only in body. Your freedom, my brother, must be temporarily martyred to society’s failure to understand and nurture all its children. While those of us who move about with our fragile potlis of sanity are given free rein, you, who can offer no such assurances of predictability, must be kept in check while we come up with answers.
Close your eyes, feel the heart that cannot be checked, the place you have always lived.
Till we meet again. Till the next cup of chai.
I’m a self-appointed union leader
In Your global factory
Demanding the highest possible wages
For us all:
- Sachin Malhan
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