He was one of my best friends though we met hardly a few years ago. The sort who didn’t talk behind your back, though disillusioned with some “so called” online friends, we both believed in online friendships and the whole gamut of online connectivity. I met him online through a literary network - Caferati, to be exact - and soon a friendship developed when we found that we had spent our childhoods in the suburb of Chembur. In fact, he used to live near the school where I studied. He would drop in to my house in CBD Belapur, we would spending the evening at the nearest Café Coffee Day, chatting.
He wrote well in both Marathi and Hindi, both of which I can read, write, and have a good enough understanding to know the extent of his talent. His father retired as a high-ranking official in the state government. He could pull strings to his advantage if he wanted to, but in his unassuming way only helped people who were genuine friends.
Conversation was all about online friends, the literary forums we were members of, the puerile deceits we had experienced, the treachery of people. In all these conversations I detected a will to carry on despite the odds, a tenacious hanging on to what he believed was right. He had confessed he liked the company of older men such as yours truly and Abhijeet-da our common friend. He was wiser beyond his age and loved to meet people. Once he had said he would “even get up in the middle of the night to go and help people, but only those who deserved to be helped.”
Those occasions we spent together used to be rare; when he was biking back to Bombay from Pune, he would pick me up and then he would spend the evening with me. The same bike let him down a few days back while driving down the treacherous winding mountain roads of Lonavala. He met with an accident. He died. Just like that.
He was a keen biker and as we watched a youngster doing a bike trick outside the CCD where we were seated, he described some of the stunts he used to do in his earlier days. I don’t remember the exact details, but was it such a situation he faced on the descend down the zigzagging mountain road? I don’t know. Why don’t they allow bikes on the Bombay-Pune Expressway? There could be a separate lane for them.
Now, I wonder at the transience of life, I wonder why it had to be him, I wonder what he thought about in his last moments. My heart goes out to his aged father and mother and close relations. I rang him several times thereafter, thinking he would answer the phone and say, “Yaar, yeh log kya, kya bol rahe hain, main tho bilkul theek hoon. Bada joke hua, yaar.” (Friend, what are these people saying about me, I am quite well. This is a big joke.)
Alas, not to be. Manoj Rane, friend, fellow writer, R.I.P.