Subha was my best friend in college. she was an ever-smiling girl, always full of life. Everyone loved her for her liveliness and vivacity. She was an intelligent and serious student who never missed her classes. I bonded with Subha instantly, perhaps because we had in common the absence of a mother. She lost her mother when she was in school and was raised by her maternal grandmother.
Our friendship continued even after we left college. She used to call me almost every day. In those days there were no mobile phones and she used to call me on our landline phone. Whenever she called we used to talk for hours, so much so that one day my dad joked that when Subha calls he looks for the time in the calendar instead of a clock.
Subha was my first friend to get married and therefore her marriage was special. We planned for it from months in advance. My father usually never allowed me to stay overnight at any friend’s place but he allowed me to stay for four days for her wedding. On the day of her wedding, we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning. We were singing and dancing and cracking jokes. It was only fun and laughter. She looked beautiful and happy.
It was nine months after her wedding, one morning I received a call from her distraught husband that Subha had been hospitalized as she fainted in the bathroom. My first reaction was of happiness, I teased her husband ‘Am I becoming a Masi (Aunt)?’ he laughed. I went to meet her in the hospital and when I saw her my heart skipped a bit. I knew something was amiss. She looked skinny, with dark circles and pale. She was very different from the beautiful girl that we knew of.
A week later, when I went to meet her again in the hospital, she looked feebler. I met her husband outside her room and he looked paler than her perhaps. His eyes had gone inside, his hair was unkempt and he had an unshaven beard. He looked at me the way a lost soldier would look. When I went near he said, “We are losing her, it is cancer, stage 4.” I couldn’t believe my own ears and I felt like screaming at her husband. How could a 27-year-old girl die of cancer? I knew these days cancer could be treated and it was no more fatal. I just wanted a miracle to happen.
Her battle began. She became weaker and bedridden. I often feel guilty that this was the time when I got extremely busy with my career and couldn’t spend enough time with her. One day, she called me in office but I was in the middle of a meeting and couldn’t take her call. When I called back she was asleep. Unfortunately, we never spoke ever again.
Two days later, I got a call that she was gone, I wanted to rush but that was the day when a prestigious client was visiting our office and my boss didn’t allow me to go. After office when I went to her place they had come back from the crematorium. I couldn’t even see her once for the last time. On my way back home, I boarded a bus that was standing in the depot. Another college friend was with me. We were the only two passengers on the bus. We hugged each other and tears started rolling down. We cried and cried and cried. Even now after so many years she still visits me in my dreams. Even now when something exciting happens in my life I talk to her in my mind and often I can listen to her, laughing and crying with me.