The other day, I was at the cremation of Usha Suri, a dear friend, and my memories went back to when and how we met and developed a life-long friendship. Soon after moving to Chandigarh from Kolkata in 1960, we went house-hunting and finally rented a house in Sector 4. The very first couple to meet and greet us was Narendra and Indu Goswami. They came in with their little daughter one day, and our children struck an instant friendship, as did we. The Goswamis introduced us to their friends Usha and Lalit Suri. Soon, friendship blossomed between us. There were impromptu potlucks and picnics, and tombola at the Chandigarh Club — if any of us won a house, we went to Kwality restaurant for a chhole-bhature dinner.
Together, the six of us learnt ballroom dancing from a teacher whom we called ‘Nacha Singh’. Slowly, our dance sessions faded out. We have attended family events, seen the children grow and have witnessed the important milestones of their lives. We celebrated festivals together, and every year after Diwali puja, as per our tradition, we went to my elder sister and Lalit’s mother ‘Biji’ to pay obeisance.
Our friendship touched Rotary. Lalit joined Rotary Club of Chandigarh and soon became club president. When I became Rotary International president, they came to the US for my installation.
Lalit became a senior advocate and has been my mentor in legal matters. Usha and my wife were involved in voluntary blood donation and many other service activities of the Red Cross, Rotary and Inner Wheel. During the 1965 War, they worked as paramedics at the PGI, nursing injured jawans.
When Lalit’s younger brother developed a serious kidney problem in the 1970s, there were no facilities for dialysis. I helped import the equipment from London. We were in Delhi when my granddaughter suffered a life-threatening head injury while playing. My wife was crying all through the four-hour drive. As we reached PGI at midnight, outside the emergency gate were our dear friends, Usha and Lalit. Their smiles gave us the hope that our child was safe.
Growing older, various health problems have affected us all. Usha became a victim of breast cancer but recovered with treatment. Finally, she lost the battle of life.
Our friend is no more, but our friendship lives on. As per the Latin proverb ‘Carpe diem’, you should value each day as if it were the last. Rightly, we have all lived our lives to the fullest and are ready to go any day, but till we are here, we live in a friendly world around us.
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