Indelible himOne of the most wonderful parts of my childhood was my friend Raju. Even when I think back to those golden days, I remember him wearing dark blue pants over a light blue shirt—the uniform at his local government school. He was in grade two when I first met him and even then, he was very passionate about reading books, flipping pages every chance he got.
One of the most wonderful parts of my childhood was my friend Raju. Even when I think back to those golden days, I remember him wearing dark blue pants over a light blue shirt—the uniform at his local government school. He was in grade two when I first met him and even then, he was very passionate about reading books, flipping pages every chance he got.
He was my partner-in-crime whenever I visited my aunt’s place during my annual holidays. He used to live across the paddy field from my aunt’s house. I would wait all day for him to get back from school so that we could go on our own little adventures. He was the one who taught me to play ‘dandi-biyo’ and ‘chungi’. I still remember the sparkle in his eyes when he used to tell me ghost stories or the time he came face-to-face with a tiger followed by his clever escape. I listened to him intently and naively, believing every word he said. But he was also someone who was mature for his age. Although we were the same age, he always acted like a guardian and felt he was responsible for our safety and well-being.
Raju had a slight limp on his right foot and I could make out from afar that it was him. One day, I asked him about his limp and he simply said that he had once broke a leg and never recovered fully. Even though I was a kid, I could understand that Raju hadn’t received proper medical attention when he needed it. His father, the sole provider in his family, looked unusually old and I could see him toil every day in the fields to make the ends meet.
As I grew older, I stopped visiting my aunt every year—I had many other things on my to-do list during my long vacation. It didn’t even strike me to ask about Raju in those years. But after seven long years, I finally visited my aunt. I hadn’t expected much from that trip, as my childhood memories had also faded away at that point. But it all came rushing back at once—when I saw a familiar face.
My dear friend Raju was no more a boy. He had turned into a handsome young man with a few beard strands on his chin. He also had a new friend—his wheelchair. It had been many years since we last saw each other and combined with our adolescent awkwardness, we didn’t approach each other. We didn’t even acknowledge each other’s presence on our first meet after so long. Seeing him wheelchair-bound forced me to think about all the happy days I had spent with him and I told myself that I would visit him before I left.
The next morning, I ran to a local shop and bought some chocolates for him. I awkwardly approached him and presented with my small gift. “Do you remember me?” I asked him, to which he simply replied, “Yes” and gave me a big smile. Before it could turn awkward for both of us, I ran to my baba so that we could return home. But we became friends on Facebook and even chatted sporadically. I even met him the subsequent year while on a trip to my aunt’s.
But after some years, I saw a video circulated on Facebook with Raju’s face on the thumbnail. I quickly clicked on the video—Raju was pleading for a donation to survive as both of his parents had abandoned him and he was left with no means. It struck me like a lightning bolt—I was so unaware about his misery. I quickly got on the phone with my cousin. The news he broke was the saddest I have ever received in my life, Raju had died three days ago.
Basnet is an undergraduate student at Academy of Commerce