Friday, 27 April 2012


Anyone who has seen the Hindi movie ‘Sholay’ would be familiar with the kind of enduring friendship that existed between Veeru and Jai. Of particular interest was the song, on the stolen mobike with a side-car, with the words, “Ye dosti hum nahin todenge; todenge dum magar tera saath na chhodenge" (This friendship, we shall never break; even after death do us apart, we shall still be together). People often feel that movies are just projections on the silver-screen and one can, in real life, rarely come across such far-fetched scenarios. Well, to an extent people are right; Jaya (My friend Amarjeet Bajwa's wife) didn’t have to dance in front of dacoits to keep Amar alive, nor did Lyn (my wife) have to wear a white saree. However, many of the other things happened between Amar and me….really. We swore by our dosti and we still do. As far as the mobike is concerned, it wasn’t a stolen one; it was Amar’s own and I wish we had preserved it in remembrance of all the fun we had over it….and in one particular case, with one of us over it and the other having fallen off somewhere in the wilderness.
I owe my life to Amar…well, almost. After a strenuous game of squash racquets (in which he’d invariably beat me) I developed severe chest pain and was to be rushed to the No. 6 Air Force Hospital in Coimbatore (South India) where both of us were posted in Navy's Leadership School named Agrani. A few days ago a sailor undergoing the Leadership CVourse had died of undetected Ischemic Heart Disease (ISD) and hence Flight Lieutenant Malse – the doctor on duty – didn’t want to take chances. I was promptly labeled a case of IHD and after the customary ECG etc, the doctor counseled me about stress-control (both physical and mental). Amar came to see me in the hospital with his usual ebullience. The seriousness of what the doctor had told me completely escaped his attention. He had bought a second-hand Standard car with a Citroen body. What better way to test the car than to take his best pal for a ride? As we took off from the hospital Amar explained to me that the car had taken part in some Malyalam movie. On the way back, I learnt that in addition to its uniqueness for having acted in the Mallu flick, it was one of the first cars equipped with “dual propulsion”; for, when the car engine and the passengers’ hearts would miss several beats, it had to be pushed until the engine would start again. So, there I was, a declared patient of IHD, with doctor’s instructions about tension, stress and the like fresh in my mind, pushing Bajwa’s car until the secondary way of propulsion, that is, one with the running engine would be restored. The doctor had planned some painful, expensive and time-consuming tests to confirm his diagnosis. But, Amar by a simple experiment conclusively proved that if I could push his Citroen in the middle of the night, I couldn’t be suffering from any Heart-Disease. Finally, after one year's of medical tests, Amar was proved right.

Bajwa had cure for most – if not all – of my problems; none of those fancy cures but highly effective and instantaneous ones; something like, “Have a headache? Well, hit yourself hard with a hammer on your toe and poof, the headache is gone”. We were sitting together in the Oberoi Sheraton at Bombay past midnight, just a few hours before Lyn was to join me after our secret marriage. I was going over all the things that I had collected for her: a fridge, gas, cutlery, plates etc. Suddenly I remembered and said aloud that I hadn’t got sugar even to make the first cup of tea with my newly wedded wife. Bajwa, with great fanfare took the sugar bowl from the table at the hotel and emptied the entire thing in my kerchief and for effect took out the rose from the vase and gave it to me to present to Lyn. Indeed, a few hours later, when we received Lyn at Bombay VT, I held on to the single rose as the most precious possession of my life. I never promised Lyn a rose garden after marriage but thanks to Bajwa she was received with a rose.
Today, at the stroke of midnight, Amar turned sixty. We had never dreamt that we’d reach that age. On that night, when we did our own version of “Ye Dosti” on Bajwa’s mobike on the Marine Drive with both of us as pissed as Veeru was atop the water tank in Sholay, with speeds well past the sound barrier (well, it was correct; because we couldn’t have heard each other and we didn’t hear at all the traffic cop’s whistle), just one small obstruction on the Marine Drive would have finished our lives some thirty years back.

Hence, the very first thing that I have to tell Amar today is: Dost, my best pal, we are lucky to have survived so long. In your case, it is sheer goodwill that you generate around you that doesn’t let you be anything but the life of the party. Do you remember when we climbed the temple hill at Maddukkarai from the tortuous and dangerous rocky side? One small slip and we would never have dreamt to be sixty. Also, do you remember how we went to Ooty etc by the official jeep that we thought had only one useful instrument, that is, the accelerator.

Bajwa, Sir; truly for us life during those days (and even now sometimes), was a happy chance, a one act play: Hamara Drama. For those not knowing the story of this play, I'd take a few minutes to explain that we wrote a play on the making of a play for participating in the Command Dramatic Championship. The play itself more daring than most of our feats: to pull the legs of all in authority and get away with it; most of them sitting in the audience. Other than a few characters who momentarily came on the stage, this full-length play had only Bajwa and me as the actors. We walked away with the Best Play award; with me getting the Best Actor award. As soon as we finished getting the awards we drove from Cochin to Coimbatore on Bajwa's mobike and celebrated till wee hours of the morning with countless bottles of beer. And then, after we were seeing a dozen of each other, we went for another "ye dosti" drives. This is when I fell off the bike and Bajwa kept relating his jokes to me rejoicing in not having me interrupt him to tell a better one. After nearly three hours we found each other again.

Anyone reading it so far would think that Amar and me were the most agreeable of the friends. Little would they know that the trick in keeping the lamp of friendship alive was to force a collective decision before the other could say “No”. However, after drinks, the mask of such geniality was invariably off and we were conscious of the fact that we have to make the other see reason, such as the way perceived by us. This invariably led to no holds barred fights between us and everyone would conclude that Bajwa and I had fallen apart like Humpty Dumpty. However, “ye dosti” sentiment would trouble us in the night to the extent that in the wee hours of the morning one or the other would tip-toe to the other’s room to check if all was well. There were occasions when we made up and went searching for dinner at about two in the morning.

Amar, Sir; you would always have the lead by a simple historical fact; that is, you were born two years before me; and hence you have beaten me to reaching sixty before me; and like I did in squash-racquets after having been beaten by you, I hold no grudge. I rejoice in your reaching the age of the metal: silver in your hair, gold in your teeth, iron in your diet and lead in your----you know where. What do I wish for you for having accomplished this grand feat? Well, the most precious thing that I can wish for you is: Stay the way you are. Many can claim love, liking, respect, friendship, other relationship with you: but, I know and you know: ‘Todenge dum magar, tera saath na chhodenge”.

God bless you for having been the most intense influence of my life. At every age of yours you have been unique. However, Sixty is the age to be…all others before this were just plain matters of dates on calendar; now is when the fun starts: no one can blame a senior citizen of having a heart as young as a teenager that you have always maintained, and hence, you can get away with everything.

And….if you disagree with me for some of the lurid details above, I can always guess that you already had your drink!

Amar turns sixty today
The starting speed of his bike,
We have all gathered to wish him well,
Friends and relatives alike.

Happy Sixtieth, my friend,
Here’s wishing you all the best,
Lets just have fun, the way we did,
Without worrying about the rest.

Lets say a little thanksgiving pal,
To God who kept us alive;
Though we tried our best to reach Him,
When we went on our nocturnal drive.

May God always preserve your smile,
That has won many a heart.
And should you feel the pangs of age,
Let me tell you: it is just the start.


  1. What wonderful sentiment. You have expressed in words what, I am sure, many a pair of friends must feel. Happy Birthday to your dear friend, and long live your friendship. Cheers!

  2. WOW to this post and for unparalleled friendship! !!


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