Life is unpredictable. There are so many things which seem inconsequential when they happen that you are but amazed at how significant they become later. It can be anything, a moment, an item, an accident, or in this case, food.
I was a student of Economics at St. Xavier’s Ranchi, from 2002-2005. As is the case with all graduating students, I had my group of friends; some close, and some closer. Prashant was one of the closest of the lot. Soft-spoken and with a maturity beyond his years, he was a complete antithesis to my mad and frankly intolerable personality. A lot of my friends have heard this complaint, as to how decent people like them seemed to hang out with an unrestrained brat that I was. College with Prashant, comprised of riding around Ranchi, playing sports and sitting and chatting over life and everything else over samosas at Lazeez. This small place at Purulia Road made the tastiest samosas and it was a part of our routine, riding over and discussing professors, girls, politics, movies and whatnot, while the piping hot samosas enlivened the day. In the final year of our college, he had taken up Mathematical Economics at my request. It was a proud moment for all of us that he scored more than 80% in the final exams (maths not being his strongest subject), and as always, he wanted me to take him to Lazeez to celebrate this accomplishment.
Life moved on. We left Ranchi. He moved to Delhi and I would go and meet him there. He had this room in North Delhi, and meeting him was a welcome break from the stark corporate life that I had already embarked upon. The university area of North Delhi, or North Campus as it is called, is thronging with students and has a very different, and frankly a much cooler vibe compared to the rest of the city. The area of North Delhi and Purani (Old) Delhi is my favourite place in that city. I like it a lot more than the grandeur of Central Delhi or the extravagance of South Delhi. It is almost as if unlike the rest of the town, it is very happy in being what it is, and scoffs at the idea of putting up a façade. I would move around Delhi with Prashant, and more often than not end the day with samosas in Kamla Nagar, or as the DU students called them G-Sams (short for Garam Samosas). I would also like to add that we would maintain that the ones made in Ranchi by Lazeez were still the best. Prashant lived in Delhi till 2016 and this ritual would continue till he was there.
He left Delhi in a hurry. It was not clear why. A few months later, he told me that he would have to come to Mumbai and stay with us for a medical consult. It was all very surprising. We learned that he had a tumour in his brain. He made multiple trips to Mumbai. You could see that as a person he was going through an immense struggle. The twinkle had gone from his eyes, the enthusiasm from his voice. The smile was still there, but it was much more laboured. He had also started looking like a completely different person. But, boy he was brave! He was confident that he would heal. And he did! In 2018, he was declared tumour free. He was now even talking about settling down and getting married. He would ask me to buy him samosas when he stayed with me. By then, this humble food item had become the one constant in our friendship.
But … life is unpredictable. His cancer relapsed. He was supposed to come for treatments again, but he never did. Prashant left us on the 7th of November, 2019.
The last three days have been spent talking to old friends. Some have grieved, others have cried. They have spoken about the qualities of the man, his patience, the respect in his life. How, amongst all of us, he was the one who was liked by all. For a man like me, who tends to distance himself from shows of emotions, it has been especially difficult to deal with all of this. Since the unfortunate news came, the one thing that has been flashing across my mind is how he walked up to me in 2002 and introduced himself. That was the first time we met, and it is surreal that after all that we experienced together this one thing has propped up. The other thing that I don’t seem to get over is how, through the years, despite all our differences we liked the one food item and somehow it weaved itself into our friendship.
Lazeez, the samosa place in Purulia Road Ranchi is no longer there. Sadly, so is the friend who introduced me to that place. I will never have the privilege of going on a bike ride with him again; I will not get to laugh with him again; all I can do is hold on to his memory. There is this amazing quote which says, “When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.” This is how amazing Prashant was, he has made my life richer even after he has gone.