Buddies - gone but not forgotten!
By Chandroo D.
Years have gone by and I have come to an age when I am losing my good friends one by one.
When I first arrived in Hong Kong during 1964, I befriended three happy-go-lucky guys - all around my age. Shelly, the tallest among us was charming, confident and always well dressed. Kamlesh, the playboy, was jovial and always with guts and willing to take chances. Mack, the timid one was always careful with his decisions and choices.
All three worked in a large departmental store and also lived together in the company's serviced apartment. Coming from India, their salaries were at a minimal rate with free lodging and boarding supplied by the company. As for me, coming in fresh from Rangoon, I joined my elder brother and worked under him at his office.
With our meagre weekly allowance, all three of us would eagerly save up for the weekend. Come Saturday night, we would rush out to hire a car for HK$10- an hour and drive up to the beach with a couple of Blue Girls. Since I possessed a driving license, I was elected as the designated driver – which was a drawback for me as I could only have one Blue Girl. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Blue Girl is the name of a German Beer, rarely available now. What were you thinking? Picture this - four of us running barefoot on the beach with a Blue Girl bottle in our hand, singing to the stars above! Come to think of it now, we must have looked like four barefoot idiots!
Those were the best years of our lives. With hardly any worries, there would always be laughter in the air when we were together. We would look forward to meet every weekend. It was either the beach, discos, bowling alleys or at home.
Years rolled by. Each of us got married and moved on to live our separate lives. Shelly got married to an attractive girl who was as tall as him. He moved to Los Angeles and had one daughter. Coincidentally, his and my daughter became friends somehow. Little did they know how close their fathers were during their teenage days. One day, during my visit to a friend's home in Los Angeles, I found out that he was a neighbour. We immediately got together the same night to reminisce about our past bachelor days. It surely was a memorable night that day. Our wives could not separate us. Unfortunately, that was the last time, I saw him. A year later, I was informed that he sadly passed away.
Kamlesh, moved to New York and I had lost touch with him. One day, while shopping at a mall in Las Vegas, I bumped into him at a clothing retail store. We looked at each other shocked, but happy! He was still the same young energetic fellow, always ready to party. Due to his commitment with the store timing, he was not able to meet me later for dinner or drinks. We therefore wished each other good bye and since then I have lost touch with him again. Some unconfirmed reports claim that due to his complicated health issues, he passed away.
Mack moved to Bombay and was well settled with his wife. He led a very simple easy life. Whenever, I used to visit Bombay, I made it a point to see him and pass the evenings with him. One day I received a call from his elder brother. He conveyed to me the sad news about Mack passing away while he was visiting New Delhi for a sport event. He had a massive heart attack.
A few years later, I had another good companion, Sham. He was my regular buddy for lunch whenever we were free. We both could open up to each other and confide our sorrows and happiness. When I first established my business, I was looking for a temporary loan to arrange an export shipment. Without any hesitation, he offered me the amount. I can never forget that day, since he too was just starting up his own business. Here was a true friend, who helped me forgoing his own needs. I repaid him back immediately after my shipment left. As years passed by, he was having a streak of bad luck and became financially unstable. How could I forget the help he gave me when I needed it the most? He was a stepping stone for me to succeed in my past venture. Embarrassed to ask me for assistance, I approached him instead and offered him an amount with a remark to repay me back whenever he was comfortable. Situation did not improve with his many efforts to build up a business and eventually he took up a job at an insurance company. A few years ago, while on a trip to Philippines to visit his brother, he was unfortunately involved in a terrible tragedy. A fire broke out and totally gutted the house that he was sleeping in. I was very sad on the day when I heard the news. I can imagine the fright and horror he must have gone through. What I tragic way to lose another good friend.
Come 1995 and I too am shocked with a heart attack. Thanks to the modern advanced medicines and great doctors, my heart is still ticking. Ever since then, I have had very few close true friends. How can I find true friendship in this often phony, temporary world? Friendship involves recognition or familiarity with another's personality. Friends often share likes and dislikes, interests, pursuits, and passion. True friendship involves doing something for someone else while expecting nothing in return; sharing thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or negative criticism. At the moment the only ones that fit these criteria are my young grandchildren and I make every effort to be more of a friend than a Grandpa to them. This means I have to enjoy the songs of their choices like Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift.
Recently, yet another good buddy, Cyril has been ill with a few health issues recently. Cyril is a retired seaman Captain and a tough cookie, who has mastered many ships and braved the rough seas. I have been in touch with him regularly and reminded him of our private pact, we made during our bachelor’s days. He is not supposed to beam up to the pearly gates before me. It is I, who has to be up first to wait for him with double Bs - Beer (Blue Girl) and Blondes!