“You heard about Abhishek?” A friend asked me on phone. “He died, in an accident. His new wife, his brother-in-law too. The sister-in-law is alive it seems, in hospital. Saw it on Facebook, people are posting ‘R.I.P Abhishek’ on his wall. Two days ago.”

I didn’t know how to react. It took a while to digest the news. Abhishek Srivastava was a 36 (or 38?) year old software engineer and a colleague of mine. He was one of the Technical Leads I had at my first job. He was a person who had the ‘stamp’ of an Uttar Pradesh upbringing. With over 10 years of experience in different IT companies, wearing a ‘teeka’ (vermilion) on his forehead, he used to speak in Banarasi accented English and Hindi. My first experience if working neither him wasn’t nice. In fact, my experience of working with him on different projects were never nice ever. I blatantly fought with him, defied him.

Yet, I did share a sort of casual friendship with him. Two smokers who know each other always have such friendship. You are friends, you share your problems and may even help each other at times, you know their family issues, their personal lives just like a ‘best friend’ would know, but you’re not the best friend. You are just two friends who share a smoke.

Smokes we shared. He had his bunch of fellows, I had mine. Somewhere down the lane, the groups merged and shrunk. His tantrums pushed many people away from him. Yet, he was a nice man at heart, if not by behavior. He was quite dedicated to his family and strived to give them a quality life, but unfortunately went through a lot of turmoil in his personal life. 

He loved his daughter, from his first wife whom he had to divorce two years ago. That wasn’t easy for him. His daughter was probably six then. He had to move to Hyderabad while the case was on and he had to resign from his job too. Switching between jobs and cities, the man managed to survive. Of course there were those who helped in little ways, but the man had found a new life, a new marriage in a new city. He had stopped calling too. And, I thought everything was fine.

Now that he’s gone forever, I wish I had picked his phone the last time he called which was about six months ago. I had stopped receiving his calls because I felt pestered and would be forced to financially help him. Would I’ve changed anything? I don’t know.

Every time someone dies, I wonder if I could have done something better. We do what we do under different circumstances. We learn as we walk. I don’t feel guilty for this fellow, but I certainly am sad. He was a nice guy after all, who wouldn’t have caused harm to anyone despite his aggressive persona. I’ll remember him, I bought my bicycle from him, shared smokes, tea and many a conversations, sometimes the three of us – Abhishek, the friend who called me and I. We used to pull one on Abhishek, crack jokes on him, all of which the man happily laughed off and laughed with us. Well.