Sameer was a naughty boy. He couldn't keep still for even a second of his waking moments. He was elder to me by an year and a half. We were not too close, half the things I knew about him came through my parents whenever they spoke about him, which was not very often.
He could play all kinds of games - cricket, football, carrom, cards. He would play hard, he would cheat, he would do anything to win. But this was limited to the game being played. Once the game was over, he was a jovial, likeable person.
In another sense, he was not extraordinary, there were many boys like him. His mother got the usual share of complaints from others - your son beat my son, your son broke my kitchen window, your son bullies everybody etc etc.
I had the opposite reputation - I was a bookworm, I preferred reading to doing anything else. As was natural for my age then, I read and enjoyed Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Enid Blyton's adventure series. Somehow while reading those books I always thought of Sameer. He was closest to Tom Sawyer, by my comparison.
As far as I know, Sameer never held a grudge against anyone. He was always there for the entire neighbourhood, even for those who used to complain. If you had unexpected visitors and there was not enough sugar to make tea, you just had to open a window and yell, "Sameer, can you get me some sugar from the shop?" Most times, the packet would reach you even before your yell faded away. If anybody's cycle chain would dislocate, he just called for Sameer and Sameer would put it back in place in minutes. If you had to replace a bulb which was out of your reach, and you told your husband about it, he would say, 'Stop bothering me. Call Sameer.'
Time flew, and he graduated and got a job. He must have been very sincere, because when he got the job, he stuck to it. Our rare meetings became even rarer once he started working. He must have been good at his job, because his employers entrusted him with greater responsibilities.
He fell in love with someone and after initial opposition from her parents, he got married to her. It was a normal wedding ceremony, and I remember attending it. I was happy for him. A year passed and another and another. I heard there was some problem as they could not have a child.
Though he often invited me with my wife and children to his home, we could meet only three four times in a year. He used to play with my daughters and enjoyed their company. We spoke of our childhood and how we missed it. My wife and I always felt that Sameer and his wife were unlucky not to have any children of their own and maybe that is the reason why they made themselves happy by mingling with others' children.
Then came the good news: his wife conceived and they had a baby girl. I remember he and his wife were a little tense because the pregnancy was too late and they were worried about the health of the baby. But all that was eclipsed when the baby arrived hale and hearty. We were one of the first people to reach the hospital, and I can never forget the joy on Sameer's face when he held their baby in his arms.
There was rejoicing; there was a fun-filled naming ceremony and Sameer was very excited. The little girl grew by leaps and bounds and when she was three and a half, as is the educational system in India, Sia began to go to nursery school on her little feet. Sameer bought a car for his darling daughter so she wouldn't have to walk her way to school.
Sometime during that month, Sameer came home complaining of a severe headache. Believing that it must be because of his hectic schedule, he took rest for a couple of days and resumed work because he was a responsible person.
In the next three days his headache kept growing and on the last day his colleagues had to call an ambulance and send him to hospital.
He was diagnosed with tumour of the brain.
Today morning he died.
I wonder what happened to Tom Sawyer when he grew up. Not this, I hope.