With Luzee and Chophel's father in Vellore
You meet different kinds of people during the short trip of journey in your life. Some win your heart and they stay in your heart forever and shine like a comet in the night sky. No matter what, they become a part of your life and though the time runs, your friendship becomes the eternal grace of your life.
As if you have surpassed the definition of eternity, your friendship extends beyond time. Chophel and I – we are people who have forgotten the tense of time and chosen to stay in the rhythm of spiritual harmony.
No matter where he is or where I am, we know we are there for each other just the same.
He is one person who taught me to smile while I can and to smile even if the pain stabs your soul and death beckons you. He is the person who taught me to live through even if you have no tomorrow.
He lives in my memory and I cherish the moments of our togetherness everywhere.
Chophel saw me as a little girl he could care and love…Little angel – that is his word – a word of a loving gentle man.
He sent me a card in which he wrote: “Dear Little Angel, will ya protect me from all harm? I’ll rely on ya for everything. Shall I? Gonna miss you so much. Take care.” Years passed and I remember him exactly as I knew him – the easy smile that spread on his face and the gentle tone of his voice. You know, being with him was more comfortable than being with anyone else. I miss him calling me little angel but I miss his angel like letters more.
I didn’t know time could be so short. He left me before I could even say half the things. But I am happy we didn’t take much to know each other. It was a day sitting in the room talking with him and it was like things were meant to happen. We became fast friends. He soon left to his college in Shillong but letters flowed between us like we were talking.
I didn’t think time would close up on us that fast. Though I don’t have him here to call my name, I hear him in my mind. I see him in my dreams. I can’t help thinking how different it would have been, had he been here. But I don’t go dreaming far, because that only makes me miss him more.
I often think of him and I can almost feel him. It is like, he never left. I only wish I had more time with him. More time would have left more memories today. He came to Vellore and knowing him there made my perception change. I no longer cursed the place. Fate had me meet him there. Such a fine man as he was, he never complained. He taught me the value of being humble and the worth of appreciating things as they are.
“Chophel dear, won’t you call me little angel now?”
I know he sees me and he knows where I am and what I am doing. I’m sure he knows that this little girl he saw fragile has grown up.
I met him for a purpose. It wasn’t the love, neither the friendship. It was beyond the grasp of our view. I met him to teach me the meaning of life and what friendship means.
If he calls me now, I will hear him and I know I don’t have to wait to hear his voice – I hear it everyday.
I just went through his letters and I had tears welling up my eyes. He mentally cried to see me go back to college but I cry now for having to live with the reality of not having him here. But I have found something more valuable: to keep him in my heart, think of him and pray everyday like I talk to him.
We always had something to share and something to write. Look at his letters. He had the way to express. They always melted me.
I am writing on this after a very long time (11th May, 06). Time passed so fast and even years went by – yet, I still remember him as he was. I joined into civil service and then things got a little busy. I couldn’t complete it as I planned. I also had a tragedy happen in my family; we lost the man we loved and respected, the man we relied on. With him gone, we became like a house that has no roof and no pillars. We felt shattered and for once, we are left with no one to answer when we call ‘father’. I think, I shouldn’t go on writing about this here. But, I should acknowledge my friend Chophel for having showed me that death is inevitable and it is not the end. Death takes the person but it doesn’t end the relationship.
Now, coming back to what I was going to write, I will have to tell you this. No matter where we were, distance could not separate us. Letters flowed between us and like angelic miracle, gave us the nectar like quench to our missing each other. We missed each other no doubt but we didn’t let ourselves miss anything that was going on around us. We met online, we talked on telephone, and we wrote letters and emails.
We expressed in letters how much we meant to each other and how we were so happy to be friends. He had power over words. He knew exactly how to make me happy. He knew what kind of words would touch me. He talked of friendship and he talked of love. He easily shared about what he thought of certain things and he could easily accept any kind of matter. He was once surprised that I wasn’t really the kind of fragile girl he thought. He called me bold. He thought I was daring.
In his letter, he says, he needs to find a 4th one. He called Sonam, Lungten and I the love of his life. He also used to mildly tease me about all this kind of talks. Once, we were on the phone talking and he wouldn’t keep the phone until I said I loved him.
I was very happy that he and Sonam were seeing each other. They were childhood friends and cupid clicked them when they were matured to understand its meaning. He was very happy about it and he looked forward to meet her.
He lost his mom when he himself had not recovered well. It was soon after he and his father returned from Vellore. It was as if the misfortune aimed to have its way. I couldn’t say more but wrote him a letter passing my concern and condolences. It really pained me. I didn’t know her mother but it pained more because he had to bear such unbearable pain at a stage so young. And time itself was ill. Why did he have to be put through it? I couldn’t answer. Expressions: he made eyes or hugged me…he held my hands or patted on my shoulder…they all meant the same - His expression of care. I still can feel his encouraging pat on my shoulder when I feel low.
Here are a few of his letters:
20th April, 02
“Good things begin with difficulties and great things should certainly begin from impossibilities…” There are very few lines. Sangay first ever wrote to me and I get immensely touched as and when I remember. It has a greater depth of truth in it. I say this to you Queenza because…you know it so well. If I were in your place I don’t know what I would have done. Oh! Goodness my little girl is growing up. I hope and pray that she paves her way to the betterment of her ‘soul’ for I wish to see her happy as always. Love you sweetie.
Kuenza, I didn’t mind at all you asking me that question. I like it. But can you wait till I get the right answer? Oh! You will have to. Hey you think I had developed this inferiority complex – no way. Don’t you ever dare say this to me again or else I fear where you will find yourself next. (Warning….ha ha) Enzo, Enzo, Enzo…how I wish if I can be there again. Simply a thought of it makes me miss you ever more and more. I also wonder what you must be doing at this moment. Dreaming of “…”? me?I miss you more now.
Kuenza, whenever I set my mind writing to you, I tend to forget even simple ABC of English. I ask you why. I will be missing you.
Love A friend, K. Chophel.
7th June, 02
It’s really unbearable to part with such loveliness. Oh! I’m feeling sad for nature itself seems to be in a gloomy state with an overcast sky. Kuenza, please hold me and hug me before I break down. Going home means another great reminder of my late mom. I can see people waiting, and talking higher and higher. How I wish I had gone deaf. I mean it.
Your letter tells me something of my inner self. Alas! You understand me so well and that is just enough to bring me more and more closely to you. I wish I can tell you how much I’m gonna miss you. I guess I found the perfect way to express myself; I will be missing you like my Amala. Love you.
You know well what I’m passing through but having you beside is just enough to console my thoughts. That’s why I’m taking your letter home. At least I’d feel your presence. Mangi mo wai?
Just few minutes to go…I’m sorry I couldn’t look for the other letter. Hope you will understand. Will ya?
Please don’t go without meeting me. Convey the same to my mysterious girl (99 99) (Lungten) See ya. I have to go now. Will be missing you badly
. Love ya. Chophel.
16th June, 02
Had I the wings of dove I would have taken you to the most enchanted region for you are one tender-hearted woman that has moved me in a way quite different from the rest. And so does Lungten. I think you are right in saying, “it’s not an attachment but love”. Oh! That touched me so much. You know I could have given you a hug had your brothers not standing close by you. (ha ha) Missing you so much.
49th day puja is just started and I can see so many people pouring in. I wanted to extend some help to my relatives working but I’ve been advised to stay put in the room (by Dad). If I dare I know I’ll be fired. There’s just nothing I can do than to flounder upon this inevitable face of fate. That’s what you wrote to me. I tell you, it is applicable to me as well. Kuenza Dear, ever since I came up (from Vellore) I have not been feeling well. Sometimes I just don’t tell anyone simply because I want to get rid of this feeling of insecurity. Am I doing the right thing? Please comment.
Somebody has just dropped in. It’s dark and I can’t see their face. Hey you just wait! Oh! That’s grandma and mathang(s). (Don’t be jealous). They are here to see me. I’ll see you later but let me tell you something. “You are so small and tiny, yet great is your subduing power that I can hardly imagine.”
Love you and missing you so much.
With deep love and respect. A friend, K. Chophel.
4th August, 02:Friendship day.
My dear Kuenza,
Your letter did hmm…replete me with all things needed to sustain this poor man’s life. Though it was merely few lines, yet a whole world’s love well fitted inside. You know the greatness of a friendship lies in the heart of understanding and it’s a virtue that you hold it so dear. I can see from the way you write and I’m just so glad, my little Queenza! You have moved one step ahead of being grown up. Just keep pace with this world. You’ll gradually develop this wonderful feeling of being grown up. I can bet on that.
Meeting you girls meant a redolence of happiness in my life. And today even if we remain apart, I have memories to keep you close and simply your thoughts add even more to it. I mean, “Happiness”. Like you my little friend, I also want to live. This is one greatest revival of truth in me. Happy ya? I could have never done it without knowing you (so well). And of course the strength your ‘mosambi’ gave me, though my mom’s death made me falter a bit. It’s okay now. Time is the greatest healer of wounds. No? I’m somehow coping up with the loss. Thanks to Lungten (even you) for lending me the book at a very providential time. It made my life slightly easy.
Dear, it’s raining here (almost a week now). The sun hasn’t shown up yet, not even for a minute. It’s pathetic. My clothes are still lying outside. How I wish if I could switch places for a while. I really miss Vellore’s creeping heat and above all, you girls. I really do, okay? Your letter tells me that you are sick missing home. Me (also) no less. I completely agree with you. It’s lot better to be in Bhutan; the beautiful sight of prayer flags, so much greenery, people greeting each other ‘kuzuzangpola’ with ever radiant smile and your mom preparing your favourite dish etc…uh, life seems so beautiful nah? Hey! Why are you silent?
I was mentally crying the day you drove off. Tears glistening in your eyes and even in your brother have made me difficult to maintain my composure. I really didn’t have the heart to watch you recede…! Sonam is right. ‘Attachment is a killer”. Love? I miss you even more now.
It’s sad you girls have changed your timing. I don’t like to go to net anymore. I used to be a net freak…perhaps it is madam Lungten’s saying that really had an impact on my mind. But I will be there in case we have appointment (just mail me ok).
My exam (pre selection) starts from 19th August. I fear a lot. Need to armour myself and your prayers will help me a great deal. Please pray hard ok. I’ll do the same for you. After all…
You’re right. I need not find a 4th one. I have committed myself somewhere. I won’t change my mind at all. You girls are happy about Sonam and Ata Chophel. What more can I ask for? Meanwhile, just keep your prayers going. Missing you a lot.
Hey, your case is somewhat like, “There is much grief to hide than hate to utter love”.
Always be optimistic in love and in everything. Sometimes you should leave it to time. You see that is exactly what I did. Now I have Sonam –my better half. Did I tell you that I admired her since childhood? Surprised huh?
Anyway, I have my best wishes in this regard and in everything you do.
Love ya! Affectionately, Vellore boy.
(I have attached a letter I wrote to him on his birthday as an appendix)
Distance and Separation
Like I said before, we always hated to say goodbye even if we knew we had to. Distance laid a huge vagueness on us but the hope to meet again made us look forward with more eagerness. We wanted days to pass faster so that holidays would come soon and we would be together again.
He came to see me off at the bus station from Dechencholing when I left for my college. He had some days more to be at home. There at the station, we were stuck up sad to say goodbye. We knew parting had to be there but this knowledge didn’t give us the power to control our emotions. The bus geared into life and with just a glimpse of his tearful eyes, I lost sight of him. That wasn’t going to end everything and though we felt our heart heavy, we still had things to look for. We thought we had a lifetime ahead. We only didn’t know that a lifetime could be tomorrow or today.
He was studying in Shillong and me in Vellore. We met because of the good fate that wanted us to be friends. Let me tell you how we met.
It was in 2002 when I was in my second year of engineering course. Chophel and his father had come for treatment at CMC in Vellore. Lungten and I were in the town at Gandhi Road going back to college when we met them there. Lungten knew them. She had met them some years back in Thimphu. When she talked with them, I stood aside, only watching them. She later told me that Chophel had brain tumor. She was shocked and at the same time fascinated that he had come to accept it so fine. She lent him “The Tibetan book of living and dying”. They left soon after we met them. That first meeting didn’t open any kind of phase for me. It was just a kind of introduction. Lungten wrote him long, emotional letters. She thought she should encourage him and not let him lose hope on life. He was so grateful for the book she lent him. After reading that book, he even more accepted death as natural. It only opened the door which he already knew. He came back for the review again in the same year. His father accompanied him again. They had put up in Hotel Solai. We went to meet them and there, the turning of the phase began. We talked and as time passed, easier it became for us to talk. A barrier which makes you stop your talk right when you are about to say it was broken. We stayed in the hotel talking and we even took pictures. I have this picture I took with his father but couldn’t get the one taken with him. Such moments were so real that we would remember forever.
He went with us to our college. In his letter he wrote, “Enzo…Enzo…Enzo…” he meant the ice cream stall from where we had mango dolly. He also remembers the mosambi juice we had at Gandhi road. He liked the coconut water so much. We encouraged him to take more because it would make him strong.
After that second meeting, we were in constant touch. We wrote letters and many kinds of correspondence followed. We came to know that distance is a barrier only for those who had no heart to see beyond it.
There were special moments when we would so snugly draw close to each other even in the talks. I remember so vividly that night they called me to wish me on my birthday. I talked with all his group friends. I will write here what he wrote to me on my birthday: “A birthday wish for a very special friend. Dear Kuenza, a friend like you is a special gift…we like to do so many of the same things, and we share a lot of wonderful, fun moments. You respect me for my strengths, as I admire you for yours. We encourage each other during our difficult times, and laugh with each other during our good times. I know I can be myself with you…
A friend like you is a precious gift…we can tell each other our secret dreams and desires, cheer each other on to more success and happiness, and wipe each other’s tears when we are sad and disappointed. You are a bright light in my life, and you have a special place in my heart. On your birthday, I want to wish you all your best dreams come true, and that you have success and happiness, a fulfilled heart, and laughter. And I want to tell you that you are beautiful to me, and I cherish our friendship even more now. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY FRIEND.” Such were the words and such were the moments. They could hold me in a big wonder of happiness and it would give me such joy that I would remember it everyday. I used to miss him, his voice and his gentle teasing that would make me laugh. Though he wasn’t there beside me to hug me or hold my hand, he made the day bright as if he were there. He colored the day in joys and made me forget everything that would make me unhappy.
And another very special moment is when he came to Vellore again in 2003. I was then in 3rd year and I wasn’t so plagued by the distance that stretched between me and my home. I had gotten used to the fact of being away from home, though I missed my parents everyday. There were even times when I cried silently in my room. But I had Lungten to talk to. And I had my dairy too. It was he, who made me adapt so well away from home. That was the last time he was in Vellore. Doctors told him that everything was fine and the tumor had cured. This time he was with his brother Karma. After seeing the doctor he left to Mangalore to meet his love. When he came back, he was so happy. There was such glamour in his stride and such joy in his eyes that I couldn’t fathom. I cannot really say how happy he was…I could see it in his eyes. As I write this down, I remember the walk we took in the town in an evening that was unusually soft and cool in Vellore. It was as if it knew that we were together and wanted the moment to be extraordinarily good. That night we met, he gifted us with a parker pen (Which I still have with me). I remember how gently he held me close to him and told me how happy he was to have gone to Mangalore. Even in the room, he couldn’t wait to talk about it. To make the night more memorable, I was hit by a cycle coming from the opposite side. I was sitting on the metal bar at the side of an auto. I shouted in pain. They were so worried that they thought I should be taken to the hospital. It wasn’t major hurt so I got alright without having to give much care. They even called me after they reached college to see if I was fine. He told me that he wanted his brother and Lungten to fall in love. So we walked in front together and let them walk together. We even teased them but they feigned innocence and didn’t say much. Ata Karma is a very good friend again. We call him Ata and of course he is a brother. He treats us like little sisters of his own. We don’t meet him often now that all of us have joined service. And yet again, special were the moments I knew ata Karma and his father. His father goes so easy with us and talks with us in such a friendly manner. He loved Chophel so much and for that matter us too. I couldn’t fathom the depth of pain he was going through when he lost him. I know it still pains him today to think of him. But a strong man, he could accept it. I cannot forget such special moments…neither would he have. It is not something I can choose not to do, but it is something that stays forever.
We had very good times when we were together. There was not a single disagreement. It is either that we fitted so well into the world of our togetherness or we respected each other so much to find something to disagree.
When friendship has bloomed into a beautiful one, he left me with such big hollowness. He left to a better world leaving this. He of course didn’t choose to leave but he had to. He was called and he accepted it with a great nobleness. It was on 19th May 2003 that he left. I was away at home in my village. I heard it when I reached Bumthang on the way back to Thimphu. I found the night so long. I couldn’t wait to be in Thimphu. He was already gone when I reached Thimphu, except his remembrance and feel.
It happened when every one of us believed that he had recovered well. He wrote to me that he wasn’t really feeling well, but before it could register to some action, he left. He told me that he fainted several times before. That time too, it happened and he never came back. For his father, it was a double beat of pain. Before he could cope well with the loss of his wife, he had to accept the death of his son.
He may be gone from this world but not from mine. There always is time when I think of him and how happy he was. Even though he was nailed by a disease that he knew would take him any time, he had a glow of happiness in his face all the time. It was only like some inconvenience. It couldn’t defeat him. He was a man with the heart of a lion. He accepted it with the greatness of such novelty. In the short while I knew him, he taught me important things like being happy when you can and choosing to be happy even when there are circumstances that can make you unhappy. He taught me that it is all in our mind to choose to be what we want to be. It was more painful because he left when he had graduated and before he could reap a single fruit of his lifelong education. It was even sadder to know that he did so well in his exam and he wasn’t there to walk that success. But I know he knew it before he left and he wanted his family to remember him with pride and happiness. Though he left us 3 years back, he still lives in our heart young as ever. He left to show me the meaning of life and to live right when I m here on earth. He left me to extend time beyond eternity and to define friendship that can transcend not just distance but also different lives.
Ladies’ hostel (VIT)
15/04/03 12:04 am (Tuesday)
Everything changes…and for every change there is a beginning. Our lives changed with knowing of each other. And the beginning of it started with a smile; a beautiful series of smiles; a beautiful series of happiness…and a lifetime’s memories of sweetest things. Each passing day will mark the happiness we have found together – the friendship as the vast vessel.
I’m here now, wishing you to have all the happiness you can wish for. May the years ahead bring you a thought of bounteous joys and fruitful lives of peace and contentment. You’ll see with each passing birthday that our friendship is an everlasting one. And especially as you celebrate each birthday, you will perhaps see me standing beside you. You think I’m kidding? Impossible. Because, even now I’m there beside you. Friends are friends. And true friends are ones who are there with you all through the times. May you enjoy each moment of your life to the fullest. And may I take up the privilege to wish an everlasting relationship with her. Don’t forget, you have met your girl. Remember, knowingly or unknowingly, you’ve always been in and around her, loving her. And my dear, I’m very happy for you – for things have clicked in the wonderful patterns of wonders. You’ll still see more of big wonders!! Many happy returns of the day.
Hey…hey…don’t think I’m gonna stop here. You know, I still plan to write some more. We get lost wondering over the intricacies and complexities of our lives - The inconsistencies of our thoughts and the transience of every existential substance. But, even considering all this, I can assure you that our friendship is gonna see the world to the end. You’ve always been one beautiful thing that happened to me. And never can I forget the peculiarity with which our friendship began (remember, we didn’t talk until later…). You were bit too lost in your world and me in mine. Or maybe you were bit too arrogant and me a bit too timid? Hmm…don’t you think I am lying? Everything happened like that, ain’t it? If I go on counting beautiful things there are in life, I won’t have time to die. But I can never forget the happiness you bring in my life.
All this time you have been away, I was missing you and sometimes, I used to wonder at the silence you could muster. But still, I knew, being out of touch never means out of heart. And now, here you are. And am I glad that you are here.
I will be there tomorrow…Hoping to see you with the same old smile. Open up now…I need a warm embrace. Don’t you? Uh huh…yeah, I really have missed you so much.
A friend to remain, Kuenzang.