Wg Cdr DPS Bajwa (retd)
Friendship is the most precious gift in life. It is said friends are better than relatives since they don’t have an axe to grind. They are dependable and honest in their approach. In 1970, as a young commissioned officer when I was posted at Air Force Station, Chandigarh, I made one such friend. One day a pleasant, smartly dressed, well-mannered Sergeant approached me for an LIC policy. Apparently he was senior in age but because of my rank, he was most respectful and humble. His convincing power and demeanour did not take long for me to agree to his proposal. His first acquaintance and subsequent visits to my place developed into a friendship.
Later both of us were posted out but we kept meeting whenever we were in Chandigarh. Since he was deep into his side business as an LIC agent, he earned enough to invest in property. He left the Air Force early and settled down in his own house; his three daughters were happily married and settled. Post-retirement I too settled down in Chandigarh. When I was to solemnise my daughter’s wedding, I felt insecure about my finances. I definitely needed to borrow some money.
With great reluctance, I approached my friend for a loan. At the blink of an eye he extended all the financial help I needed. This gesture of his was ample proof of his magnanimity and faith in me. I returned his amount as soon as I could but realised that he was a man with a heart of gold. He lost his wife in 1996, but decided to stay put in his own house in spite of his daughters (all in Delhi) coaxing him not to stay alone. He felt more independent and happy in the company of his friends. As ill-luck would have it, a few years later he became partially blind due to the negligence of some doctor. Now life became a challenge and we thought it was time for him to stay with his daughters. However, he still preferred to live independently in his own home.
In the absence of a lady, his house was getting neglected. Part-time servants/maids did not clean properly, taking advantage of his poor eyesight. My visits became less frequent, partly because of his handicap and partly because we started spending more time abroad with our son. After many years I visited him recently, and he welcomed me with a broad smile and clasped me in a tight hug. Warmth and love was palpable as we met. He poured his heart out telling me about his health and daily routine. I chided him that now being over 82 years old, he must stay with one of his daughters. He gave ample reasons why he felt he was better off staying alone. The lifestyle of children is so different these days that all parents wish to live independently, as long as they can.
When I wanted to leave, he was not happy with my short visit. It was like a few dew drops on his parched soul. He became sentimental. Finally he let me go only after eliciting a promise from me that I shall visit him again shortly. We both parted with moist eyes.
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