Friends, Lovers or Nothing?

Since this article was published, different claims have surfaced about the sequence of events. LiveWire wishes to clarify that the views expressed in the article are those of the author.

Is it true what they say
About the remains of the day?
Death is life’s wicked bride
But maybe the grass is greener on the other side.

Ever since I was a little girl, I had always associated love with what I read and watched in fairytales. I thought love came with princes on horses and happy endings. Love was synonymous with magic, bliss, sparks and butterflies that flew in all directions. Maybe it was all the stories I read as a kid, or the Karan Johar movies I watched – or maybe it was a series of rom-coms that I would feverishly devour on a weekly basis.

However, none of it prepared me for the actual eventuality of the emotion called ‘love’.

I met Kanishk during my first week at law school. To say the least, I absolutely despised him. That was the time when ‘confession pages’ were all the rage. And on one such confession page, there was a mean confession about my being a snob. He had the audacity to go and like this, which made me feel that he probably wrote it.

Somehow, towards the second year of law school, I realised that my hatred for him was based on a big misunderstanding. Gradually, I had a change of heart. We were both in the same section and the same friend group. While the group didn’t remain intact at the end of five years, our friendship did.

Whenever we were around each other, we were upto some crazy adventure or the other. Be it putting my proxy in class and getting scolded by the teachers for shamelessly putting another gender’s proxy, or getting kicked out for drinking during our Criminal Law class – Kanishk became my ride or die. The guy that I could always rely on.

One time, we had a fight and he stood outside my hostel in the scorching sun with two green coconuts filled with water. I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Be it advice about love or chilling or group studies, we would do everything together. I couldn’t imagine my life in college without him.

However, in our final and fifth year, everything changed. It was the final year, so naturally everyone was getting increasingly nostalgic about leaving. Kanishk and I decided to change this and bring a little happiness to our batchmates by gifting them a Party Planning Committee. The idea was to make sure that every weekend, every festival and every birthday would be celebrated with a bang so that we make the most of the year.

Also read: Dealing With Loss During the Pandemic

This suggestion was welcomed by our friends. By the end of six months, everyone in college wanted to be a part of our underground society. Kanishk and I were both backbenchers in the truest sense of the word, so this was an outstanding achievement for us. It gave us a new lease of life. It gave us something to look forward to every day. And it gave us a means to make people enjoy life.

Our parties put Gatsby to shame. We got cakes, fairy lights, alcohol of everyone’s preference, a set party list, an amp to play great quality music and even two big burly guys who doubled as bouncers to ensure a smooth-sailing, safe party for women. We celebrated Halloween, Diwali and everyone’s birthday. Soon enough. It became the most sought after clique in college. Life was good!

Then one day, something odd happened. My friend Sanjana asked what I thought of Kanishk and if I liked him. This question startled me because I always saw him as my best friend. When I pestered Sanjana, she told me that Kanishk had asked her to ask me. Naturally, I confronted Kanishk. He blushed, but denied ever having had this conversation with Sanjana. However, I knew there was no smoke without fire. I thought he’d speak to me when he thought the time would be right.

In January 2020, a month later, our final semester started. This was the last leg of law school and no matter how much we partied, there was a dark cloud looming over our heads reminding us that ‘this is it’. I started missing him even when he was around.

One evening, as we sat on a college bench sharing a cigarette, he told me that he was going for a stand-up comedy show later that night. Abhishek Upmanyu was coming to our city. He asked me to join, but I declined.

In retrospect, I wish I had gone. Maybe I could have stopped what happened next.

After the show, Kanishk and his friend went to a college party that was happening at a club where they had a few drinks. The two had gotten there on a motorcycle.

The next morning I woke up at 9 am abruptly to the shrill and constant ringing of my phone. People were calling me and asking me about his death even before I could even come to terms with what had happened. After making a few calls, I found out that Kanishk and his friend had rammed into a divider head on. The two were found by the UP police while they were patrolling the area at around 5 am.

While his friend was critical, Kanishk succumbed to his injuries.

The happenings of that night have changed me in irrevocable ways. The next day, we held a candle-light service for him. As I stood shaking violently, the tears wouldn’t stop. The people around me swayed and ebbed and finally disappeared into their nooks and crannies. I stood there looking at the flickering candle because it reminded me of him, with its bright brilliance that lit up everything.

A few days later, while packing up his room, his friends requested me to meet them as they had something to give to me. I was desperate to hold onto any artefact, any memento, any souvenir that reminded me of him, so I rushed to meet them, only to be handed a letter, which read:

“Dear Khadija ,

Before you go home, I just wanted to tell you that I like you a lot. The liking hasn’t begun in the last week or so, it’s been there since the last two years. It was just that I was afraid of the possible consequences which would make me nervous every time that I thought of expressing myself to you.

Today, I gathered courage to speak in front of you. The feelings that I have are unconditional. I consider you one of the most important chapters of my life. There are various things that I’ve learnt being with you.

Despite knowing my past and the things that you’ve been told about by other people, you still try to trust me. I always will make sure that your trust remains the same and will never do anything to break that trust…”

I was at a loss for words. How do you reply to a letter from someone who is no longer alive? And if you do, who will read it? If he was alive, this piece of writing would have been my reply to him, but since he isn’t, this is how I will immortalise him.


Khadija Khan is a former lawyer and currently a student journalist at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

Featured image credit: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay