I had a friend from the Indian Administrative Service, whom I came in contact with in the UK, during the twelve-week training under the Colombo plan. He belonged to the Kerala cadre and hailed from Punjab. This was in the year 1990 and at that time, he was posted in Delhi on a central deputation. We had several things in common which made us close friends during the period of training, though we had not met each other before that. This friendship continued even after the training got over and we kept in touch with each other. I was at Kanpur at that time. Within one year, that is, in 1991, I was also posted to Delhi on a central deputation and within few months I got a residence, which was hardly two kilometres away from this friend’s home. This strengthened our friendship further, and our families also came closer. We used to visit each other frequently and this continued for almost three years. My friend’s deputation to the government of India was coming to an end and he was worried about it because he was not willing to go to Kerala at that point of time, mainly because of his daughter’s asthma problem. So he was trying for a deputation to Punjab, which was his home state.
I had a friend in the prime minister’s secretariat, to whom I had also spoken for help, but somehow the proposal was not accepted. This made my friend very upset who came running to me in a very disturbed state of mind. While I was not in full agreement with his wish, still I thought of making one more effort. This time, I spoke to a junior lady colleague of mine whose father was the prime minister’s principal secretary. My friend wanted an appointment with him to explain his problem. Luckily, this intervention helped and he got an appointment. Not only this, his case was then favourably considered and he got a deputation to the Punjab government for three years. This made my friend very happy and he profusely thanked me for this help. Naturally, I was also happy about it. But our happiness was short-lived. He joined the Punjab government in the month of July 1994. Almost around the same time, I also got a posting to Kolkata on promotion and I shifted there. Our contact also became occasional. On a visit to Delhi in the month of September, when I enquired about him from a common friend, I learnt that my friend was no more. He had died in an accident while driving from Chandigarh to Ludhiana, which was his home town. This was very difficult for me to bear but there was no option. I immediately rushed to Chandigarh and shared a few moments of grief with his family, which gave them a lot of consolation and courage.
Quite often, I think of this incident, and the question, which comes to my mind again and again, is whether it was a help or not. The message I get is that our role in the journey of life is only to make our best efforts. The eventual outcome is the result of a large number of factors, most of which are unknown to us. This realisation not only keeps our ego away but also helps in accepting events as they happen. Incidentally, the family took this development in a very positive way and settled down in a graceful manner, in due course.