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Pal, chum, bud, friend, mate, so many words! Yet, not one could ever describe what he was to me. He was... a guide and still, a follower. A bond which every dictionary would define as friendship; we shared that, and more. More, the depth of which cannot be defined, only felt.
I remember sitting next to him everyday, when we were classmates. His eyes gleamed with hope and he whispered dreams to me. He told me how everyone's suffering would end someday. I believed in him. I listened for hours, entranced. If I missed school one day by any chance, he'd get worried and rush to our house just after school was over. And I thought I could never lose him...
While our dreams tell us tales of inordinate delight, reality guides us elsewhere.
We parted just after high school. I was moving abroad to a new life. A life without the person I cherished the most. He came to see me off at the airport and there, I saw him crying for the first time in my life. He was out of sight, but never out of mind. We talked on the phone on weekends. But the phone calls kept away too many things from me which I should've known...
On a gloomy afternoon six years later, I stood before him. Change was the only thing that remained unchanged. Too many things had happened during the course of my absence. He lost his amiable smile. His eyes sparkled no longer. Standing before me was an unknown figure; a victim of student politics. He was already a big leader by then, I had heard.
"Of all things, why politics?" I asked him.
"Politics is the synonym for power," was his reply.
"Power?" I couldn't believe what he said. "You're doing this for power? Something so superficial?" He was silent. "The path you've chosen is smudged with crime and blood. And after arriving, I've already heard rumours about you. Disreputable ones. How can you change so much? Why did you hide all these from me? I thought we were friends! Why didn't you confide in me?"
I looked at him. I didn't get a reply. He gave a nonchalant shrug but his eyes betrayed the trace of guilt.
"Sorry. I'm not the guy you knew." he said turning away from me.
Who knew that that'd be the last image I'd have of him? As I stood near his grave a week later, I couldn't control my tears. "Killed by the cadres of the opposition," the newspapers said about his demise. I fell to my knees and looked at the patch of freshly turned earth. He lay there, alone and powerless.