It was early, pretty early in the morning, when my phone rang. Sleepy-eyed, I answered the call. Frantic and almost fanatical, my colleague and friend of many years shared: “Narendra is no more.”

My heart skipped a beat and my mind recollected at least seven Narendras that I have known in life.

“Who Narendra?”

“The actor. Pretty known,” said my colleague.

Being in the news business, most of the times, sorrow follows swiftness.

“So are we breaking it? Is it out?” I asked.

“Yes, we are breaking it.”

“Let’s get going.”

phone disconnected

IWMBuzz flashed the news of Narendra Jha finishing his stay on Earth, after suffering a fatal heart attack.

I have known of him, met him once or twice at press conferences. Wouldn’t call him a pal. My colleague, however, shared a rapport. Her early morning call stemmed from emotions of respect and bonhomie, which, of course, were fleeting, given the duty of being a responsible credible journalist.

Friendship or threads of warmth between an actor and reporter are usually fragile. They last till the next piece of ‘uncomfortable, unpalatable’ news.

The news made a lot of people sad; all lamented; RIPs flooded social media timelines. Just a few days later, a 26 year old actor too breathed his last. Depressing!!!

“Yaar, sab young log mar rahe hai…chal kya raha hai (all young people are dying…what’s happening?)” are the concerned words of a video editor friend of mine, who, almost every day, works 16-hour shifts.

True…the young are dying. Fearfully, of late, the count has gone up.

1 April, 2018, marked the second death anniversary of Pratyusha Banerjee. She had allegedly committed suicide. Her death created much rumpus, some sensible, mostly nonsensical.

Being a Bengali, she was one of my first acquaintances in the TV industry.

“Lokhandwala te Hangla’s e bhalo roll pawa jai…please eat: (you get good rolls at Hangla’s in Lokhandwala…please eat): She guided me as I grappled with my ‘migratory woes’ from a small town in Bengal, to a behemoth called Mumbai.

Life moved on; she became a huge star. I got busy making a living. A few years later, we met at a party. She wore a Gothic look. She smiled and we exchanged pleasantries in Bengali. The exuberance was intact. However, there was a veneer of restless uneasiness, as if a desperate search for succour and solace.

Death is never easy. And the death of a young person is especially heart-breaking and traumatic. So much promise, all the possibilities…all vanish in a whiff, in the blink of an eye.

“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” These words of Leonardo da Vinci have always haunted me.

I have known a producer friend of mine who booked a room at a 5 star hotel to end his life, only to have re-gained sanity later, thankfully.

“Are you mad?” I chided, when he shared it with me. All I got in answer was a wearied, wrinkled smile.

Yes, the young are dying. Rampant consumerism and the need to conform and stay relevant, peer pressure, and an umpteen number of such happenings, suck life out of life.

A son is gone, a daughter, a father, a brother, a lover… a human being. You smile. You cry. You learn that your loved one was cherished by others as well. You search for the sweet, the silly, the outrageous, and, even, the horrifying.

The feeling is that of an abyss, nothingness….you want to scream…nothing feels right, nothing feels real…you are numb, gasping for breath.

As the wise man has said, ‘Time heals everything’, which is true. Life goes on, but the pain lingers.

The loss doesn’t fade away, however, the pain can transform, for the Universe is listening.

Live life to the fullest, run the race to the top…but don’t welcome death. Ease out. There are many who are fighting silent battles; experiencing a deluge of emotions within their hearts. They are warriors of life.

If we can, and if we are in the position, then let’s look around and help. A hug, a sweet pat on the back, a gesture of appreciation and smile of faith and gratitude can save lives.

All these warriors want to hear: “Don’t worry, we are here for you”. Let’s help before it’s too late. Let the precious loss not be in vain, not on our watch.

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it: Affirmation.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. Let the young live, amen!!!