Music and photos from the last month.. “November” is published by Abhi Goyal in Frunzenskaya.
Rajesh died three months ago so there was no way he could be near me this early in the morning. It was 5:30 am and one of the few things that I decided to do in the new year was to go for a morning run. I wanted to run 5 laps around my block and it was during my final lap that he decided to enter my life again.
“You are running all wrong man”, he shouted from afar. I looked back and I saw Rajesh dressed in a stain repellent shirt, comfortable running shorts and a light pair of flat soled shoes. “You have to land a little lighter on your heals or they will wear your legs out” he said when he caught up to me. I didn’t know if I should yell for help after seeing a ghost because I was near my home and didn’t want to wake my family who were already concerned about me waking up this early.
“I didn’t even know you run”, I replied trying to be composed and pretending that I talk to ghosts all the time.
“I’ve started doing a lot more than I did when I was alive”, Rajesh said while still running. “Yes the after life is great like for example you can eat a huge buffet and not poop for ever but there’s only so much you can do of that. So I just decided I’d run and be in shape”.
The Rajesh I sort of knew on the earth didn’t speak so much. We both joined work together. He was a quiet dude who kept to himself. When we first joined, we used to say “hey what’s up” to each other when we entered office. But office takes that away from you after a while. You no longer acknowledge anyone and just walk around desks in a daze waiting for the end of the week.
I used to enter office, start my computer, go through my emails and if I needed something I’d send a text via the official office chat. I only socialised during lunch and on team dinner parties. Rajesh never drank, so he skipped every party. He avoided the pantry during lunch and chose to stay at his desk, eating his packed lunch while listening to his favourite podcast — Freakonomics Radio.
I never interacted with him much and then one day when I entered office and I opened my office chat I read this message— “We will not be working today after 12 and will be going to Rajesh’s home to pay our respects”.
He had a liver sickness which took him out. We never knew that he was silently suffering and we didn’t even guess because he was always skinny. He put on a good front at work but his family knew better.
“Hey you must not feel bad for me”, Rajesh said when he caught me staring at him in this new form. “I am in a better place. Everything I was not in life, I am in the after life”.
“Is that how it works?”, I asked.
“It’s a new beginning for me. I am not burdened to live by the expectations people defined me with. There are no expectations here. Over here I am social unlike the anti social person everyone thought I was. Since everyone thought I was quiet, even I believed I was that. Once I’ve let go of people’s scrutiny of me, I started feeling free. Now I run with a new person every day. Someone I get to chose.”
“Why did you choose me?” I wanted to ask but didn’t. We both continued running now at the same pace.
I didn’t speak, he caught me looking at him, understood my unvoiced question and laughed as he continued to speak to me.
“You can only take a new direction bravely when you care less about what others think, don’t be like me and wait until death to understand that” he said and proceeded to run faster. There was no way I could catch up with him. I wished I had longer to talk but he was at the end of the road already and then turned at the corner.
I went back home and made myself a coffee and started to reflect on my life with the mirror Rajesh showed me while we were running. I lived so much of my life fearing people scrutinising my life that I didn’t even act on what I knew in my gut to be true. I didn’t take too many chances in fear of letting go of what I’ve known to work and I knew that this limited me. It took a former colleague from another dimension of time and space to teach me that. I am not sure what Rajesh might tell you if he ever wants to run with you but it’s important that I share this wisdom that Rajesh left me with during the last time I met him after he had died.
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