In his early 30s, Salil found he had a serious heart problem, and some years ago even had a stroke. But he coped admirably with it all, and while taking the dietary and physical precautions he needed to, he continued working and living a perfectly normal life. His wife Poonam has been a strong and courageous support over the years. It was always a joy to visit them in Delhi. We had our political differences, Salil and I, but he taught me an important lesson: it didn't interfere with the bond we shared.
All of us who knew Salil remember him as always quick-witted and mischievous, but with never a hint of malice. (Another lesson). There was always some prank he was getting up to, some new way to pull people's legs. And while thinking about all that, I also thought: sure it's sad to lose a buddy like him. But knowing him, if he could see all of us, his friends, grieving over him, he would laugh at us. And so I thought I'd remember him by sharing two small memories of him.
It later became a favourite gag.
This last is something I inflict on my eight-year-old, and he knows Salil that way. In seriousness, it teaches him to ignore the minor injuries and carry on.
And as I finish typing these words, I have Salil's grin in my mind, the same youthful face and laugh from even the last time we met, not so long ago. (Still, too long). And even with the lump that catches in my throat, it makes me smile too. Cut from the best cloth, my good friend Salil.