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Dealing with a friend's death

LinkedIn told me to wish Atanu a happy work anniversary. According to LinkedIn, he completed two years at Florida State University this November.

Except that Atanu died in a freak accident a month ago.

For those who do not know Atanu, he was a PhD student at IIT Bombay, and he stayed two rooms down from the room I was allocated. The physical proximity does lead to a certain level of friendship that cannot be expressed easily.

Generally, PhDs and MTechs at IITB have an estranged relationship with the BTechs, we think of them as dull oldies, and they think of us as arrogant youngsters (the actual terms used are more colourful, but I hope you get the idea). Atanu was an exception to the rule. It's hard to find anyone who could say that he did not like Atanu, or that he was ambivalent or indifferent. Atanu's personality was one that forced you to like him.

We had a running joke, I would joke that as a PhD, he would do nothing other than go to his lab and sit in the AC, and he would joke that I would not even go to a lab. Heck, I did not even stay at the hostel long enough for the frat-brothers kind of friendships to develop, yet I was close to Atanu.

So I sat wondering around a month ago about why we had not spoken for over a year. I resolved that I would call him as soon as I finished the homework which had swamped me for a week. As I sat through the night, typing the last words on my report, a friend sent me an IM, which I was inclined to disregard -- it pointed to a domain I was unfamiliar with, it was three o'clock in the morning, and frankly, I was tired. There was no reason for me to visit that link, but I did, and it told me of Atanu's death. It seemed so random and meaningless, he died swimming at the beach.

This is the kind of news that can put anyone in a daze. I'm 23, at this age, I don't expect to hear such news. Yet, over the past year, I've lost three friends. One died after a long fight with cancer, another took his own life, and Atanu died in a freak accident.

And it's shocking, weird and random that I should be reminded of these friends at moments most unexpected, through Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, who assume that these people are happily going on with their lives, and suggest that I wish them a happy birthday, or a happy work anniversary, or that I add them to my circles, because they may be people I know. And it just seems weird to delete their contact information from my address book, feels like some kind of betrayal, even though I know that their phone numbers have long since been claimed by someone else, that they will never respond to an email or IM, and that there's no way to ever contact them again.

And that just makes me sad.

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