There are some friends who are not just people you have fun with, but also people who you are proud of. When I say proud, people might immediately think I am talking about someone who accomplished something huge and gained recognition for it from all corners. People don’t always understand that you can be proud of some for being the way they are. There is a certain friend of mine, a very good friend of mine in fact who I am extremely proud of. This blog is a tribute to the person that he is and the lesson we can all learn from him and others like him.

What anyone would notice about him first is the pleasant and rather funny way in which he puts across anything. With a wicked sense of humour, he can make you go red sometimes; but that only makes you like him more. In the seven years that we have been friends, I have noticed more than once that even when he talks about something that is not a very happy thing to talk about, he packages it in his signature witty style. I got to see that again when I was talking to him last month, after a period of six months or so.

For the first half an hour that we talked, we were sharing news of our mutual friends and laughing about quite a lot of funny and not-so-funny incidents from the past. Little did I know that the guy who was making me laugh out non-stop was in bed, coping with extreme pain. It was only when I asked him casually where he was that he mentioned that he was in his hometown for the past three months as part of a treatment. And he said that as if it was a very normal thing. I asked him what the problem was and finally got to know that he has been struggling with an issue with his spinal cord for a long time now.

The basic idea that I got from what he said was that the fluid in his spinal cord has been drying up, resulting in a compression of nerves and blood vessels in the area. This in turn leads to excruciating pain, from his back to the tip of his toes. Sitting down and even moving make the pain worse. Doctors told him that a surgery would be risky, and it was always better to go through an Ayurvedic treatment for this, although it takes a lot of patience and pain. It was thus that he came down to his hometown, taking a break of 3-4 months, to undergo the treatment. He has been in bed all throughout, with minimal movements. Slowly, he is recovering; but as with any issue with your back, he needs to be extra careful in future and probably keep undergoing preventive treatments.

You might be wondering why I am writing about a simple back ache, because people have a way of associating importance only to fatal diseases. They don’t always realize that although not fatal, there are illnesses that can disrupt your entire life in a huge way and cause you the same kind of pain. As a person who has suffered from severe migraine for most of my life, that too for continuous periods like weeks and months without a stop, I know that even something seemingly as harmless as a headache can sometimes affect your life big time and be depressing. I remember the days when I used to handle four continuous training sessions, looking as happy and cheerful as I could be in front of my trainees, and running to the washroom during the breaks to vomit after bearing the splitting pain for hours. And that is in no way comparable to the pain my friend has gone through for the last couple of years or more.

Here was a guy who could not afford to sit down at all; so he was literally doing his job standing throughout the day for one whole year before he could go for treatment. Even considerate managers and team members who admired his hard work and the little bit of flexibility he got in terms of work from home options once in a while, could not greatly bring down his work load or his strain. For a long, long time now he has not been able to enjoy a day out with his wife or play to his heart’s content with his little son. And ever since he started his treatment, he has been confined to bed, not able to do anything he wants to do. I can only imagine the kind of frustration that can bring about in a person.

I felt proud of him because with all this, he was so very positive and pleasant in the way he talked, as if this was no big deal. When he could not bear the pain, he could have easily quit his job and stayed at home. Even if the treatment cured him to a certain extent, he had the option to say he does not want to go back to work again and spend his life cribbing. But for the entire time he talked to me, he was trying to tell me how he was working with the doctors to get past this so that he could get back to work again. It would mean giving up on some opportunities that involved a lot of travel. But he was okay with that as long as he could get back on his feet again, even if he had to cope with difficulties once again.

I felt proud of him because I have seen people, quite young, looking for a reason to not do anything in life and giving silly excuses for why they choose to not earn a living or at least do something worthwhile with their life. They leave job after job, citing work pressure and medical difficulties and end up deciding that they are happy doing nothing. Unlike the ones who fight serious illnesses with a brave face, these people are only too happy to talk about a pain here and a pain there, every time someone asks them what they do. They live a happy life enjoying every facility and luxury, buying everything they want, going anywhere they feel like, flaunting their new gadgets, engaging in ‘intelligent’ conversations about anything under the sun, giving out words of wisdom to others on how to live their life – all the while not worrying or even feeling ashamed that their parents have given up a peaceful retired life to cater for their needs. After all, when you learn that you can have a life filled with pleasures even if you don’t do anything, why would you do any work, right? I have not really decided yet whether it is these people or their parents who are to blame.

I just hope that at least some loafers will read this blog and feel ashamed of themselves, and try to justify their existence.

And you my friend, I hope that you recover completely very soon and get back to doing everything you love. I want you to know that you are a wonderful human being and I am proud to call you my friend. To all the people out there who are doing the same thing, not letting serious, and sometimes even fatal illnesses get the better of you, you guys are the real role models people should look up to!