Fun, fashionable, finicky, faithful, forthright, fearless (and fearsome to some) was my friend Vidhea.
Vidhea and I had lots in common. She had studied in St Helen's Convent, where I also started my schooling. She knew most of my Kurseong relatives, who are still awestruck by the memory of her swinging down the cobbled paths of the bustee in high 70s glam, her mini-skirt riding above her leather boots, as scanty as the clouds above Kanchenjunga.
We loved forgotten words such as 'merkin' and the local daily headlines: "Hundreds of Chickens Desiccated by Lightning",or "Crash Course for Air Stewards". We rigorously sorted rupees, by denomination, the condition of the notes and the Kings of Nepal, which always had Yanik rolling his eyes. We considered number 9 magical.
I never tired of listening to Vidhea's stories of her maternal grandfather, an ordinary Nepali who had become the coal baron of Assam. He had separate villas for his mistresses, a zoo and, for Christmas, used to present his granddaughters with Chanel No. 5. Not yet at an age to appreciate it, they would merrily empty the bottles into the fireplace, the fragrance flirting around them. He also played the jazz and the blues on a hand-wound gramophone, the very songs Vidhea loved and performed so beautifully.
Vidhea once expounded on the word 'friend'. As she put it in her usual measured manner, a friend is "someone who allows us the space and freedom to be, and the most beautiful discovery true friends can make is they can grow separately without growing apart".
Vidhea, you out-drank, out-smoked and out-smarted us on every occasion. As you lay dying, you showed us when it comes to fighting the only weapons necessary are courage and dignity, laced with wry humour. You once thanked me publicly for being your friend. Likewise.
Having known her for almost a decade, Vidhea was for me a quintessential model of energy, laughter and friendship. I feel blessed to have had this special bond of love and warmth with her. I feel fortunate to have spent many wonderful moments discussing books, music and, most of all, sharing life with her.
Although I had met her regularly on many occasions, our friendship took on a new dimension when we joined forces to plan and organise Women in Concert in early 2002. Over the years, my admiration and respect for this beautiful and amazingly strong woman grew and flourished into a wonderful friendship that I treasure to this day.
Vidhea had an insatiable love for reading. From newspapers to novels, Vidhea had a wide range of literary taste. An exuberant storyteller, her conversations never failed to enrapture many of us. I remember her deep passion for music and singing. From jazz standards to rock and roll, Vidhea chose her songs with her heart and enjoyed singing every one of them.
Vidhea had an almost obsessive compulsive attitude towards work. I watched her doggedly pursue every detailed aspect for order and organisation. She could never tolerate incompetence, always making her distaste bluntly clear to people who failed to deliver, and taking on the task herself. From writing proposals to making expense sheets to setting up appointments for Women in Concert, she toiled away to make each concert a stupendous success year after year.
I would like to remember Vidhea as my friend who laughed with me, sang with me, danced with me and cried with me. I shall never ever forget for even a single moment that she was not just close to my heart but was always, and will be forever, in it.