If I say Basanta was my friend, I would be lying. Basanta was my classmate for one of the electives (Sociology) during graduation (1995-1998) at Fakir Mohan College, Balasore. We hardly interacted but whenever we did, he seemed to be quite a cheerful guy. Nothing seemed wrong but I could (and I was lucky) see his daily struggle to make a meaning out of his life. He came from an extremely humble background with his father being a small farmer dependent totally on the errant Indian monsoon. He was staying in a one-room shanty with some of his friends on the outskirts of Balasore (a small coastal town in Orissa).
Basanta was good at academics and aspired to be a teacher. He used to offer private tuitions to school-going kids to support to his education and stay in the city. One afternoon, while coming back from college, I went with him to his room to collect some sociology notes that he had made. It was a typical bachelor pad minus the comforts of life that bachelors take for granted these days - empty bottles of beer, TV, refrigerator, and washing machine etc. It was a bare minimum at its tiniest best. And when I took my attention off the debris on the floor, I saw something interesting hanging on the wall. It was a structure, similar to a pyramid, made out of six small thin bamboo canes. At the first instance, I thought that was the handiwork of a lazy mind during one of the lazy summer afternoons. But, when we were just about to leave - and since Basanta was also leaving his room with me for his tuitions - he looked at the structure and did a pranam (praying with folded hands).
I was shocked. I thought may be, he believed in some alternative religious practices. I asked him, quite courageously though, the reason. And he said looking at the structure, "Chetan, I do not have the money to buy idols and photographs of Hindu Gods. The structure that is hanging on the wall is God for me. Religion is a matter of faith and I believe that is God."
For me that structure was nothing. For him, after one become one with the structure, there was nothing. Even the conversation we had can be ruled out as a matter of nothing. However, nothing can deny or cast a shadow on the fact that for Basanta, nothing else mattered.
Tailpiece: I did try to search for Basanta in the Facebooks and Linkedins of the world with the faint hope that I can again get in touch with him. However, it seems, he has remained untouched by the feudalism of cyber world.