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3rd May 2002 - Page 1

For Puja

Right now I'm looking at a photograph taken on one of the last days of my time at Vasant Valley. There's about twenty of us sitting on the bleacher kept under the trees next to the tennis court. People are hugging each other, Samir and Jasmeet have their arms linked for some reason, I am staring at the camera with my usual mouth-wide-open gape, and others have obviously been caught mid-conversation. That photograph is up on my wall, and I don't know how many times I've looked at it when I miss home and the friends that I left behind. But now when I look at it I realize there's something I really hadn't appreciated. In that moment, frozen in time, everyone is smiling. And now, those smiles can never be the same.
Puja Mukerji was a big influence in my life. We first got to know each other in sixth grade, and since then we remained friends. Like all friendships, there were times of closeness and times of distance, but she was always someone you could talk to, and I'd like to think I was someone she felt the same way about. Even while she was off being a VJ and I was in America attempting to obtain an education, we would still exchange the occasional email, catching up on each other's lives. Whenever I flew home, I knew that when we would meet, it would be almost like we were back in school again. And now she's gone, and I'm left looking around my room for little pieces of memories that can bring her back.

Puja Mukherji talking to Prayaag Akbar and Akhil Wable

It's hard typing through tears, and its hard writing when your life has changed so dramatically, but I want to use this to remind people of why she meant so much to so many people. She lived a happy life, I think, full of the loves and hardships of a teenager, but she met all she faced with a kind of determination that sometimes irked me, but I always admired. She packed her life with the things she truly loved; dancing, theatre, books, poetry and writing. And though she was never content, because that implies a lack of ambition, I think she had finally achieved the happiness she was looking for. Her life was extraordinarily full for someone so young, and it makes me all the more despairing because she had so much life left in her, so much more to offer to the world. I'm not going to attempt to describe the sorrow that I am experiencing, nor the anger I feel with the way things turn out - sometimes words are remarkably inadequate. Puja once wrote a poem for me, and I am furious that in my quest to appear nonchalantly cool I never asked her for a copy to keep. It was probably the most beautiful thing anyone has written about me, and the memory of her reading it to me is something I will now treasure forever. As I sit here, thinking about everything all of us went through together, with this emptiness in the pit of my stomach, I can't help but wonder why something like this would happen. All I know is, she is in another place, a place far, far better than this messed up world in which we live, and I hope she is finally content. And all I can say is, Puja, wherever you are, We love you, We miss you, and Thank You. 
"Only the good die young".
In remembrance of Mark D'Souza, Dhruv Lal Seth and Puja Mukerji

Prayaag Akbar

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