I met Kinley Penden in the cold December of 2007 when travelling towards Gelephu to spend my winter vacation at my grandmother’s place. The memories are still vivid: I clearly remember how charming he looked with dark silky hairs thrown across his face; his fringes touching the brows of his smouldering eyes and in the fashionable clothes that were the latest trend of the time as we waited for the bus driver to carry on our journey from the check post. Our meeting was brief as the journey itself and we did not become friends at the time.

It was two years later, when I passed into high school that our path once again met at a common junction. He was already a student of ZHSS (Zhemgang Higher Secondary School) and had also qualified into a same grade- or rather a same class- as I knew then that we were of same batch only. Interestingly, two of us shared the same block in the dormitory since our ‘House’ was one.

I recognised him immediately as the boy who was in the bus with me though he had a vague memory of me. As it is not my habit of going along famously with new people, we became ‘friends’ slowly. But we became friends- a very close and best one indeed with the passage of time. We were ‘inseparable’, if I can use the word here to describe how we were then.

The ‘friendship’ between us filled up the little indifferences and regional disparities that existed between us. As most of the friends do, we also used to eat in one plate and share common bed; sometimes even the clothes- I know as friends it’s inevitable though it’s unhygienic clinically. And it was a wonderful life in nutshell.

He values unity so he cooperates with every friend. It was with me whom he used to cooperate most because as he is to me, I am also a best friend to him. Together, we did both exciting and embarrassing things. A very good soul he was (-still is and would be forever). A jovial company. I saw him happy all the time except during study hours as he was suffering from myopia- on account of which he soon had the glasses- and his handwriting was little poor. Not upto the teachers satisfaction. Perhaps it was because of the handwriting, which might have mattered in the examination, for his result was affected. His eye-sight might have contributed little to his unsuccessful result, I am sure. Kinley could not make up to study further under government finance. Luckily, he repeated but ended up with the same fate. I felt pity on him but there was nothing I could do. But I can assure anyone that his failure in the study is not because of his poor memory or was he a miscreant but it seems that his enthusiasm was oriented towards something!

After two years of togetherness in ZHSS, it was last time that I met him once again personally in Thimphu in previous year’s winter. I can be called a fair-weather friend; I lost contact with him thereafter as I changed my cell phone and I confess, I did not make an attempt to contact with him as I was occupied by my own business here. A selfish friend.

A couple of days ago, I was scrolling down the notifications and going through the updates in facebook. A photo update from one of my buddies caught my attention. The same eyes into which I looked few years ago, stared at me through the myopic glasses. I paused to take in the details. I was taken aback. It was Kinley Penden in maroon robe! He has changed the path of his life- he’s become a monk!

The picture flabbergasted but impressed me all the same. My heart melted to see him in the form I revere most. I faintly remember him talking of Mysore someday back in the school time, so I commented: “ So he has become what he wanted to be..._/\_.”

His tonsured head bears no more silky hairs nor does he wear trendy clothes but only the respectable and simple maroon robe. Unlike the high school days, our uniform will never be same and we cannot exchange it henceforth. When I meet him, he will say that the way of my life is good but he has chosen a better path- perhaps he understood and loved the Buddha better than I.

I now know where his mind was. I salute to him though he’s not an officer nor me any low rank corporal but he’s a great novice monk- choosing a good path makes him so- and I am his best friend. He shall be my best friend ever. I read somewhere, probably in facebook that friends are the siblings that God forgot to give us.
Union of old friends: Thinley and Kinley Penden
P.S. Kinley Penden is popularly known as Pundu among his friends. To tell the meaning of his nickname shall be another post. 

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