He was among the irritating people I knew on Twitter. His low tolerance for typos in tweets meant that every few days he set my teeth on edge asking me to do everyone a favor and read what I wrote before hitting “send”. Considering that I use Twitter like my personal chat window with the world, I wasn’t too fussed about non-manuscript quality tweets and in my usual arrogance made sure he knew it. Not that it stopped him altogether.
His penchant for objecting to hyperbole (particularly employed in condemnation of the political left) interfered with my penchant for flamboyant criticism. Any criticism of the church (and Mother Teresa) was another hot spot. But the man had depths. And a profound view of the world that more than made up for such things for an information junkie like me.
He was snide, no doubt. I do snide too. When my snubs like “you don’t need a map to find the unfollow button” got sanctimonious replies about how he read my tweets and to please make time to spellcheck to read like the “eloquent tweeter” I am or if I must tweet so much I should at least do people the courtesy of not forcing them to guess incomprehensible tweets (I wasn’t that bad) …. I started ignoring him. We reached a truce by communication failure.
Over the years, there were other conversations (not that these stopped). Our interests were in similar zones on human rights, intersected on and off on politics and were diametrically opposite when it came to religion, and shades grew in the relationship. I mostly tolerated him…. till he grabbed my attention with his nuanced commentary on current affairs. He mistrusted the media-politician-corporation misinformation nexus as much as I did and read statistics and reports from surveys and census and committees and was a veritable fount of information (and how to find information on something). His blog became a place to drop in on and off. His straight style of writing and the things he took interest in suited my reading preference. Random Snideness, his blog is. No really. That’s the name of his blog. Actually, he was considerably less snide there.
Did I like him? Tough to say. “Like” was an irrelevant word. Each interaction with him was a toss up between whether he says something that made me itch to throw a paperweight at his head or achingly profound. If he tweeted anything in order to be liked, I did not see it. In fact, the unrepentant contrarian tweeted to provoke. Those who survived the provocation saw other layers. But I see friendship as echoes of ourself in another person, and there was plenty of that with @psnide. Deep interest in the well being of disadvantaged people, statistics as a prism for understanding the dynamics of our world, quirky sense of humor, a perverse pleasure in deliberately trampling lines we didn’t believe in, strong anchoring in a personal code, relentless life-scarred loners… oh yes. @psnide and I had much in common, while being wholly different people.
There have been rough times when I found understanding and acceptance with him that I didn’t, anywhere else. Not that he was one to hand out tissues or offer his shoulder, but that cactus managed to show his soft vulnerability under the thorns in a way that said. “Hey, it’s okay to hate the world sometimes. People can be that way. There is nothing to understand that can fix someone else.” but perversely, his rough words conveyed caring. Particularly with regard to complex and dysfunctional relationships with parents. He loved hearing about my experiences in my new home (we moved about 6 months ago to a quieter place outside Mumbai). Daily stuff like local interactions, Saturday market, bicycle rides on our quiet roads, simple life in a simple place. He resonated with that. He had said he wanted to visit, to relax and enjoy.
Now he won’t come. @psnide was killed in a bike accident on 6th May 2013. What a waste of a good person.
He was from a working class family. His father, a cook died of cancer and left him devastated. His mother was a domestic worker and his relationship with her was complex at best. There were sisters. And @psnide was alone. An introvert, thinker and sensitive person, his was a lonely journey with much pain bringing the wisdom to rise above solo journeys and see the patterns of the world. He worked hard and fought to rise above his circumstances. He traveled. He became a journalist. He found his voice on the internet, modest though his audience was. He was due to start a new phase as an editor with Saddahaq – an upcoming website that sounds like it will deal with human rights issues – a subject very dear to him. It should have been a new phase of rewarding work. It isn’t.
I never knew his family, but I felt that he found his heart’s expression online. He trended on Twitter for all the wrong reasons for the first and only time on the day he died, when he died in a bike accident and colleagues started a desperate search for contacting his family. And Twitter indeed delivers miracles. Psnide went home to his village in Goa decades after he left – for his funeral. I wondered how much of a home it was then. Or did we have another thing in common? Being nomads in life? Belonging to nowhere and at home everywhere?
So this page is his virtual memory. He was a loner and he was prickly, but he was appreciated.
Here lies Paul Menezes or @Psnide. He matters.
Note: Psnide had briefly taken up the pseudonym Praveen Dabre.