On Sunday, November 8th, at 1:13 in the morning, I received the sad and heartbreaking message that my friend Mapuia was no more. He was admitted in the ICU of New Life Hospital, and our group of friends had been continuously sharing updates about his latest condition on our WhatsApp group. In the end, there wasn’t anything more the doctors could do... Mapuia had left us…
What was even more tragic was that this was the second son Nu Rozami had to bury, with Maremtea bidding us farewell back in 24th November 2010. Both Maremtea and Mapuia are the younger brothers of my dear friend Matea. Matea is not just a childhood friend or neighbour, he and I had crossed paths many times even after we grew up together and moved outside Mizoram, so his two younger brothers became like brothers to me too. And that's the way we were - carefree and rebellious kids who all grew up together with a lot of memories to share.
But now with Mapuia gone, things will definitely be different back home. In a way, I can picture Maremtea waiting for his brother at the Pearly gates, embracing him for the company that he’ll give him in the coming days ahead until the rest of us can join them. And then we can have this awesome game of basketball all together one more time!
Yup, one of the things that bound us all together was our passion for basketball. I still remember those early years when we would fervently argue and verbally fight because they supported Chicago Bulls while I was a hardcore Utah Jazz fan, during the days of Jordan, Stockton, Malone, Pippen, Rodman, Hornacek etc. Those were the 2Pac craze days, where house parties meant cassette players and tape recorders :)
Mapuia was even the one who came up with the name of "Ryders" basketball club. Even though I was playing for other clubs like "JL Vision", "ABC" and "Club Francis" back then due to many reasons (to keep a long story short), Ryders was always close to my heart and I spent most of my time practicing with the team rather than my own team. They weren’t just a basketball team, they were my brothers.
And now, sitting here hundreds of miles away to see my dear friends standing together one more time to pay their last respects to Mapuia definitely is overwhelming and tear-jerking.
I looked through my old photo albums and found a couple of photos of Mapuia. I scanned them and sent them to our Ryders whatsapp group. I wished I had more photos.
And then I stumbled across this photo set. This was the last basketball tournament I ever played in Mizoram, before I gave up sports and focused on my career. In these photos, both Mapuia and Maremtea were still there! This was when our gang of friends (Ryders) participated in our locality basketball tournament, and reached till the finals, where we almost won (we were leading by a huge margin at half time, but then it rained and we had to play in the rain and ended up losing by 4 points).
Of course, this is not about giving excuse for losing that day. What is more important is the fact that we all played together as friends and later on, we had a grand time celebrating our participation as we all had dinner together at Matea (and Mapuia and Maremtea)’s house.
I’m just pasting all the photos of that event here in one go, right from the basketball match to the dinner get-together. This took place back in May 2009.
[Mapuia in white]
[Maremtea in brown]
[Our team line-up before the match]
[prize distribution time, look at Mapuia so enthusiastic]
[Team photo time, along with our sponsors Tluanga and Sanga!]
[Dinner time yo!]
[One more group photo session…]
And now here are the photos my friends shared on our WhatsApp group… I’m keeping them in chronological order…
[Our friends stood outside the ICU, waiting for the release of his body…]
[Ryders one last time, wearing the team T-shirt]
[The funeral the same day…]
[The Funeral program… click on all pics to enlarge]
[Mapuia’s coffin on its way to our Chaltlang cemetery, surrounded by friends…]
[The final goodbye]
[Decorating the grave the next day by friends]
[Even though I hated the very fact that I couldn't be there in Mizoram to bid Mapuia one last goodbye, in a way, it felt good to know daddy’s grave is just two lanes above his…]
Rest In Peace, my brother. Ryders forever.