One of the best things about travelling is meeting new people, and this was an undisputable point about to be hammered home when I arrived in Malmö, Sweden.
It was late in the evening and approaching nine o’clock, so it was dark and getting cold, too. I just wanted to dump my stuff at the hostel and head back out to get something to eat after arriving from Copenhagen at the city’s main train station.
After a 20 minute walk I remember checking in, being handed a key and assigned a bed number and, after being shown the way, heading up to my room.
The door was operated by key card and after some difficulty I finally entered. On the other side of the door I was, quite surprisingly, greeted by an upbeat voice and wide, beaming smile.
That was when I met Jeet.
I said hello and we began chatting whilst I tried to find my bed. There were only six in the room, but it just so happened that the one I was given had already been taken by someone else – presumably a person that didn’t fancy the single bed top bunk he had been assigned, and decided to take my double instead. Not to worry, there was another double bed free and I soon made it my own, dressing it with a sheet, pillow and a quilt.
At this point I was tired, cold and hungry. I couldn’t really be bothered making conversation with anyone, but for some reason Jeet drew it out of me. He had this unique quality that made you want to talk to him regardless of how exhausted you were. His demeanour put you at ease and allowed you to open up to him without fear of intrusion.
I invited him along to dinner, but he wasn’t fussed as he had just eaten. We did, however, make plans for breakfast the next day before he was to set off for Copenhagen.
In the end I didn’t leave the hostel until about 45 minutes after I had arrived, but not first before learning about this interesting, little guy from San Francisco.
Jeet lived in the Bay Area and had a distinctly American accent, but we were able to culturally relate to a closer degree than the Atlantic divide as he had just completed a year studying at the University of Glasgow.
He told me just how fond of the United Kingdom he was, but how he preferred cities like Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester, where I told him that I was living as a student, to London because they were hustle and bustle, but to a far greater extent than the capital.
He actually admitted that his favourite city in England was Manchester, but I couldn’t be certain if he was being totally honest or just saying it because that’s where I lived and he wanted to make me feel good. Such appeared to be the way with Jeet, whose purpose on this Earth seemed to be to enrich the life of others. I told him that the next time he was in town he should send me a message and we could meet up.
He was set to do a second year of study in Europe, this time at a university in Lund, also in Sweden and was checking out his future home by exploring his soon-to-be surroundings. That’s what brought him to Malmö.
I eventually left him to his own devices, literally, as he was using his Macbook in bed when I headed out the door, and by the time I returned he was on his way to bed.
We both awoke really early the next morning for breakfast, which we grabbed at the closest coffee house chain, and engaged in more chit chat. He told me about his future travel plans and where he had already been before asking me about mine.
Within half an hour of sitting down we became Facebook friends, and eventually he had to speed things up because he was meeting his friend in Copenhagen.
We finished up and went back to the hostel. He had already packed and soon left for Copenhagen, while I took my map of Malmö and headed back in the direction of the coffee house looking for the first destination on my itinerary.
I expected Jeet to be halfway to Denmark when, suddenly, he came racing towards me. He had left his phone charger in the place where we had sat down for breakfast and that had delayed his plans ever so slightly. Still, he wasn’t worried and his spirits seemed to be as high as they had been the whole while I had known him.
We said goodbye for a second time and went our separate ways again.
Unfortunately, I awoke to the news yesterday that Jeet had sadly passed away from pulmonary hypertension at the age of 20.
It made me think about just how unfair life is. How could this amazing person, so full of verve with an ambition to live life to the fullest, be taken from his loved ones at such a young age?
I had to read the news twice before it set in. I was only talking to Jeet in April and now he was gone.
It is a testament to the content of his character just how unsettling the news of his untimely passing is to someone who knew him only 36 hours, and needless to say that his family and closer group of friends are hurting immeasurably at the moment. My thoughts and sincere condolences are with them.
His sister announced the news by posting on Facebook, asking people to share their memories and photos with him. Although I am not able to contribute the latter, I did want to write this because I feel that it is important to share with his family, and others, the great impact he had on me in such a short space of time.
One of my favourite replies to his sister’s status was by a woman named Bela, who wrote: “The quality of life matters, not the length,” and Jeet appeared to live his to the highest possible standard.
People like Jeet are one of the main reasons that I travel. I’m sure that I will meet plenty of other amazing humans on my own journey, but I will never forget about meeting the boy from San Francisco, our paths crossing several thousand miles away in Malmö, Sweden.
Rest in peace, Jeet. This one’s for you.