Friendships…. how did yours start? Do you remember? Any special stories? Did friends turn into significant others?
Friends are the families we choose for ourselves and as far as I’m concerned, some friends of mine are more family than family will ever be. This post today, is about some of them and the story of jab we met.
Some friends, I’ve had since I was in rompers…. these include my cousins, people in my building, friends I went to school with. Some, I met in the various classes my mom had enrolled me in. There were music classes, drawing classes, coaching classes. Sab jagah padhaai likhaai aur kaam kam hota tha, baatein zyaada hoti thi. My mom used to be hairaan pareshaan – I’d drag home friends from every place for chai naashta. I used to talk to people I barely knew on the phone for hours together.
I was always over enthusiastic about meeting new people – no, I haven’t been an anti social cynic all my life. In my younger days, I used to be the life of every party. I’d have anecdotes to share, advice to offer and I was a cheerleader. If you got a bad grade, if the girl/boy you liked did not like you back, all you had to do was talk to me and life would seem brighter, if only for the brief time you were with me. This was partly because I used to be the new kid in class almost every year. Between kindergarten and second grade, I’d already changed 6 schools and I went to 3 different colleges before my education was complete. So needs must. After spending the first few months in brand new schools eating my lunch alone, I realized I’d have to fix the situation myself. So I started insinuating myself into groups. I became a people pleaser. I’d model my behavior on the people I wanted to hang out with including mimicking their speaking styles and in some cases, even their handwriting. I wasn’t doing this on purpose. It just seemed easier to get people to like me if I was more like them.
This was brought to my attention at the age of 15 by someone I thought I was good friends with. She probably did not harbor very friendly feelings towards me and one day in a scathing diatribe she told me I was the most shallow person she’d met. I was friends with her because it was convenient for me to be. She was the first and only person who pointed out that when I was with her, I spoke like her and my handwriting had also started to look like hers. However, when I was in a larger group she did not get as much of my attention. What she said, while extremely uncomfortable, was also true. So, I’d like to think I became a less shallow person after this incident. Unfortunately, this girl, Deepika, however no longer wanted to be friends with me. I’d say I was heartbroken, but a month later, I’d moved to a different city and made other friends, so yes she was right, she wasn’t as close a friend as I thought she was. She was a good friend to hang out with during English tuitions.
However, this post is not about broken friendships. It’s about how some of my strongest friendships have come from some of the weirdest situations. Not all of the people I mention here are friends with me now. Some, I’ve lost touch with since the non social media world that I inhabited growing up, meant that people would fall by the wayside when they’d leave town or your school or college. However, these friendships, for the duration they lasted, were intense affairs. There were late night conversations, extremely long letters exchanged, fleeting phone calls when we could find the time and money. So here’s my toast to friends old and new. Some, I’ve been lucky enough to hold on to. Some, I’ve parted ways with less than amicably but that does not take away from the fact that there are times I miss them intensely.
1. Bhalachandra – I was in 12th grade, in Pune, in coaching classes for my H.S.C exams. There was a boy in my class. We used to wait at the same bus stop every day after class to take the bus home. This guy was a dead ringer for a senior of mine from school called Firdaus Bharucha. Firdaus used to be the class clown and a really good debater. He and I had partnered in a some debate competitions where we represented our school successfully and in school fun fairs etc. I left Bombay after my 10th grade and despite having spent over a year in Pune, I missed Bombay and my friends terribly. Looking at this boy at the bus stop would bring back memories of time spent with Firdaus and so on a couple of occasions I smiled at this boy. I think he thought I was a crank and soon I realized he’d make a pointed effort to look in a direction away from me so as to avoid my gaze. One day, halfway through the summer coaching session, I gathered the courage to walk up to this kid and explain to him why I was staring at him intently. He wouldn’t believe me until I showed him a picture of Firdaus’s. What followed was a friendship and a pen pal relationship that I maintained for quite a few years. Bhalachandra was from Jalgaon and after the summer coaching session, he went back home to Jalgaon. He was from a Marathi medium school and Marathi was not my strong suit then so we’d write to each other in Hindi. Eventually I lost touch with Bhalachandra, so no more friendship with Firdaus or his look alike, for me 😦
2. Binu: This one has a happy ending. B.Sc 1st year, a new college again, no friends or acquaintances again. Most of the people from 12th grade had gone on to engineering and medical schools or they chose to remain in the college where they did their 11 & 12th. I’d been extremely unhappy in the college I’d studied in, in my 11th and 12th grade so I changed colleges. On the first day, I was standing by myself when I noticed a group of 3 girls. It looked like they’d known each other forever. They had.. they’d gone to the same school since kindergarten. However, they looked like a group I wanted to be a part of. So I walked up to them, said I had no friends and asked if I could join their group. They all graciously agreed. What followed was 3 years of giggling, crushing over boys, studying together, loving Patrick Swayze (since the one time we had a sleepover, we watched Dirty Dancing). I’ve lost touch with the rest of the group but Binu is a BFF. She and I rarely meet, we don’t even call each other often but she’s truly the first person that comes to mind when I say BFF. What’s nice is our girls are friends – the kind that meet once a year, maybe, but pick up where they left off.
Karthik: I met him for the first time at the hospital. We were new to Pune. My dad’s college friend was visiting us and he had a nephew at the NDA (National Defence Academy), so that Sunday, dad, his friend and I went to the NDA to see the nephew. While there, dad remembered that another college friend of his had a nephew at the NDA too. After a few inquiries, we found out he (the nephew) was at the hospital since he had broken his leg. We visited him and dad casually asked him to visit us sometime. Little did dad know that one should invite an NDA cadet home for lunch very carefully. Once his leg mended, Karthik was home practically every Sunday. He and I became friends and then closer than friends. He became my de facto older brother. He’d tease me, offer advice, be unnecessarily protective at times. He’s in my life still and I’m grateful. I talked to him after a very long time last year and now we WhatsApp occasionally. He was another person whom I would write letters to regularly. Each letter would be 8-10 pages long and I’d pay additional postage to send them to him wherever he was posted and he’d do the same. I knew he was going to propose to the love of his life since he wrote to me he was going to ask her to be his wife. He’s a good person and life has taught me that they are hard to come by. I’m keeping this one.
Gunjan: This was a friend I made on a train. I was working and used to travel between Bombay and Pune regularly. One day on my way back from Bombay, I saw this guy in an IIM Calcutta t shirt traveling standing since he didn’t have a ticket. The TTR came and he fined this guy for travelling without a ticket and for 4 hours on the train, this guy stood. Eventually, when we were about to get down I asked him if it was his first time travelling without a ticket. When he said yes, I said “Next time station jaldi aana aur train mein window seat pakad lena. Then when the TTR comes, have him issue you a ticket. That’s how you do this.” He asked why he should take my expert advice and I told him he should because I traveled to Bombay twice a week at the very least. A number of my trips were last minute ones with no ticket, hence my subject matter expertise. A fast and furious friendship followed. Dinners, late night coffees, phone calls, meeting when we could. We remained friends until about 2 years ago and then I was dealing with some major crap in my life and willfully shut a number of people out. He was one of them. He’s someone I miss, though. We had an easy, uncomplicated relationship, one that isn’t quite as easily replicated.
Tamri: She and I became friends in 2009 although she’d married my cousin in 1999. The cousin she married was not one I kept in touch with. Then circumstances conspired and I visited their house in 2009. I found my cousin had married way out of his league. Tamri’s smart, pretty, accomplished and she makes it all look like a cakewalk. What I love about her the most is the change she’s wrought in my cousin. Someone I wasn’t very fond of is now one of my favorite relatives ever. She’s helped me reconnect with my cousin and for that I will love her forever.
Sudha: I owe 100% credit for this relationship to my blog and for Sudha alone, I’m grateful I started this blog. She commented on one of my blog posts. I commented on several of hers. We became friends in the virtual world and then in the real world. To read how our first meeting went, click here. Sudha and I have met several times after that and I often come away with the feeling, I want to be like her. I’ll be the first person to tell you I do not like to emulate people. I’m not one for role models either but Sudha makes me want to be like her. Someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be half the person and the personality she is.
Rakesh: Even by my standards, this friendship had the weirdest start and again I owe Sudha thanks for this one. I posted this post of hers on my Facebook page publicly since I fell in love with the song. A friend of my cousin’s (the very same cousin married to Tamri mentioned above) saw the post, fell in love with the song, then discovered Coke Studio Pakistan and fell in love with it, in turn and he and I became friends on Facebook. This is purely a musical friendship. Every time he discovers good music, especially from the Indian subcontinent, he sends it my way and every time I come across good music, I send it his way. And so we bond over something that knows no boundaries.
So there you have it. These are some of my most treasured friends and I met them all in fairly one off circumstances. I’d love to hear your stories. What are some of the unusual friendships you’ve ever struck? Do share…….