How many times have you met a good friend from childhood or schooldays and rejoiced at this lucky meeting? You could meet at an airport, a railway station, and if the friend stays in the same city at the mall or at the vegetable market. It does not matter where you meet. Here is how a typical chat goes:
“Oh, is that Santosh?”
“Yes! I can sort of recall your face, I am sorry I do not remember your name”, I indeed am rather poor with old names.
“Abey, saaley! Bhool gaya?” These Hindi terms of endearment immediately alert me to the possibility that this chap could be from the depths of time, my schooldays. Not that I studied in a school where Hindi terms of endearments were commonly bandied about. Over time I have learnt that these are used by folks to establish a very old relationship.
I still do not hear the penny drop.
“Arey nahin yaar, zara aur hint do na. I am sure you are my school-mate, just give me a clue, please”. I take the cue from the other person’s Hindi.
“Remember when we had gone to see “Amar, Akbar, Anthony” together, your had a flat tyre and I had to ferry you double ride.?”
“Pradeep? Arey, Pradeep!!!” I exclaim in delirium.
“Haan! Wohi Pradeep, how could you forget my name, you bugger!!”
A tentative handshake and then a bear hug if the other was from the North of India.
Then follows a variation of the following:
“Look at your paunch, fatso”.
“Look at yours buddy, you look seven months pregnant.”
“Terey bal poorey pak gaye!!”
“Terey baal to hain hi nahin, ganjey, saaley!!”
“What a moustache!”
Once the physical attributes are closely inspected and pithy comments made, it is now the time to go back in time: “Where have you been all these years?” “And where have you been?” An exchange of notes on jobs and locations over the last few decades and then it is time to focus on the family.
You married? Have kids? What are their names? What do they do? How are parents? (the parent question is common only in former schoolmates’ meetings.)
Naughtier ones would threaten- with a sly wink of course- to tell “bhabhiji” all about that girl in a pink dress which one used to ogle. The more constructive ones would even offer in marriage his offspring if the latter have one of the opposite sex. And both laugh at this suggestion as if this marriage thing was a bit too silly to start with in any case.
The above was an illustrative chat with an old schoolmate. There would be slight variations when you meet someone from college or from your early working days.
Sample dialogues from college-mates:
“Arey, where did you go after our engineering? I lost all track of you!”
“Remember how we used to play corridor-cricket, and how the chap at the end of the corridor whose door we used we used to serve as stumps would get so horribly hassled?”
“We both started smoking together, taking fags on credit from Jhanna’s shop”.
“Remember our first drink together when you were celebrating that campus job?”
“What happened to your MBA aspirations?”
“How come you never attempted an M.Tech?”
Sample dialogues from ex old-colleagues, or ex-neighbours:
“So where all have you been since I last met you at Vizag railway station that day after Christmas”. (I reached Vijayawada station after that)
“And where is that smart friend of ours, the one who had figured out his life?” (He filed for a divorce six weeks after our meeting)
“And what are your kids doing? The elder one was just about reaching the TV remote when I last saw him.” (He is now robotics?
“And what about your wife’s aspirations of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro?” (She aspires, period!)
“You still drive that red Maruti 800?” (Sure, in my dreams. I now have a Hero bicycle)
Then one of the two needs to catch his flight, the last boarding call is announced. Mobile number, email IDs and business cards are exchanged. This is a moment which few but only the most perceptive notice. This is the moment when relative differences in socio-economic status is analyzed and stored away in memory. The more affluent pulls out his Blackberry- or equivalent- to store the email ID, the other may scribble it on the back of the business card. The business card itself is studied carefully to discern any noticeable features denoting one’s rise in the corporate hierarchy. And some probing questions may be asked too. “Aah, I see you are based in Bangalore. And you are responsible for sales for your company. Now tell me, do you look after Bangalore City, Karnataka, South India or entire India?”
“We must meet again soon.”
“Of course, with our families”
“What fun it will be!”
“Boy, that will be fun!!”
Each of the two flies home thinking of all the joint experiences they have had. Each dreaming of the time when they would get back together again.
Discovering a friend has become easy in the modern era. There is the internet which not only enables quick searches but also powers myriad groups of batch-mates like the popular Yahoo groups, and social networking groups like Facebook. What an easy way to rediscover old friends. And what joy!
When I joined my engineering batch-mates’ Yahoo group, it was sheer bliss each day to find mails from long-lost friends. Most addressed to the whole group and some to me directly. As and when each member joined the group he was asked to post details about his progress in life as well as some recent photographs of self and family. Needless to say, this evoked comments from the others on the lines of the ones mentioned above regarding physical features etc.! What joy the whole thing was!
My wife was hunting desperately for a classmate of hers. She knew her name, profession (doctor) and the fact that she was in the US. No Google search would help us to track her down. I was the “searcher” given my relative proficiency in computing (I can log-on to the internet and use Google) and I was quite astonished myself that this woman was not traceable.
“You are banging away at your laptop even when you are at home, how can you not do this simplest of things?” Queried my wife.
I am flummoxed too, this search should have been a song, I could not figure out what was going wrong. I tried multiple variations of the spellings of her name. No avail. I checked on her maiden name and the surname after marriage. No luck!
“This is too much, you can’t even do this much for me?” She fully well knew how I was burning the midnight oil for nearly a week and doing an honest search. But the wife is a wife and her problems are the most critical ones.
I racked my brains hard, and this caused a wave to emanate therefrom. (Aka a brain wave). “So what if I can’t locate her, I can trace her family. And through them the much-wanted woman!”, I exulted at the thought!
I got her younger sister’s name, Googled it, and got her immediately on Facebook. There were many individuals with the name, I clicked each one’s page and pulled up the pic and profile.
“Is she the one?”
“No way, she is way too fat”
Click two: “This one?
“She is too dark in the pic., she used to be so fair and pretty.”
Multiple clicks later, we reached a pic which was to my wife’s satisfaction. “Of course this is the one!” And then it required a mail from me to the sister seeking her indulgence in sharing her older sister’s email ID and seeking pardon if I had intruded upon her privacy.
Overnight we received her response which was copied to her older sister (my wife’s friend) as well. And that establishes the long-lost contact. The friend calls my wife soon after.
And they chat and chat and chat for hours. Mercifully she calls when it is night in the US (and morning in India when I am away at office). Many personal details filled up and secrets are exchanged. I get to know of this when I return home in the evening. Surely I am curious to know the details of her friend- she is my wife’s friend after all- but I am even more curious to know why I could not trace her on Google. It transpires that her name has changed. She married and then divorced. She even changed her first name somewhere in between. Not only that, she even moved across her field of medical specialization. No wonder I could not trace her.
Phone numbers are exchanged, and the friend even introduces us to the new (to me) concept of Skype. Will enable hours and hours of free chat, she says. This I download on the home PC rejoicing in the vicarious delight of the endless hours of joy the chats will give to me wife.
I am sure a lot of the above would find resonance with most of you. Long-lost friends pop-up on Facebook, LinkedIn and a myriad other net-working sites every other day. You accept and get connected. You stay a while longer and the sites suggest more names. More clicks of acceptance, more happiness.
That joy of discovering long-lost friends!
But it is even more interesting to see what happens next.
PS: Here is the link to the concluding post.
(To be concluded)