So after much confirmations and cancellations you meet up with that old friend of yours, probably at a conveniently located bar. You enter the bar chatting animatedly and look forward to the much looked forward to evening of pleasure. The first of the beers of the long evening is ordered.
The beer arrives and your chat takes off from the last meeting:
“Arey, I could not recognize you that day!”
“I know, I know, even I had difficulty till I recognized your familiar gait.”
“And tell me, how is your family, baal-bachhey theek?”
“Wonderful, how about your family?”
“I forgot, just jog me memory, what did you say their names were?” (the names have already been discussed in the earlier meeting)
“Monu and Sonu”
“Of course, of course, how silly of me to forget!
“Never mind, we are all getting old.
Then follows chat on similar lines, here is a sample. Never mind who is asking whom, they spend the next fifteen minutes revisiting what was discussed earlier.
“So you wife works for a bank” (No. She is a paediatric surgeon)
“You are with an MNC construction company, right?” (no the concerned is employed with a public sector bank)
“So your mother stays with you ever since your father passed away?” (No. They are both alive and well, thank you. And they live by themselves in the house they built decades ago.)
You get the drift now, right? Each has forgotten the details of the other. And the first part of the chat is dedicated to fact-finding.
Beer no 2:
“It was wonderful to have met you, I thought I had lost track of you forever.”
“You telling me! I have been mentioning to my children for the past several years about you, how close we were and all the badmashi we used to do together in our schooldays. I had promised my kids that one day they will surely meet you.”
“Great feeling, I tell you.”
“Remember the time Sanjay got into trouble with the Hindi teacher when we were in the ninth standard?”
“Of course, what an ass he made of himself”
They both start laughing.
“And that princi. of ours, what was his name, Father Richard something…”
“Oh, Dicky boy! That stupid fellow..”
“I tell you…”
More laughter at the common memories of a bumbling Fr Richard much prone to showing-off his prowess in giving Hindi “gaalis” despite his Irish-American roots.
“And you remember that girl in the pink dress?”
“I know, I know, the poor thing is married now to an insurance agent. But, saaley, you forgot that neighbourhood aunty of yours, how you would drool over her?”
Nudge- nudge, wink-wink.
They are both probably rolling on the floor at the mere recollection of these old memories.
“That calls for another beer.”
“Of course it does!”
Beer no 3:
The arrival of Beer no 3 sees both the long-lost friends in utter silence. Ok, I am being a bit dramatic here, they are exchanging notes, but in mono-syllables. All the topics which have bound them together are over, what do they talk about now?
They both spend the next twenty minutes gazing at their respective beer mugs as if reminiscing about the past. Beer is sipped slowly, though each is carefully trying to keep pace with the other. Once in a while one of them discreetly looks at his cellphone as if to check for an important message. Chances are that he is checking on the time. The other, perhaps out of politeness, goes to the loo. There are several reasons for this. He actually does need to go to the loo, he is probably trying to kill time but more importantly he knows that on the way to the loo there is a wall-clock where he can check the time. He does not want want to be caught checking the time on his mobile/ wrist watch.
Then one turns to the other, “What else?”
“All well. And you?”
“All well here too.”
A few moments later after each of the two has neared the dregs in their beer mugs:
There would be a few repeats of the above exchange in both Hindi and English till one of them blinks. And says, “Alas, time to get home”. The other regretfully agrees, “Yes, what a cruel world, it is indeed time to get home.”
The steward is summoned and the check asked for with alacrity. There is a bit of an argument as to who would pay and with some wild gesticulations it is settled. Probably the guy who is the more desperate of the two pays and both leave the bar swearing to meet in the very near future.
The cars reverse, hand are waved, and they are both gone in the darkness.
Cars reverse, but unfortunately for us, life does not. And the environments we have built around ourselves don’t. You can bet that the two protagonists in this little story above do not meet, at least for the following few years.
Be honest; ask yourself, hands on your hearts, of the old friends you have met in the last eight years how many have you met more than twice till date. Chances are, very few, if any at all.
It is not that you do not like them anymore, it is just the effect of time and distance. The individual you knew from your childhood days or college days is more than a human being, he is a person enveloped in an environment; an environment of other friends, of movies from those times, of the headlines of the day, your own mental make-up in the days you knew him, etc. etc. In short, bereft of this envelope the person is just one quasi-strange person, that’s all. And when you meet up after a lapse of time, you try to seek that environment along with your friend. And this, of course, you will not find. Impossible, as the times have changed. You spend the first few hours of your meeting trying to re-establish the environment. You always talk about the past. About all those things you shared in common in the past. The present is perfunctorily dismissed. As if it was an impediment in the environment the two of you were trying to recreate.
No, it is not the fault of either individual that the much longed-for chat peters out so quickly.
That is how life is!
I wonder how many of you have returned to your campuses to which most of us had sworn undying loyalty. For those who did return, did you relish the experience? Did you have the same feelings about the campus as you had when you left it? I have some experience, I have been to all the four campuses I have been to and I have not liked any of the experiences. Particularly bad was my trip to my engineering college at IT-BHU. I kept wondering, the civil structure looks the same, but these trees; where did those come from? The hostels look fine, but what about the unique arrangement of underwear and socks on the clothes-lines in the corridors.
Alas, the underwear-owners have moved, the trees have changed. It is just the hostel buildings remain the same. All else has changed.
I check with my wife on her US friend, and she informs me she has not got in touch with her over the last few months after the initial euphoric contact. She does have a plethora of excuses though:
“You never told me you have downloaded Skype”.
“I tried calling her on phone, her line was busy.”
“I was hoping you would be around when I called her, so that you could say hello to her.”
“The home PC internet has not been working, I have been wanting to send an email to her.”
As you can guess, each of these is an excuse.
It is just that my wife is not-so-enthusiastic anymore to re-establish contact.
It is just that her environment has changed, just like for all of us.
PS: Here is the first post on the topic.