One of us had fallen and we shielded him as we mourned his passing, and to me, death was a white sheet covering a frail body and a glass eye staring up at me. People sobbed, but a laugh escaped my body, for there stood my dead friend beside me, bottle in hand, fixing his usual sharp gaze on his own lifeless body. The mere act of looking up versus looking down makes all the difference in the world. The living grieving, pitying, reminiscing, outliving the dead. Heaven above, hell below, and an amused soul watching from the bardo. I think he winked at me then, and his favourite song played somewhere in the background, and his words floated up to me about death, dreams and friendship. And somehow, miraculously, even as they burnt his body to a crisp, I made my peace with his sudden departure into non-existence.
It may be a sign of growing up, or growing wiser – when studies, friend circles, and clubbing no longer takes precedence in your mind, and gone are the days when you dreamed of stability – career, house, car, marriage and kids, when you worked yourself to a frenzy on the weekdays and blew up your hard-earned money on clothes and partying on the weekends and making grand plans for Friday / Saturday nights. You no longer remember the person you used to be, and those ‘adolescent’ days occasionally come back to you in a mist of nostalgia, but you no wish to live them over again.
I find myself constantly craving a stimulus, be it intellectual, artistic or sexual. I turn out to work wearing jeans, sweatshirt and sneakers and tune in to books, music, anything to get me through the day. Weekends find me enjoying quiet cups of coffee and smokes with my own thoughts or a book for company. I find myself flitting amidst the crowd, breathing into the lull of people’s conversations, covertly stealing characters out of their lives, making up stories in my head.
Hanging out with friends means conversations; a quick recap of mundane lives, then give me the dirt, cut to the chase, dig deeper into the humdrum, provoke me, stimulate me. Intimacy can be achieved over a cup of coffee and two hours of honest-to-God talks, and I want that intimacy. Tell me what moves you, tell me your recent favorite character, tell me about the people in your life, tell me what gets you worked up, what bullshit worldview have you adopted, what do you dream of when you wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and too tired to get up for that glass of water?
In turn, I will tell you my stories. Let me tell you about this fascinating character I met on my travels, what zone I am in, my crisis situation, my sex life, where all this introspection is taking me. Come, talk to me. Be my muse and I’ll be yours.
Hi! Feels good to be dropping in after a long blogging hiatus! What’s up? 🙂
It was almost like a summer romance; a friendship that was as sudden and unlikely as rains in March. The three of us first met on a train speeding to Delhi – the start to an awesome trek in the Himalayas. One was a lanky curly-haired boy of 21, who alternated dangerously between acting like he’s five, or getting lost deep in thought. The other was a sweet-looking helpful girl who I didn’t really interact with during the trek… Not in my wildest dreams did I think three such varied individuals would become inseparable within less than a month’s time.
It began simply for one reason, that of the trekking group of 15 or so, we were the only three people who had ‘time’ on our hands. We were all unemployed; I was awaiting professional qualification after which I was sure to start job-hunting, and these two were 2 years younger than me and had much lesser worries of education and jobs.
And so it began. We were like three forever-hungry and almost-always-broke teenagers, and on most days we had no option but to lock ourselves in my room, shut the blinds and watch back-to-back movies, since we could not afford going out. On lucky days when one of us had some money, we treated ourselves to chicken subs and wraps, and that too secretly, as it was in addition to what my Mom used to prepare for lunch.
Now, I had already realized that living with the parents past The Twenties is a big disadvantage. To top that, these two taking up residence plus dining in my room, was maddening enough for my parents, but they were pretty much helpless, save the weekly fights we had on the ‘kind of friends I bring into the house’, and how ‘I was wasting my life’. Nothing unusual there…
We all knew this was short-lived, and would come to an end once one of us started working, or my parents decided to throw us all out, whichever happened earlier. We thus had an unspoken pact to spend every waking moment together. We prepared bucket lists of movies and series to watch, and devoured brilliant films of every possible genre, day after day.
The evenings were the highlight of our time together. The best part about my building is a terrace on the 10th floor, which has a splendid view of mountains and city lights around the necklace-shaped bend in the road on one side, and speeding lights of cars zooming down the highway on the other. It was this terrace that had become our sanctuary, and here we retreated to enjoy our evenings with delicious chicken steamed Momos, and some John Mayer playing in the background.
Conversations were never needed on such evenings. We were dreamers, artists in our own ways. Silence itself was our conversation, and we were often at peace, lost in synchronized thoughts, perhaps… When the moon rose and the sky reminded us of the nights spent in the Himalayas under a glorious blanket of stars, I knew we all felt that connection some alive within us.
Looking back on those days right now, I would honestly be perplexed at how we spent 2 months doing absolutely nothing productive or worthwhile to boast of. But then I remember the laughs, the music, the fights, the wrestling, occasional partying, and I know they were magical days we may never get back… A life-long summer friendship, and some moments of peace that vanish in a heartbeat…
Housing.com is this new wonderful thing on real estate that everyone’s been talking about… Although personally I doubt I could find something there as wonderful as my terrace and these long-past moments with friends!
When I was a little younger, I used to crave freedom. I used to crave going out with friends and staying out late, going for parties and dancing and drinking, without any restrictions and while still living under the parents’ roof. The coming home curfew and endless worried phone calls by the time I reached home irked me. It got much worse when they knew about the boyfriend. Typical middle-class Indian parents. They wouldn’t allow me on stayovers unless it was an all-girls no-drinking strictly pajama party. Drinks and alcohol were an unspoken taboo and the idea that their daughter might wish to familiarize with an occasional glass of wine or a dip into the stronger stuff would have come as a shock to them.
Sure I rebelled and begged and wheedled and lied, but somehow I got through the teens without giving my parents much cause for worry. Which simply means that I made sure my parents never found out the truth about all those times I said I was helping a friend study for his paper, taking a baking class, volunteering at an NGO, attending study circle lectures, learning graphology or face reading, or the most-used cover-up: sleeping over at a girlfriend’s. Because those occasions became important memories etched forever into a teenager’s mind. A lot of firsts. First sleepover with the boyfriend. Getting dressed up and attending a party. Four friends sneaking the car out in the middle of the night for a long drive. Making out in a car parked on a service-road off the highway and getting caught by the police. Getting started on that glass of wine, slowly graduating to the good stuff, the vodka, rum and all those cheap pitchers of beer. Finally understanding what the fuss is all about after going through those wonderful phases of high, tipsy and then straight, plain drunk.
I’ve done my share of crazy, but it was simply easier that my parents didn’t have to know any of that, so they wouldn’t lose their precious winks staying up worrying about a wayward daughter. But things change as we grow older, and I can’t tell the exact moment my parents began to think I’m not a kid any more, but it began sometime during their understanding of my academic failure and the end of my first very serious relationship. Their way of looking at me changed, especially when they realised others took me more seriously than they did.
Nowadays (most days of the week) I behave like a ‘professional’ and go to work (most days of the week). And every other weekend I’m out trying to make up for the fact that I have to work as per someone else’s instructions, with the justification that at least for 2 days a week, I’m living my life. And at least I tell my parents half-truths such as the people I’m with, where I’m going, whose place I’m spending the night. The parents do still yell and throw an occasional fit for all the hours spent out of the house, and friends being more important than family shit. I figure that is a given when I’m living in my parents’ house post turning 20, and I’m just going to have to deal with it.
Maybe someday I’ll admit how little they really know about my teenage and growing up years. In my defense, I was simply sparing them the mortification. If I tell them after some 10-odd years, I don’t think they will ground a 30-year old right? But for now, if I’m drunk and partying, at least my parents can begin to look for me. And preferably they won’t find me lying in a ditch somewhere; I’m sure I have better friends than that. At least it’s a start, makes me feel a little more responsible this way.
It’s the question that eternally haunts me: What should I believe? The words that form on his lips or everything else that he left unspoken? When our very connection was the silence of our conversations, did he say the few things he truly meant, or did he simply trust I understood everything he omitted saying?
People always want to feel special. Simply knowing themselves that they were part of something big is never enough. They want others to know it, and acknowledge it. They want to be treated like a conquering hero returning with the world on their backs. Sure, they’ve achieved something the rest of us probably never will. But it’s also true that while they’ve been away (spiraling up into the clouds) we haven’t exactly been tuned in to their frequency, listening in with bated breath as they make their dream come true. For us, life went on.
They say even a taste of fame changes you. It leaves you a different person, unable to fit in among the nobodies. They are all grounded when they start off, resolute in thinking they won’t change. And then it hits them, their first taste of the salty spray of fame. They are intoxicated, overwhelmed by greatness, pulled in deeper by the ever-changing tide and the waves. And they adapt to the ebb and flow, knowing their place will always be by the bay. ‘Mumbai meri jaan’…
“It’s not working out”, he says.
“I don’t understand. I thought you liked her. So what’s wrong?” I asked him.
“She doesn’t like me. We were only fooling around, just a physical relationship between friends. We’d always made that clear between us”, he says, trying to sound matter-of-factly.
“Did you tell her you like her?”
“Why would I tell her that?”
“Cause you like her”.
“I don’t give a shit about her.”
Rejection. It’s a hard blow to the face that knocks out half your teeth and breaks your nose. It was with difficulty that you’d let yourself fall for someone without the thought of getting too serious. Barely a day gone by and you’d begun to miss them more than you’d like to admit. The concepts of ‘love’ and ‘dating’ were beginning to make sense again. Who’d have thought you were to fall, only to fall harder, alone.
A rainy evening strolled lazily
Into the open arms of a café
Where sat four spunky young lasses,
dressed in attires almost passé
The conversations were lilting
and the rain paused to listen
to the melody of their laughter –
So spirited in its composition
Their lives no longer inextricably weaved
But they embroider a beautiful pattern
on time-worn fabrics, a soft array –
of tears, smiles and tender heart’s burn
The taste of friendship lingers long
after the last dregs of coffee are gone
Reunions with old friends are always the best. There’s that sense of familiarity that washes away all awkwardness accumulated with time. There’s the closeness and comfort that comes with knowing each other for so many years. These are friends who will know in an instant if something is wrong, or if you’re holding back something.
This poem is for my friends who made this weekend so much fun and interesting! Linking up with dverse, it’s Open Link Night! 🙂