I often hear people talk about their 2 AM friends. Friends they can call up at an unearthly hour and bawl their heart out. I never had one and would be very pissed off if someone decides to appoint herself as one. I am just too passionate about my sleep and let nothing come in between me and my trysts with dreamland. There’s no other place I’d rather be.
Neither do I have my girlie gang aka “Sex in the City”- friends who stuck with me like fevicol and saw me through my ups and downs. It’s not as if I’m not friendly. I smile a lot, scowl occasionally, hit off famously with people I like. But I do have a grave shortcoming – I am a phoneophobic. Rarely do I pick up the phone to have chatathons with friends. Five minutes into the conversation and my eyes glaze over. Despite my worst efforts, a few of my old pals have managed to hang on by sheer tenacity. And of course my newer bunch of offline/online buddies who pass through my life like a whiff of fresh air. Unfortunately newer relationships come with an expiry date, you make some and you lose some as you move on with life.
As a kid I displayed extreme bouts of friendliness. When I was barely four, a boy in the school’s busy corridor dared bang into me. Like the pint sized version of Hercules, I pulled the alarmed looking boy up by his collars, looked deep into his eyes and asked menacingly “Pataa hai main kaun hoon”? I have hazy memories of poking another boy in his eyes with a sharpened pencil - thankfully he survived and is now a middle aged gent living happily ever after. To make up for my misdeeds, I would often take my entire class to the Principals’ room during lunch time and demand a treat. It helped that the doting gentleman happened to be my dad. Within a year I was shunted off to another school and pulled up my act.
I spent the best years of my life in that school – bunked most of geography classes diligently and spent my phys-ed classes in the cloak-room (a sophisticated term for the loo) discussing world peace. I miraculously managed to be right in front a gigantic water pipe which burst accidentally and spent the rest of the day looking like a drenched puppy. I jumped walls and went gallivanting to the nearby market only to come back to school to catch the school bus (the DTC bus was too crowded).
My school buddies are the ones who saw me fumbling and fidgeting at the mike during the inter-house extempore. They are the ones who saw me through my worse fashion disasters – green eye liner with psychedelic pink nail paint, ill fitting red pants with white shoes which I thought looked oh so cool. In short they were the blessed ones who saw the best of the worst in me.
I spent the most trying years of my life in college – hated the subject, never felt so lonely. The vivacious girl went quiet suddenly. I started working, got married, made new friends and somewhere down the line completely lost touch with my school mates. It’s only after I left my job, I reconnected with my school group after a gap of over two decades. At the school reunion, my evening passed in a state of delirium switching between extreme happiness and acute embarrassment. I had managed to forget nearly all of my batchmates – gasping in a sea of unfamiliar faces with familiar smiles mouthing my patent line – Jeez, you do look familiar, what was your name again? My memory span of a sparrow let me down and how. But my smile never left my face, even when a guy I faintly recollected went up to the husband and announced proudly – Purba and I bunked all our classes together, boy did we have fun!
It’s been a year since I got back with my school friends. When we meet we let our hair down (whatever is remaining of it) and bond like we didn’t miss a beat, as if that chasm of over two decades didn’t exist at all. It is with friends from our growing up years that we let our carefully constructed defences down and accept them unconditionally with all their flaws.
Why is it as we grow older it gets more difficult for us to reach out? We think twice before calling a new acquaintance a friend. The person will always have the longest checklist to fulfil. Do we share the same wavelength? Does he have a sense of humour? Is Fountainhead her favourite piece of literature? Is she compassionate? What is it in for me? We take a million years to make up our minds and a few measly hours to get permanently put off. Why should friendships come with an expiry date? Shouldn’t we fight tooth and nail to keep them alive!
Somehow I feel social networking sites are making us unsocial. We are happy living in our cocoons – we seek solace in shopathons, spend endless hours on the net and read books on pop philosophy to soothe our aching souls. Rarely do we visit a friend until invited, call only when it’s absolutely necessary. And to make him feel special on his birthday, we scribble a hasty message on his FB wall.
Today I’m going to pick up that phone and call a friend. So what if it’s inane talk about the weather. Today I’ll smile at the guy at the gym, so what if he stinks and prefers wearing the tiniest of shorts.
Err or maybe some other day. He smells like a wet towel anyway and the phone call will have to wait. I have so much to do today....play my turns on lexulous, check my mails, finish that write-up, spend the mandatory hour on my blog and the Zara sale is on, damn!! Friends can wait, can’t they?