Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old friends

I did my high school and undergraduation in Calcutta, and after moving out the city lost touch with practically all my school and college buddies. Some I would unexpectedly run into them at strange places, and would trade often outdated information about classmates, to hoard it till I bumped into the next person.

Then, I discovered social networking sites, and started rediscovering old friends. It started with one friend, her friend list led me to two more names, and those friends to still more. Once started, the flood could not be contained, and I literally found dozens of people I had even forgotten existed.

I met a friend when she was in Mumbai, and serendipitously, there was another friend having lunch with her son at the adjacent table. We got her into Facebook, and she got her friends.

Google did its bit too – a familiar face in the newspaper, a google search for a familiar name with a less familiar surname. She was on Facebook too, and was in touch with a whole new bunch of people.

Chance meetings in photo-studios. Invites sent to long forgotten e-mail addresses. How did we ever exist before social networking?

Today, six of us met over lunch.

I had been looking forward to this all week, but was still slightly apprehensive before the meeting.

Sure we had all interacted on Facebook - had seen pictures of each other’s kids, vaguely knew what the other had done and who they had married. But how would it be when we actually met? Would we have anything to talk about, or would there be awkward silences? Surely we had all taken radically different paths post college – would we at all have anything in common except the fact that we studied at the same school a few lifetimes ago and now live in the same city?

I think we subconsciously picked the restaurant that we did was because we knew the food there was really good, and could compensate for a slightly strained atmosphere.

But all that apprehensive lasted till I met two of my friends outside the restaurant, and did a group hug. The years dropped away, and we were communicating like we had probably never done even in school.

Six spouses, ten kids, dozens of jobs, numerous cities and countless experiences later, we were still the same people that we had been all those many years back.

Actually not! We had all gone our separate ways – banking, flying, journalism, consulting, fashion designing – somewhere along the line we had all got married and had kids. We had evolved as human beings. And at the end of the evolution, we had ended up as very similar people. Surprisingly , we had similar values, and we agreed on a lot of points that we normally do not agree with too many people on.

Nearly two decades after passing out of school, we each realised that it may have been a shared history that brought us together, but it was something else that made us friends.

I don’t remember ever having spent so much time over a lunch, and we would have cheerfully spent a lot more time if we hadn’t been thrown out of the restaurant because they had to shut down for the afternoon. We chatted outside the restaurant for another half an hour, and very reluctantly tore ourselves away. But only after promising to meet again very soon.

After all, we are old friends. And real friends can easily pick-up right where they left off.


meera said...

Nutty, you have a very nice writing style. YOu should seriously consider becoming a columnist

Natasha Ramarathnam said...

Meera, yeah sab mere bas ka nahin hai. I like writing, but that is about it - when I need to produce something because it has to be done (rather than because I want to do it), I get Writer's Block.

But thanks anyway.

Writeword said...

Nutty...i loved the blog. i also share your feelings. i was apprehensive too. i was wondering if too much time had gone by. if we had all become different and what if we had nothing to talk about. i was looking forward to meeting all of you but my heart was fluttering inside.

one much time did you take to get dressed? i changed so many dresses. and i'm not a fussy dresser at all. but i wanted to look nice when i met my friends after 18 years. but when i met all of you, i realized what binds us all is something more deep. something that takes us back to days of childhood. days in school where we saw each other everyday in uniform. and it didn't really matter what we wore.

Natasha Ramarathnam said...

I am sure any sensible person would have been apprehensive - we could each have become just about anybody, and there is only so long you can talk about old times. I have met people in the past who I knew further in the past, and beyond the 15 odd minutes of catch-up there has been nothing to convey.
Strangely, we have grown into being very similar people - had we met even without a common background, we would probably have become friends.

And I thought I was the only one who had a problem with picking the right dress. I am a jeans and T-shirt with a funny caption person, but I knew I did not want to turn up in jeans. Spent ages trying to decide if a formal shirt made sense, or a skirt, or a churidar-kurta. Even debated asking you how I should dress, but then decided it was too silly a thing to do. Finally, I picked a dressy top with a normal bottom because it was me, and yet a dressed up version of me. Am I glad to know that I was not the only one struggling with my clothes.
And I do think all of us spent roughly that much time over selecting what we wore - it showed, even if it didn't matter.


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