Monday, June 07, 2010

Of unexpected meetings and unforgettable friendships

I met this friend for lunch today after a long time. How long has it been, umm …. roughly 7 years, 2 months, and 1 week. It was a little unnerving frankly, meeting someone after so long. Thanks to emails and the social networking sites, we were in touch on and off. But a meeting after 7 long years was something. I subconsciously kept tidying my hair and fiddling with my finger ring while waiting, wondering if the first expression after meeting would be that of shock or something more shocking.

So I waited at the bookstore nervously, the bookstore being a prominent location. I finally met him, and what a great meeting it was. Great food, good conversation flowing, but every now and then, I found myself drifting off to the past, wondering what a great amount of time had passed. Last I had seen him, he (and I) were students. He wore faded jeans, carried a guitar on his back, and had this easy going demeanor of a college going kid. I don’t know how he remembers me though, but I hope it’s not significantly different. Now he looked older and more mature. The guitar was gone, and so were the pair of jeans. Instead, there were formal office going clothes of a person who has been working for more than 5 years.

Over lunch, my friend asked me how life has been ever since we saw each other last. As I started to summarize and highlight the main events, I realized how much time has elapsed. I had finished college, spent 2 more years doing a masters, taught in a school for a year, moved to the US, got another degree, worked for another year, learnt to drive, learnt to live, got laid off, got into graduate school again, and come back to visit Kolkata. The world was round indeed. Everything had come back full circle. He too had finished school, taken flying lessons, flown planes, worked for 5 odd years, and had undergone some major changes.

It was a funny conversation, when he asked me what all I had done and seen in life. He asked me of a few remarkable experiences ever since I left Kolkata, and I could think of two. The first was my first flying experience when I spent an hour or so in the cockpit, the world flowing beneath my feet as we flew over Turkey. It was an unforgettable experience, more so because I did not see it coming. The second was my convocation day. I told him how I always envied the engineering or management graduates in India because they had convocations and I didn’t. So I was happiest during the convocation, not because I was done and was getting a degree, but because I could wear a gown and cap, saunter in a stadium full of people applauding, and pose for dozens of pictures.

Another interesting conversation ensued when he claimed he has used this time trying to figure out things in life, the philosophical questions people seek answers to but seldom get. He said he has looked for answers about life, happiness, and his purpose in life. When he asked me the same question, I wondered what I could say. Philosophical questions make me nervous. So I confidently claimed I have had it all figured out in life. He looked amused, wondering if I was serious. I reiterated that I have all the answers I needed from life, about life, happiness, and purpose. Now for a person who is usually confused choosing between a Lufthansa flight or an Air India flight, anyone who knows me would know it was a white lie. But honestly, I have never looked for answers that are not there in text books, Wikipedia, or Google. I’d rather figure out how much salt to put to make that omelet taste just right than wonder what’s the purpose of my creation and what I am doing stuck in planet Earth.

Trivial conversation about this and that ensued and time flew before I realized. It was time to say goodbye, since the lunch break was already extended. My parting thoughts were a little disconcerting. When you meet someone after every few months, or even a few years, you don’t realize how much time has elapsed in between. But when you meet someone after 7 years, you realize with alarming intensity how much you’ve grown old since the last time. The great thing is I didn’t think I’ll get to meet my friend after the last time, since we went our separate cities and ways in life. So a meeting even after 7 years felt good. The bad thing is I now don’t know when I will meet him again.

This trip to Kolkata has been remarkable in a way because I got to meet so many friends after years. Most of them, I wasn’t sure if I’ll ever meet (again).



mithu said...

I have found out to my dismay that old friendsips just don't work. The excitement of meeting an old buddy is only exceeded by the disillusionment that follows. One moves on with time. The vibes that one shares with friends as a carefree student are soon jettisoned in the harsh reality of life. Talking about good old times is OK upto a point, but I've found that the conversation starts flagging soon afterwards, one has to make a conscious effort to keep it going - unlike in the past when there was instant relation. But even then we keep meeting, if only to compare who is ahead in the rat race.

Anonymous said...

very good title. somehow these meetings after so many years with good friends are just as fresh, but again it depends on the intensity. the passage of time sometimes has little or no effect, though chronologically we may have increased in years.

sunshine said...

mithu- Well, that's a very interesting point, and I have experienced both, old friends with who I could chat non-stop, and old friends with who I left things the way they are and then could never take off from there :)

Anonymous- I think it all depends on whether we can travel back in time with our old friends :)