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Feasting on Friendship

Last Sunday, a dear friend and I met for lunch. Although we live less than ten kilometers from each other, we meet less than five times a year. Our last rendezvous was at a breakfast event earlier this year, which she was hosting. In between entertaining others and keeping things in check, we hardly got the time to ‘catch up’.

So this time, there was a lot we had to fill each other on, mostly her trials at running her own business, interpreting mixed signals from a certain gentleman of interest, dealing with her supportive but anxious parents with regard to her 30-year-old unmarried status and mutual exclamations at the horrors being inflicted by our ex-boss at a company we began working for right out of graduate school.

If I had to pick a best friend (among women), she would be it. In addition to being classmates at college, we had found a common interest, namely, commuting from the same location to our classroom nearly 20 kilometers away. When I wasn’t playing (and praying for) the empty bus lottery, I would hitch a ride in her cantankerous white car. Our adventures in that disheveled beast included water puddles at our feet from the leaky roof, lizards resting behind the steering wheel and a disruption in our philosophical ramblings by the sudden demise of the engine on a highway stretch with no help. The final straw was the shocking disappearance of that crippled metal mass from outside the office where we had begun our journey together into paid labor. The car was finally retrieved but by then my friend had fallen out of love with it. She gave it away to the plumber and got a swifter ride. And it has been so long since the fateful day that even the second car is being done in for a fancier ride this October.

Lunch at Cafe LotaShe and I were born in the same year, nineteen days apart. Being zodiac twins meant that over the years we had shared horoscope defined drivel that was supposed to explain our lives. To no one’s surprise, it never did. As we dug into a steaming Vegetable Stew with Appam and an aubergine curd dish with parathas, the conversation veered towards our present lives that couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Even though we spent two years at our first job together, the ensuing joys and sorrows have been uniquely our own. And yet we have been few dialed numbers away, hers being among the few that have been imprinted in my mind, unmarred by memories going digital.

Even though we haven’t been very regular with our correspondence, we ease into it when we do meet. There are no shields, pretenses or hidden cobwebs. It’s confession closet and more.

Nothing compares of course to the one time she called, nearly three years ago after a very long gap.

“Heyyyy (the long drawl is a must for our greeting)! How’ve you been? Lets meet soon. It’s been forever.”

The usual drill is for us to decide time and place, dependent mostly on which new restaurant we want to try, and then we meet soon after. This one time however, when she called I was lying flat on my back having given birth to my little girl a few hours before.

“Dude, you are not going to believe this, but I’ve just had a baby. So, yeah let’s meet soon. Come to the hospital maybe?”

And then we laughed and laughed.

Apple Jalebi at Cafe LotaSince then we’ve met several times, always with the little girl who addresses my friend as her own while distinct aromas pepper our ramblings. This time they posed and paired and shared a meal. And we parted having amassed stories until next time and after discovering that I could enjoy a sugary apple treat (with the right company) even if I’d never given it half a chance before.

For all our feelings of sisterhood, when we meet or call each other to spill all, there are portions of each other’s lives we’ve narrowly missed. That is the shape of things with us and this is how I know we’ll always be; without ceremonious chatter or forced smiles, but almost always with savory bites and hungry ears, waiting to devour the tales of lost time.

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My Way on the Highway (or why I’m sure my Driver Karma is outta whack)

When I was three months pregnant, I decided to make life simpler and travel to work at ease. So I could read, munch, stare outside and get lost in my stream of consciousness while someone drove me to work. It was also meant to be relaxing after a day’s work.

The man in question (appointed through very reliable driver of so-and-so) was young, brash, and always late. We’ll call him Driver No. 1 (yes, there are more). The wiser older people said I wasn’t used to having anyone work for me. I had to give it time and loads of patience. Yes, sometimes I could read or munch but I was never relaxed. I gave plenty of holidays, money before it was due but I could never trust the fella to turn up on time. And he never proved me wrong. So finally I decided to rid myself of the menace.

Problem not solved though. I was still barred from driving and had to put up with whoever or whatever was going to come next. Enter Driver No. 2, again sourced through the aforementioned reliable driver of so-and-so. The newbie was always on time. He also always spoke at length about nothing in particular and could not stop himself from driving like a maniac. In addition to the above, he thought the sun rose from his nether regions. Since he was Driver No.2, I decided to swallow a whole lot and just put up with him, tide through the months. Somehow we got to June, three months away from D-day, due date, life-changing experience etcetra. Then came Europe (free wheeling holiday in running shoes with baby bump to boot). Mr. Driver meanwhile outdid himself in my absence. Screamed, shouted and left father-in-law with sprained leg stranded in the middle of nowhere. There was no real reason for the behaviour, except he was an asshole. When you’re having a baby, everyone will tell you to think happy thoughts, stay calm and breathe easy. With Driver No. 2, life was anything but. So, unpleasant as it was, I didn’t regret his exit from my life.

But I was still three months away from freedom. So the hunt was on and fulfilled quite promptly in the form of Driver No. 3 (who had the distinction of getting me to one week before D-day). Seeing as he lasted till the end you would think I was happy. I don’t want to be hard on the guy and I’m sure I was being too picky. But sometimes his driving made me want to holler in his ear. There was nothing wrong with him per se. He drove safely, was always on time, did not speak a word and was very well mannered. But god-oh-god why would you always follow the slowest-moving vehicle and then honk to almighty. Or go right up to the person wishing to turn and then suddenly realise you have to swerve your way through to go straight. I realized I’m no back seat comfort seeker.

So I counted days, to deliverance, to abuse-while-you-cruise routine, to driver-proofing my life.

To finally being able to drive my way on the highway.

P.S.: Driver No. 3 is still alive and flourishing as assisted ride for father in-law. And I have a new menace to deal with. He’s a whole other story. Wait for it.