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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.

5

A Candid Chat with a Cultured (C)at

Ahead of the week-long celebrations for her upcoming birthday on April 10th, we caught up with Delhi’s Culture Cat, Ms. Snooty in her favorite hangout, The Chair.

Ms. Snooty

In a candid chat over cheese and fish treats, we spoke about her work as a professional Chair-Clawer, her picks for the upcoming elections and recent rumors regarding a new relationship.

Q Team: “If you can’t find her anywhere, just check in The Chair.” That’s a common phrase surrounding your love for this place. Do you think it’s true?

Ms. Snooty: The Chair gives me a sense of ownership. It also allows me to have quick naps when conversations drag on. And then there is the comfort of clawing. What’s not to love?

Q Team: Cats are often not very forthcoming about their age and here you are celebrating your fifth birthday in style.

Ms. Snooty: For one, there is the business of nine lives. Give that to anyone and they’d be dead before they are sorry. As for the celebrations, these are being planned by my special friends. I cannot refuse them the joy of celebrating my presence in their lives.

Q Team: Speaking of special friends, there are quite a few stories doing the rounds about Mr. Randy having been spotted outside your house at odd hours. Care to clear the air on that one?

Ms. Snooty: (Refuses to answer)

Q Team: And then there was the interview with your ex-boyfriend Garfield where he said he had to leave after you called him fat.

Ms. Snooty: I saw a lot of things while I was with him that I should do an expose on, the piles of rotting lasagne, the stench of laziness, (raising her voice) But I never used the F word.

Q Team: On to happier things. We heard you humming a tune when we walked in. What’s on your playlist these days?

Ms. Snooty: It’s ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Q Team: What?! But, that’s not a song!

Ms. Snooty: Darling, it is. She released the single only among a close knit group of her dearest pals. I’m even talking to dear Suzanne (Roshan) to do a cover version for Indian audiences.

Q Team: From music to politics. Who’s getting your vote in the upcoming elections?

Ms. Snooty: (Sighs) I’m not a big fan of the lotus, as a flower. And we’re still getting some data on the Felicide. So not the orange brigade.Then there’s the Ordinary People Party. Sounds more like something dogs will vote for since they’re the four-legged people-pleasers. And lastly, let’s not even consider someone whose election symbol says ‘Talk to the Hand’

Q Team: That’s a wonderful insight into…

(Ms. Snooty is now napping) 

The Interview Ends Here

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Make it Wordless

The dictionary defines conversation as informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words.

And yet the best conversations often do not involve spoken words at all. Often what is left unsaid is more significant than words that find their way through the corridors of the mind. They say, “A friend is someone with whom you can sit for hours on end without saying anything, but when you get up to leave you feel you’ve had the best conversation in the world”.

A glance across a crowded room holds thoughts that can hardly be expressed just as well by words. Looking away can start and end never-begun sentences. The eyes can speak a language devoid of limits imposed by alphabets.

Imagined conversations take place in the mind that would never allow such utterances out loud. Arguments often struggle within, searching for the cruelest words to peg themselves on.

An embrace can hardly find a replacement in the dictionary. Tears can cause and alleviate pain, at once expressing and withholding thoughts. A smile can disarm many a belligerent soul.

While words may not lose favour as a means of communication, there’s a lot else to take recourse to.

So if you’re making conversation, say what you want… And sometimes, try it wordless.