Old Friends

Old friends
Old friends
Sat on their park bench
Like bookends

There’s a space between them, between these Old Friends, if they are sitting like bookends. That space must be all the years and experiences they have had – together and apart. I’ve always been intrigued by old friends (not the song, but actual old friends). In the movies and such, they will have you believe that old friends talk mostly of days gone by and the troubles that hover over white hair or bald patches. I have no idea what old friends talk about or what their silence is about. Catching up seems to be a very young-friends thing. There’s excitement that exceeds the time we seem to have. We are desperate to create memories, rather than be with our friends. I have often wondered what I would do, when I am sitting on a bench like this, with an old friend.

A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends
Old friends

But this post is not an analysis of the song. If you every have wondered about what Paul Simon’s songs really mean, or how to get to know them better, I strongly urge you to visit Every Single Paul Simon Song* – a blog I recently discovered and fell in love with instantly. Without doubt, for me, this has been the best discovery in recent times. I can say that without any hesitation. No, no analysis here, just a couple of scattered thoughts and one story, about old friends.

It was the early winter of 2005. I was to attend a wedding in Kolhapur. The rest of my family were unable to attend. It was up to me to represent the family. I decided to go. A cousin joined me. And later, an old friend (from school) joined us. We started two days earlier, and instead of taking the shortest route, we drove along the coast of Maharashtra. We drove at will, stopped at will. While we were on the road seeking an unplanned adventure, Vijaypat Singhania was on his way up in a hot air balloon to become the first man to soar 69,852 feet above sea level. We took a couple of photographs of the balloon and set off on our own possible adventures. A few mini-adventures across Kashedi Ghat, Mirya, we reached Sakhartar.

A picture-postcard-village is how you’d describe it. There is no other way to describe it. We stopped for a while to take in what we were seeing. And for a few photos. Here’s one of them:

IMG_0742 - Version 4

Winter companions
The old men
Lost in their overcoats
Waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city
Sifting through trees
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends

I’ve been in love with this photo since that pleasant November day. I posted it to my Flickr account a few days later. It was a wonderful mystery all the while. Who were these people, what was their story, how long and ho many times have they walked like this. It was a great portrait to keep looking at, without knowing anything about these two friends.

Until September 2007; when another Flickr user, from Sakhartar, commented on this photo.

Mohd. Anwar Sakharkar and Fakir Mohammad , best friends Sakhartar

I never saw their faces when I took the photograph. Now I knew their names. I knew that they were best friends. I knew that someone else knew it, besides me. Everything I had ever thought of this photograph became real.

Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy
Old friends
Memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fear

It would be nice to go out for a walk with an old friend.

*

PS: Right-aligned, italicised text are the lyrics of the wonderful song, Old Friends, by Paul Simon.

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