Old Friends

I recently wrote about Being Best Friends. Amit, in his inimitable way, asked me about us being too old to use phrases like best friends. I don’t know: that’s the real answer (though I attempted to respond to that comment with some juvenile humour).

But he is right. After a while, there are no best friends. Think of it. Even Facebook doesn’t have a default list called “Best Friends” – it does how ever have a a list called “Close Friends.” Notwithstanding that BFF is a common phrase, the question of a best friend, perhaps has lost its original lustre. And though I am not old, when I was young, best friend meant something.

I don’t easily succumb to Hallmark moments; there’s little mush in me, but this one advertisement tied one of the few knots in my stomach.

A quick translation is in order for those who do not understand Hindi. The protagonist kid in the frame is telling of yesterday, when his pant was torn in an embarrassing place and how his biscuit-eating friend, named Sumir, walked behind him the entire day in school (to help hide it) and even dropped the kid home. The kid then says, that Sumir, is his best friend.

When you are seven years old, there are many worries. They usually do not have to do with things that affect the world at large, like terrorism, economic meltdown, online privacy and such; where anger and strife rule, but about your own world. Structurally, it is a small world, if seen by an adult, but for that seven-year old, it is a massive world, no less complex than that of what the news channels and newspapers thrive on.

In such a world, Rajesh and Karthik were my best friends. Rajesh and Karthik were not best friends, but they became friends because of me. Together we had to overcome many of the global problems we faced. There were parents, teachers, seniors, elder brothers & sisters, and the girls. There was also this incessant and nagging problem of studying, tests and exams. We took a long term view of that, and focussed on the short-term problems of the adults and such.

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There were only two people who could tease either of us; it was the other two. While neither of us were very strong, we did put up a good fight who said anything untoward us. There was one such guy. I’ll not mention his name. He is connected with me on social networks. He stopped picking on either of us soon, because he realised he would face the wrath of three.

Thirty years later, when I told my mother I was going to lunch with Karthik, she remembered him. I’ve had many friends all these years; she remembers a few. I must have said so much about Karthik in the days we were battling global issues, she still remembers him.

There’s nothing extraordinary that friends talk about when they meet after years (I first met Karthik after 26 years, a while ago). We just a talk of everyday things and feel comfortable in the same way that we once did. It’s good fun, thirty years later.

Of my friends who I am in touch with him, he is my oldest friend. Nothing can deny it, even as with age, we wonder what a best friend may mean.

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