Sunday, June 8, 2014

The 2 AM friend

I grew up as a loner. I would be in complete denial if I said that I did not have too many friends because I changed cities and schools ever so often. From 7th grade to 11th grade, I was in a different school every year (By 7th grade I had changed 3 schools already!). That could have influenced me in two ways – either I could have had a lot of friends, meeting so many new people every few months or I could have had no friends, moving along before forging friendships. Neither of the two things happened. I was stuck in a limbo.

I did not make A LOT of friends. But I did make a few. Select few that could not blossom… or withered in course of time. Everything said and done, I at least have had a great experience in writing letters to my friends. If you have grown up with the same friends all your life, I am sure you don’t write them a letter (a birthday card maybe). I miss those letters. I am not from the 140 characters of today’s Twitter generation. I am an old soul, I believe in writing letters, long letters. (Unfortunately, nobody writes a letter anymore, email is the best you could get, if not a whatsapp ‘hi’.)

The long letters, even if they were platonic, gave me a lot of joy. And the anticipation of receiving a letter. . . It seems like a different era now. It never stayed the same. The letters stopped and we went back to being strangers. Now I have a lot of those stranger-friends on my facebook. They are my friends from that era. I don’t know how they have changed over the years, in fact I can’t recall a single conversation I’ve had with them. They were my first friends. I met such a friend recently after 12 years. We were 13 when we had become friends. I had studied for half an year in the school we went together. And now we met again at 25. We had kept in touch off and on through facebook.

Talking about old things, most of which I could not remember. Looking at the buildings, shops, roads that I had last seen 12 years ago. Catching up on all the years that had flown between us. An adult sleep over, lying next to her in the bed talking with the lights off, confiding, chiding, laughing and finally dozing off. I was surprised at the ease with which she filled in all the space between us, while I didn’t know where to start. I think the start was me informing her that I will be in her city on that day. I have changed so much over the years that ANYBODY I meet from my past would be taken aback; it could be like becoming friends with a new person. She was not shocked; she had too much to tell me about her life.

Deep down I am still the same, I know. Especially when it comes to friendships. Maybe I am less intimidating now than I was before. I still have a tough time making friends. I am not a gang-of-friends kind of a person. I have been a part of that kind of friendships, and I find it very exhausting. It leaves me with no space to breathe. I love watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Sex and the City – and everything seems great! But I just can’t do it. Another kind of friendship is the room-mate kind. I think I can handle that better. Also it depends a lot on the room-mate. I have had 11 room-mates in my life so far. I am in touch with only 3 of them.

I am very territorial about my space I think. From time to time, I need to cave in, shut the world out. Not everyone can accept and deal with that. I have been accused (not by my room-mates) of talking only when I want to. They don’t understand that the ‘talk’ when I am in one of those I-am-not-in-this-world moods will be much worse.

I also find it extremely difficult to be friends with people my age. All my friends, with very few exceptions, are older than me. I just CAN’T get along with younger people. And I can’t begin to explain why.

In one of my favourite movies of all times, Before Sunset, the girl says – “I guess when you're young, you just believe there'll be many people with whom you'll connect. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.”

I connect with very very few people. I can count in my fingers, the people I really like talking to, whose names I see in my chat messenger list and feel great. We don’t even have to talk every day, but just seeing them on the messenger makes me glad. Knowing they are there.

I have friends with whom I can chill on the weekend, watch a movie with, meet them when I am in their city or they happen to be in my city, I have friends whose weddings I attend, friends with whom I make travel plans, I have friends I cook for or go out eating with. . . but I am not sure if I connect with them. I am not sure if I am comfortable enough to tell them everything that is on my mind without the fear of being judged or stereotyped or that it could be used against me later or it would be made fun of behind me. I am a very insecure person with a lot of trust issues. Coz I have seen people doing it. I have seen alleged ‘best friends’ and ‘close friends’ go bitching about each other behind them. I detest this hypocrisy and politics of friendship.

I don’t have a 2 AM friend. But I am great friends with my sleep :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Keep pedaling

This was not the first time I went to Rishikesh. The trips before this followed the quintessential religious track of visiting the temples, the jhoolas and such. But this time it was different. And this time I really enjoyed Rishikesh. Too bad we didn’t have more time, or we could have also seen the Valley of flowers – not sure if it was a good season to visit though. I did white water rafting for the very first time, and I am sure I am going to do it again. SUPER fun.

We stayed in a guest house (the one for high officials in a government owned company) thanks to my dad’s “contacts”. It was nestled cozily in the mountains and the trees. It was tucked away from the traffic and hustle-bustle, and you could only hear birds chirping. The highlight of the trip, but of course, was the experience of rafting.

That's the view from my room in the guest house

Our raft didn’t have many people – it was only two of us, one Australian ‘daadi’ (that’s what they were calling her) and two little boys who were supposed to be our saviors. These boys asked us to stay in front and LEAD the raft, at his command. “When I say ‘forward’ start pedaling forward, when I say stop you must stop at once” – he was quite a master. And sitting right in front of the raft, maneuvering it almost independently (as compared to other rafts which had at least 10 people pedaling together). . .was quite a task.

The Australian lady had done it several times before and said, “Oh this is not adventure, this is very easy” – before we got into the raft. In her earlier rafts, there were a lot of young guys who did most of the pedaling while she enjoyed the experience. With us, when she had to really work out on the raft, and our raft almost toppled over – she experienced adventure :P

Yes, our raft almost toppled over. For that micro second, I thought I was going to fall, as I lost balance when the rapids came. As all the water came crashing on to me and the raft went up in the air, I felt my back swaying down towards the water. It was exciting. Next moment I was back, straightened up. In that moment of panic, I had stopped pedaling and the Australian woman sitting behind me kept shouting – ‘keep pedaling…keep pedaling’. I could sense the fear in her voice. We were completely drenched (I wear spectacles, by the way) and the white bubbling waves came thrashing us; we were bouncing in the air – I didn’t see any point in rowing . . .coz my paddle would not reach the water. It’s like pedaling in the air. And I did just that. Soon the rapids were over and we were back in the smooth waters. Everybody looked at each other and laughed. The master was visibly annoyed and threatened us to put more efforts.

Lesson learnt: Keep pedaling even if you feel it is pointless. In life, too.