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Monday, September 7, 2009

F R I E N D S

I recieved a mail today. From a close friend. A friend I had made while I was working. A friendship 20 years old. He is now settled abroad. On one of his recent overseas trip he met most of our common friends of that time. Of the early 90's. He sent me a couple of photographs taken when they had a get-together dinner there. About 10 of them. Some of these were known to me too. I used to work in the administration dept. So all new recruits had to approach me for processing their medical tests and other formalities. Thus, for them, besides the interviewer's panel, the only other  familiar face was mine. And at that time, most of us were handling our first job and were in our early twenties. So the friendships  were thick and buddy like. Also our organisation did not believe in the 'class system'. The bosses and their 'underlings' often shared a table and also there was pleasant interaction between folks of various departments.

After having quit my job 15 yrs ago, the only real friends I have today are the ones I made during my three and a half year stint there. I have this habit of keeping in touch with folks. It could be a once - a - year mail or a b'day greeting. Folks often rile me, saying that I probably have time on my hands, being a homebody and all that. But truly, I value the people around me and my relations with them. And all said and done, most folks do like receiving the odd mail and phone call, inquiring about their well being.

Coming back to the photograph and the mail. The mail mentioned the names of the friends he had met. As i was reading those names, the mind was conjuring up the images of those people. I have a very good and a photographic memory and i remembered the faces of some of these guys even as they had come for their first interview. Young sprightly engineers. Some shy, some extremely charming. Some of those mentioned in the mail, were my seniors in the organisation.  Very staid.

As  I looked at the photograph, in my mind I was recollecting some of our breakfast table gupshup in the office canteen. The PJ's we had giggled at. Memories of the office gatherings, after-office snacking, working on Saturdays..... The pictures were attached at the end of the mail. And i got a jolt. The faces had aged. There was the more than the occasional silver in their hair, in their side burns, in their beards. The faces were a wee bit paler. A wee bit jaded. I was trying to match the 'satrah saal pehle wala' faces with the ones in the picture. There was a lump in my throat. We were in our twenties then. And now are in our forties. So much time has passed.

But what was retained was the happiness in their smiles. Genuine smiles. Happy to be with each other at that moment. The pictures were so well taken and so real that I almost felt like walking into the frame, pulling up a chair and joining them in their chatter. And that I could not do so, troubled me. I felt extremely lonely and left out.

Aur kya likhoon.......