Dear Absent Friend,
How long has it been? How very, very long! All these many, many years have gone by. And yet I could still feel your hand on my shoulder as if it were yesterday.
I do not know where you are in this pandemic, but I hope you are safe and well.
I have been praying so! God bless you with health and happiness.
Here you were, and here you are not. You can say the same thing about me. There I was, there I am not. You might wonder if I have forgotten you. How can I? How can a happy memory be ever forgotten?
Inexplicably, I feel your presence all around me.
So many “Happy new year” and “Happy Diwali” wishes have not been made. And so many birthdays have gone without my wish, but they have all been remembered. I slowly disappeared from your inbox, as you did from mine. Distance did not make heart grow fonder, as new names replaced what was once expectedly permanently yours, and conversely mine.
There is a problem with story tellers like me. We do not feel time as transient. Feelings are not time or space bound. I feel the past as much as I feel the present. And that is why, while objectivity blurs, emotions incited by people and events remain the same. I feel the instance you walked into my life as strongly as you walked out of it.
As I read rightly read somewhere, “We do not give a dead friendship the funeral it deserves.” Could it be any truer?
All these days of a blooming friendship are like those strings of guitar, joining both ends, adding music to an otherwise bland life. And as we started to drift away, missing all these important days, one by one, the strings started to break, one at a time until none were left. But hey ! just because there are no more strings does not mean we forget the music.
Time gifts and time takes those gifts away. What stays is a happy memory of an old friend in a carefree past, when lives were smaller, and happiness was bigger. There we still are, chatting away in the memory lane over something lame.
People often have ghosts in their past that cannot be exorcised. Do not worry my absent friend. You are no ghost of mine. Anyway, when I decided to write this letter, I promised it will not be sad. It shall not be. Hakuna Matata, after all!
We are in very different phases of our lives now. So many new people. So many new things. Everything is so easy and so fast. Communications are so easy now. Calls are free. There is WhatsApp and Facebook and Instagram for sharing stuff and calling people. We can even transfer documents through WhatsApp. Ha!
And yet we were the SMS generation. Do you remember when the sms packs came? That was such a joy. Twenty SMS a day was our greatest bliss in life. And the forwards were as prevalent then as they are now, but thankfully limited to the characters allowed in SMS. What pure joy those SMS packs used to be! Back in our days, we did not know how to share photos or memes and checked our emails only once in maybe two months. And fast forward these many years later, and everything seems magical.
The world has changed too fast for my taste I tell you my friend. I am just very glad that ours was not a friendship of memes and photo tags and WhatsApp texts but in fact of face to face banter and long, substantiated phone calls. I guess I will always have that in me.
Conversations over talking. Letters over texts. Friendships over friends.
What is your favourite movie now? For me it is a tie between “Into the Wild” and “Mary and Max”. The second place is a tie as well, between “Me before You” and “3 Idiots”.
Into the wild is about a young man who got so disenchanted with people and their pretence that he ran away, burning all bridges. He tried to find happiness in isolation and only realised it too late that “Happiness is only real when shared”. I guess an over romanticised. idealistic idea of the world does you no good. Now you may understand I like this movie so much.
My other favourite movie is “Mary and Max”. It is a beautiful story of two pen pals separated by continents but linked by friendship. They write each other letters and share advice and gifts. This movie is again very relatable to me for its insistence on unbounded friendship between completely different individuals. And the fact that I loved writing letters even as a little kid. You would know, won’t you?
Which brings me to TV series? Which would be your favourite one? Let me guess… Suits, perhaps? Or maybe the Big Bang theory. Or you might have grown up to be a more “Prison Break” person. I am not so sure, as people’s tastes change with time.
I have seen a lot of TV series myself. Sherlock is eternal love and I repeat it once in every few months. Death Note and Supernatural are another favourite. But F.R.I.E.N.D.S is the king of all shows, isn’t it? As you would expect, Joey is my favourite character. Come to think of it, we could never have that conversation about the six characters of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and talk in the sitcom’s jargons.
I am glad to tell you that I spent a good part of four years in the rancid city of Chennai. It was a teaching and reinvigorating experience there, and I learnt to speak a little of tamil. Like “Nandri” means thank you. “Sowkiyama” means are you alright and my favourite word, “saapad” means food. Also did you hear about the great Chennai floods of 2015? I was in the thick of it all and spent three days on the roof of a two storied building without any food or electricity, and eventually got rescued by NDRF teams in a boat. That was quite some adventure.
Speaking of Saapad, I caught a momo fetish in the years that have followed, so much so, that it has become sort of my comfort food in all situations good or bad. I also loved the “Chicken Tangdi kebab Masala” from Blue Sapphire in Jamshedpur and Chicken Chopsuey from “Dallay” in Chennai.
And home-made chicken and Dal Pitti remain my all-time favourite dishes. You will also be glad to know that I once ate a full one kg of chicken Biryani. After that everyone got so wary of inviting me to parties. And guess what, I no longer have a size zero figure! I have gotten so fat over time that I am simply unrecognizable.
I regret the fact that we could never share a pizza or a plate of Momo together. We could never even have a video call, or I could never see your Facebook or Instagram stories! Or use your reference coupon for installing some app. Or share Netflix passwords. Or send gifts through Amazon!
In short, I feel hollow. About not getting to do together things that became such important part of our lives as we went from teenagers to grownup strangers in separate lives.
When we used to hang out, we never had any money. Now that we have money, we do not hang out and never will. It will remain one of my unfinished businesses here while still on earth, to do the things with you that came into my life after we parted pays.
Just the one WhatsApp chat.
Just the one plate of Momo.
Just watch the one episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. together.
Just the one irritating whatsapp forward.
Just one more face to face conversation.
Just one anything.
My dear friend, I am there in spirit at every milestone of your life. An end is not the end, after all. It is okay to not be in touch. It is okay for me to be a blurred, forgotten memory at the back of your head. I often wonder about your life and it would have turned out, all those many experiences I was not there to share with you, or the many things you would have loved to talk to me about.
But then again, it is a gift to not know. You stay as you were in my memory. You have my wishes and prayers, and my love, even though you may not remember me at all.
I am intently writing ‘until next time’ though it feels blasphemous.
There will never be a next time. But there may be a next letter.
Be well, my friend.
Don’t disappear into forever.
With lots of love,
Your absent Friend,