Source : Google photo
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Synopsis: We all have the tendency to remember good people who are our friends or mentored us when we needed them but we tend to forget those who were only acquaintances and never our friends. A real friend who remains steadfast and loyal is hard to find so they must be cherished.
When I was seven or eight years old, I used to go to the park nearby where I played with a few youngsters like myself who gathered there to play. We were not supervised by our parents or elders like in some countries, so we were free to do whatever we wanted like climbing trees to pluck a few forbidden fruits or jump over the neatly cut hedges only to fall flat on the flower beds.
There were girls of our age also but mostly they were not a part of our group because we at that age were not really interested in girls in ways boys look at girls or vice versa because our hormones had not started to kick in because we were just children. We did what other children did that mostly included having fun without having to pay for it. We did not have pocket money or fancy toys to play with, so we improvised a lot that included many types of mischief making like grabbing nasty hornets to attach a string in it and make it fly like a kite. There were other mischiefs that I will not write about here because the list is long.
In the process of growing up, I got to know some kids better than others like Nantu who never told me his real name nor did I to him because everyone had a nick name like Nantu. The formal introduction was not needed. Nantu came from a prosperous family of 2 more brothers older than him, but his father was a well-known doctor who was also a very religious man, so his three sons were also given good training at home to be religious.
How religious they were was hard to tell but Nantu often was required to do the evening Lakhsmi Pooja at home that he did well. He memorized all the chants and hymns and knew all the rituals by heart while I waited patiently for him to finish so that we could go to the park to play.
Nantu went to an expensive English medium school like his brothers and proudly showed off his dark blue shorts and light blue shirt uniform while I went to a poor school with leaking classrooms and worn-out desks and stools so there was a big gap between us, but it did not stop us to become friends. Our parents knew his parents and we went to their house on special occasions like Durga Pooja.
Nantu and I were inseparable. We talked of many things' children talk about and we played together. At that age we did not have big dreams and a solid plan for our future, but we did make plans to steal a few fruits from the garden and risked the wrath of the gardeners who were always on the lookout for the naughty kids like us. Sometimes we quarreled over petty things but were also quick to make up and be friends again.
We exchanged small gifts like marbles or a colored glass bead, so it was simple. I often kept the nasty hornets in a match box in my pocket that too served as a prize gift Nantu loved. I made many kites land on our roof with the help of a stone attached to a string so that too I shared with Nantu and taught him how to bring down a kite while the kite fliers never guessed who the kids were and where.
Thus a few more years passed, and we started to grow up and move up to the next level in our school where eventually we reached 10th grade that meant taking the Board exam. But by this time, we had moved into our new home quite far from the neighborhood where we had lived so I did not see Nantu again until one day many years later when he suddenly showed up. He had grown taller and more handsome but essentially the same old childish Nantu I had known so long ago.
I was delighted to see him again and asked him what he was doing all these years. He said that he had run away from his home and joined the Army by faking his real age and slowly rose in ranks to become a captain in the signal corps. While we were thus talking, a postman came to deliver a brown envelop to me that contained my passport. Nantu was excited and asked me why I needed a passport and where I was going. He showed great delight to know that I was going to Vietnam, so he said that it needed a celebration of sorts. We spent the rest of the day eating and talking together.
Then Nantu said goodbye and disappeared from my life forever leaving a void that only a dear friend like him could. Nantu took his life one day, but I will not get into the why and how, but I do miss him and cherish all the time we spent together as children.
In our life we meet many people while growing up, later in school and college. After graduation we get a job somewhere, so we meet new people in our workplace. We settle down at a certain age with a wife and have children so we get to meet new people in our new community so in each phase of our life we get to meet new people who may or may not become our friends.
I too knew many people, but they did not become my friends like my classmate in high school who was my seatmate for 7 years and I often played with him in his house but when I met him again after some 20 years, he simply said Hi and then disappeared claiming that he had an appointment to keep somewhere. Many of my playmates of yesteryears are aloof and do not even ask what I am doing or where in the world I live. I could have told them many things, but they showed no interest except superficiality. One guy showed fake excitement and promised to come to our house later for a longer talk but he never showed up.
Another fellow who was passing by our gate showed no emotions on seeing me some 30 years later and disappeared saying that he was in a hurry. This was the same fellow who I used to walk with every evening and who went to the airport to see me off when I was leaving for Vietnam but now, he had no time.
So, in life we get to meet all sorts of people. It starts from our childhood and continues until we die but how many of them, we consider our friends? I can now say that most people we get to meet and know fall into the category of mere acquaintances because they remain aloof and show no interest in you as a person unless they want something from you.
Many of them said that I should bring them a camera or something from abroad. One even asked me to buy French perfume for his wife but backed off when I said that a small vial of Poison can cost over 60 dollars. Poison is a very famous and expensive perfume.
So when a friendship solely depends on what gifts you can bring for them then a true friendship does not develop. One of my classmates in college who now lives in Delhi said to me that I must bring him a bottle of blue label Johnny Walker whiskey the next time and derided the red label Johnny Walker, I gifted him. We used to study whole night together to prepare for our final year exams and he was supposed to be my friend. He let me down big time when he promised to do something very important but failed to do so and gave the job to someone who ran away with my money. It had to do with the renewal of my wife’s passport. All he had to do was to deposit the money at the embassy.
My sweet wife often says that friends are for a reason and a season. When the reasons and seasons pass, they too disappear leaving no trace. A fake friendship falls apart quickly when jealousy is involved as it happened in my case. My classmate in high school got less marks than me in our Sanskrit class so he got very jealous of me because I got distinction in the Board exam. I never saw him again which was good.
This sort of thing can and does happen in schools, colleges and in workplaces where your school mates, college mates or your work mates may get jealous of you if you excel in what you do and get the attention of your teacher or your boss who may promote you to a higher-level position because they notice your intelligence and better creative abilities.
I had to contend with classmate jealousy because our professors always singled me out for any assignment because I did it well and always asked me questions in the class that I was usually well prepared to answer. I did my homework well.
This feeling of jealousy starts early in high school and may continue in college, so a smart girl is often bullied by those girls who are not smart but villainous in nature because of arrogance of rich parents, fine clothes or latest gadgets they bring to the school. They do not even try to understand the qualities of a smart girl or a boy so who do you think ends up being a top scientist or a doctor or a great engineer later in life? Vain and jealous people do not become friends to anyone because they think that they are superior to others so they cannot accept someone better than them.
Basically, a friendship starts because of shared values, shared ideas, shared toys or books. When we do things together like playing, it brings others closer to you but not all of them become your friends no matter how many years you have played with them. So, what brings two persons together who become friends like Nantu and I and why others have disappeared?
I think true friendship develops like a sapling at first that later can grow into a tree given a chance. So, a friendship must be nurtured like a frail sapling at first and maintained until well established. I still wonder what great length Nantu and I would have gone to maintain and grow our friendship given half a chance. Sadly, I was not given that chance, so I still miss my childhood friend who was so innocent and loyal.
There are a few who have left an impression on me whom I miss today because I know that I will never get to see them again. There are those whom I never wish to see again because they were not my friends so have disappeared from my memory. My brain thankfully deletes their memories and keeps only the memory of those who were my friends and who left an impression on me.
You are lucky if you just have one true friend you can count on. Most people are not so lucky so in their old age they become alone. The email, Facebook or numerous social media can bring you in contact with a lot of people but only very superficially. They tend to disappear just like a photo or a message at the press of a button so remember that people become friends for a reason or for a season.
I remember some very good people like Eberhard from Hamburg, Monique from Domremy aux bois, Marie Françoise from Compiegne, Pierre, Catherine Leguier of Paris, Mechell and Russell, my mentors like Dr. Ghosh and Dr. De Datta, my friend and mentor Dr. Kennedy, my professor Mr. Dey, Prof. Leighty, my friend and librarian Miss Thomas. Many are dead while others have disappeared leaving no trace.
I often wonder where they are now who are still living. Do they still have a tiny space in their heart for me? Do they still remember me as much as I remember them and miss them? I guess I will never know.
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