I could give this a timeline and make things easy for everyone. But, these are stories that began when we were all three years old. The stories of us who walked into school crying and kicking and screaming and left in pretty much the same condition I’d say.
Somewhere in the process of being around each other for 14 years, we all became friends by virtue of spending too much time together!
“If you had to pick one person from class who would be your booty call today, who would it be?” is the question that is raised past midnight, I don’t quite know if it is Tuesday or Wednesday. There is, as always, an equal representation from both sexes. That’s how it’s always been with our class. Always an equal representation.
I escape with, “you know who, and he was the only decent looking guy in the entire batch”. Everyone nods and passes the question on.
There is an awareness in this room, amongst the people talking, that we’ve all come quite a long way from the days when we were skinny teenagers in school with bad hair and worse uniforms. We’ve grown up, made some mistakes and turned out alright. The possibility of losing out on our relationship with one another is so huge, but somehow, thanks to social media, we’re in touch.
Staying in touch is important. Its how we know if whatshisname still has a soft corner for that curly haired girl and how the two of them talk to each other now, as opposed to never having spoken to each other in school.
It seems like there’s so much to talk about. We’re asking the same questions about each other, re-living moments from the past, a decade ago, looking at things, justifying and analysing and wondering how we managed to keep it together enough to get degrees and get jobs that paid well and re-assured our parents.
We’ve turned 26/27 too quickly it would seem and this is oh-so-apparent at a wedding. From a class of 64, which included students from the Science and Commerce streams, there are a few of us remaining who haven’t tied the knot and had babies. We congregate at each wedding/trip to the home town of Chennai and bitch and moan about how our parents are traumatising us about getting married and then go on to make fun of people who have done the brave thing – get married.
It occurs to us that being 26/27 is about the best thing to be, in a normal world. However, in India, South India to be more specific, being 26/27 and single and living under your parents’ roof is about the stupidest thing you can do. For starters, because you live with the folks, there are curfews and suchlike stupidities and other assortments of guilt trips for all the times that you neglect family dinners and go out and get drunk instead!
I text all the available-in-Chennai folk for a spontaneous midnight gathering and everyone says, “Yes, we’ll be there, name the time and place”. So, we meet, bride included. It’s a snapshot send-off for her. Only the people she likes and cares about are sitting at the table, talking nonsense as always. We’re asking her how she met her husband and how they decided to get married. It’s a time to analyse our own love stories and wonder why we never thought to be sensible.
We’re set to meet at 11, and some of us are on time. Well, I’m on time, which effectively means, everyone else will run late. If I be on time, the world is definitely running late! We meet, we talk, laugh, hug, wonder, ask stupid questions about who’s getting married next. Wondering if we’ve gone to meet A and S’s baby boy yet. At the end of it all, when we had to leave because Chennai is not open longer than 11.30, the bride is happy. We’re waiting to meet at the wedding and talk some more.
The next day of practice sees us introspect a little more. Confide a little more. Find out more common friends. Because, Chennai is a little English village and everyone knows everyone else and their brother. P and I hide behind the curtains to get our steps right and the boys are secretly pleased. When we come out, there is a camera recording the proceedings in the great hope that we were actually up to something. So they settled for the sexy dance step instead. “Girls, I don’t think you’re getting that step right. Priyanka Chopra does it really well in that song. I think you should rehearse it properly.” We can only roll our eyes and get on with it.
More songs are chosen, YouTubed for steps and so on, clipped, choreographed, perfected and finalized. At the end of it, after much back and forth, AP has one thing to say, “We may not put on the best show ever, but one thing’s for sure, thanks to P, we won’t repeat a single step!”
Dinner conversations are pure rewind. It’s never tiresome. We bring up a few uncomfortable topics of conversation – the misunderstandings we had. If this was an American movie, at this juncture in the narrative, the protagonists would have had a big ass fight and walked off and the group would have had to split up. “Shit, what was that about? We were so idiotic then, right?” is the common consensus.
It is exactly then that I know, 20 years down the line, spouses and babies notwithstanding, we’ll still be friends. And friends are about the only relations for whom you don’t have to trip over yourself to prove anything.