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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bombay Journal

Deja Vu All Over Again…

Three friends, 45 years later, sit in a palatial Khar apartment in this siren city, enjoying the cocktail hour. Dinner is a couple of hours away. This is the first time that I can remember that Yogi, Mirchi and I have sat together since our Baroda days. Sure, we’ve met en famille…in Bombay, in New York, in New Jersey. In Baroda, we met every day, largely because we were roommates at different times. So this evening was special.

In the course of the evening, we exchanged a few desultory comments about Baroda and the people we knew then. Mostly the conversation was about today and things happening in our lives. Mirchi regaled us about his fumbles with remote controlled curtains in his bedroom; Yogi about how he has given up his crusade against honking and rash driving in Bombay; I showed them pictures of my freshly-minted granddaughter. It was wonderful to be interested in each other’s lives today and not go into a nostalgic shoosha about the good old days and what have you.

Even if I do say so myself; I am mostly the guy who makes the effort to keep in touch with old friends.  In the past few decades, I have connected with friends from the 1950s, 1960s and onward. It's been marvelous because they responded with enthusiasm. The key to sustaining renewed relationships is to eschew stuff like: "remember the time" and get with the modern day program. Most renewals have succeeded in the sense that we catch up with great eagerness from time to time; the ones that have fallen by the wayside were the ones that could not get beyond the magic of the old days.

What was remarkable about the reunion was that the nostalgia was about the established friendship, not about what we did when we were in our twenties. We were all engineering students enrolled in the Faculty of Technology at the MS University in Baroda; we were from Bombay and in love with the city. In Baroda, we were inseparable, together every day: dinner, movies, late night chai; living in a world of our own. It wasn’t always smooth; there were ups and downs. But we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us; as the Baroda experience came to an end, we drifted apart. For more than a decade, we lost touch, making our way in the world: establishing careers, building families. The bond apparently survived. I reached out to them and they were happily receptive and over the years, we built a whole new relationship that peaked with the dinner in Bombay this week.

We laughed, ribbed each other and were comfortable together as though 45 years were a blink of the eyes. If you could rewind to Baroda, you’d see the three guys, now in their sixties, really hadn’t changed much, except they were older and definitely wiser. There was much familiar laughter and in our hearts, the dreams were still the same.

In the sixties, we defined friendship; 45 years later, we were redefining nostalgia. No syrupy memories of the past; no obsessive recall of the days gone but robust conversations about today, secure in the feeling that our friendship had withstood the test of time. There was no looking back, only hope we could do this again whenever we had the chance. Our lives are different but the bonds hold firm. We don’t really need to see each other every day; just to get together every opportunity we can get.

It really doesn’t get better than this. My trip in life is to link up with old friends, to establish new ties based on old camaraderie. In that, I am the luckiest person in the world: reviving old friendships is to renew life and to keep you young and fun loving. On that score alone, I may have a ticket to the place where angels play harps and it is always springtime. That evening in Bombay, it felt like I was there already.