JournalismPakistan.com November 11, 2018
Have you ever outgrown a friend? Or has a friend outgrown you? Like you were inseparable and then, there was a time gap and now you meet again and it's like leftover pudding, all cold and clammy. Out of courtesy to the past, you try to reignite that togetherness but you might as well be lighting the matchstick in the wind because there is no kindling there to capture the flame.
It has gone. But you pretend it hasn't and soldier on with that sinking feeling that this boat has sprung a leak.
And that is a mystery I have never been able to solve. I guess that is the advantage of not having too many friends. I can count mine on both hands and they have, by and large, hung in there by the skin of their teeth and when we meet, it is reasonably magical because we can pick up the strings and pull in the slack and it still makes music.
Once in a while, I have had this dismaying experience of crossing paths with someone who was close and making that absurd arrangement to meet up and try and yank back the passage of time, but it is a total disaster and I wonder why we couldn't have just made a lot of noise and hugged and slapped each other's backs and exclaimed how super it was instead of getting all snarled up in the knots of history.
We are both different people marching on different parade grounds and this forced togetherness is painful. I recall an old classmate who happened to be in town and we had made sporadic attempts over the years to stay in touch (Facebook and that sort of stuff, an occasional photograph) but the miles between us were geographically too many and our paths never crossed.
And then he was dropping into Dubai on transit and both of us expressed heavy duty excitement and we planned the whole three days and I even thought to have a dinner for others to meet him. Like, lay it on. He came, we saw and we concurred silently that we were not the same people. He bent over backward to underscore how successful he was and even showed me his WhatsApp collection of symbols of his status and wealth. My sorties into media bored him and in about 30 minutes and a few seconds, we both knew we would never meet again or communicate. I left soon enough promising to work something out by evening. He was already looking into his phone for bigger fish to fry.
I had been left behind in his exhaust and he came off to me as a prig and a bore and all I could recall was he had got out for a duck in the Under-18 cricket match by hitting his own wicket with the bat and that had led to his nickname "Flicker', but if you were to call him that now, he'd resent it.
In that little window of time, I said, "So Flicker, you have done well," and he said, "Don't call me that. No one calls me that anymore."
Guess if you are the boss, nobody would.
It becomes worse when we descend upon each other and invade the home with luggage and stuff to stay for a few days, semi-strangers on a mission doomed from the beginning. The initial excitement turns to mud the first evening itself when you figure out with ultra-HD clarity that you are not the same people anymore and this pretense is torturous. We try to hype up the past, but it is soggy cardboard and will not stand up.
Wish we had the courage to walk away and not carry on the charade. Both sides would be happy and relieved because the other person is suffering as much as you are.
My visitor friend on transit wanted to use his three days to network with high net worth folks, make a deal or two and not sit back and yak about schooldays that have no relevance in some hotel room with room service. So, what if Sridharan had become a CA or Neel was a hotshot in advertising or Mani was an aviation doctor, who cares? He was chomping to leave and the relief on his face when I got up was comical.
People tell me that this sort of falling out happens because they were not real friends in the first place. Claptrap. They were the closest people to you. You were actually friends because it was in the present and the future had not yet occurred. It is just that the time, place and life has changed. When you were friends, you were very good friends and I never apologize for that. We shared experiences, problems, were there for each other and had each other's back. We laughed and we cried and we cared enough. That it expired on the shelf is just one of those things.
I am also sorry the magic faded. It happens. But no need to lament the loss at the expense of the good times.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
The Express Tribune, January 13, 2017
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