It was a huge, empty, echoing hall. I was the flashy, know-it-all, been-there-done-that girl. He was a humble, happy-go-lucky dude who preferred to be silent. We met, alongwith another person, in that empty, would’ve-been canteen as band members who would be performing for our company’s annual day event. As we spent evenings from 7pm to 9pm rehearsing songs, there was an instant camaraderie. He was the youngest of us and the funny one. His sense of humor encompassed the tongue-in-cheek (we were Chandler fans from ‘Friends’), the sarcastic, the innuendos and the PJs (which were downright pathetic!). It kept us alive through the strenuous hours of perfection we imposed on ourselves as a band.
Life went on. I had a broken relationship and he too had gone through heartbreak. We shared that grief together by discovering Norah Jones and John Mayers. His favorites grew on me. He had a gift for discovering wonderful music. I discovered he sketched. Brilliantly, in my eyes, at that. He also learnt French and knew German. Later I caught up with him on German. But French was our common favorite.
Soon I moved abroad for a while, the connection was barely there, kept alive only through Thought-for-the-day Outlook mailers that he would send diligently. I returned to India and things had changed a lot for me personally. I was suddenly moving into self-discovery that pulled me out of all social circles. And yet, the connection to him remained under the pretext of exchanging music and literature.
Inspite of all the changes, he would be there wondering what’s happening with me. Inspite of all my bluntness thanks to all my inner turmoil, his sense of humor would pull me out of being ‘me’. His knack of cracking lewd jokes with innocent hilarity was art in itself! As time progressed, there were great differences in belief systems. He was a self-proclaimed atheist. I was moving more into the experience of what divinity means to me. Yet his sharing of his life through emails filled with sincere, sarcastic humor made me laugh inspite of whatever inner process I would be going through. At one point, we even worked together towards the end of my stint with my first company. His technical brilliance filled me with awe. And yet I couldn’t take the brunt of his sarcasm at one point when it was unleashed upon my way of working. Things came around on their own. There was no formal ‘forgiveness’ involved.
One day he left for the U.S for a long, long business trip. I suddenly realised I would not see him for a long time. I couldn’t take the separation and it drove me into expressing what I felt which came about as poetry. Soon I was writing night and day, feeling his presence through his absence. Even though we were not lovers, we were in touch via chats and we were just friends, a depth was unfolding. He loved black and white photographs. It opened up a love affair for black and white and photography for me ever since. Although there was a physical attraction initially, for me it had quickly transcended to being a very emotionally sensitive relating. Sometimes sitting in a Mumbai-Pune Volvo, his presence would come up exploding into lines and words that could not be contained, alongwith some tears. I got my first touch phone in an attempt to meet this urge halfway. As I made my way every Monday morning to work from Pune to Mumbai, I could be seen at the midway Volvo restaurant furiously typing out lines of poem as my cellphone notes. At the peak of that experience, I spontaneously recollected a past life as a writer in England sharing a secret love for him that was never expressed. It was a black and white vision of rains, an umbrella and a longing to hold his hand as he held it, talking about miscellaneous things, as we walked through the streets. Rains, which I greatly detested until that point, became the most endearing season.
He bought his first guitar in New York city and started experimenting with photography. I fell in love with his photographs. There were layers of unspoken emotional elements that went beyond his amateur technique. I would wait eagerly for the ‘release’ of his every album on Picassa. The IT workload increased for him. Meanwhile he had given up sketching a long time ago. There was a lull. Soon he came to India on a yearly visit, typical of IT people. I was elated. He took some photographs of mine that I deeply cherish till date. Thankfully he didn’t lose them. I found out he has a penchant for losing and forgetting day to day things. That added to his humor. Inspite of all the distance, he never joined Facebook, Orkut or any of the social forums. Took him a long time to come out of the ‘closet’ and start a blog that could be public. He preferred mails.
As my spiritual side turned more obscure for this staunch non-believer, he preferred asking me how the ‘masseuse-thing’ is going on, which was his affectionate reference to therapy work. Whether he believed in what I was discovering or not, his concern for me was unshaken, unconditional. And it would always be a delight calling him up in the U.S and chatting up, especially on his birthday which he would least expect, since he couldn’t remember anyone’s birthdays. Through it all, he has been the most faithful visitor for my poetry blog that I am guessing was largely created for him.
Recently, he went through a personal setback that even though we spoke little about, I could sense the deep introspection about life churning inside him. I sense him deeply unwinding it all and I have no words left. All I wish to do is to hug him and sit beside him. Today as I found his comment on a recent post, I dropped into his blog and was greatly moved by his rendition of a song that is as subtle as it is intense.
As it plays in the background now, I am amazed by how extraordinary he is simply by being who he is – warm, funny, kind, unconditional and a genius in his own way. Every time we connect, time stands by in desolate envy. This post is a dedication to that sweet friend who breaks open the spectrum of friendship. To that solitary man who is unabashedly himself.
I often forget that this also is a relationship because it does not require me to do anything about it. Our bond flows on its own held between arms of grace. And yet, at times like these when I look up and notice, I am awestruck. What mystery of life this is being in an effortless relationship beyond our comprehension, I wonder sometimes…