We make friends in funny ways. In high school the BFFs and I would talk all through school, pass notes during class, whisper behind the teacher’s back and then meander home, walking the streets slowly, stopping and talking at every gate. Once I was home, I would lie on the couch and monopolize the land line, talking to them for another couple of hours. For the love of all that I love, I have no idea what we spoke about especially after spending the whole day together.
Then you grow up, you lose touch, and do a phone call with an old friend every now and then. For everything else there is whatsapp. Then there are other kinds of friends, friends you make along the way by chance and who stay friends rather unexpectedly.
While I was in Ahmedabad, the little one and I urgently needed to sublet RB’s (the third flatmate) room. We searched high and low and finally via via via many friends a young woman of Swedish Greek descent landed at our doorstep. She said she was on a sabbatical, she said she was in India doing social service, and that her name was SA. That was good enough for us. She was obviously not a noisy early twenty something and didn’t look like a mass murderer so we took her in.
Slowly SA and I became friends over our love of cooking, sharing observations and having a lot of conversation. I often marvelled at her keen insight, how things I took for granted, were indeed abnormalities. Such as the loud horrible song our elevator in Ahmedabad played every time somebody opened the door. I had never noticed it, and then when she pointed it out, I realised what a nuisance it was and such a silly idea really. Why do you need a screechy whiny loud tune to be heard in every apartment every time some uses the elevator ? !?
Then the food ! The little one and I made our versions of Indian food, and SA twisted it and made fantastic fusion dishes. Our meal after work became an enjoyable affair; it was fun to cook for and with someone who had such a keen interest in food and everything that went into it. She taught me to experiment, squeeze some orange into the salad if there is no lime, add some pomegranate to this and lots of chopped coriander to everything! The best food discovery was however dill, a herb that changed my life. (I have to do a separate post on dill)
Soon her time in Ahmedabad ended and she went on her way travelling to exciting locations before heading back to Europe and I moved to Bangalore. We stayed in touch via email and facebook and I never really thought we would meet again.
Luckily I was wrong. Two years later she had the opportunity to do some research in Bangalore and viola ! we were cohabitants again. She spent two months here and they were a tough two months at work, and I can’t express how nice it was to come home to someone and just vent. The comfort of depending on someone who made sure there was water and fresh vegetables.
I now miss the familiar sight of her typing away at the dining table, accompanied by a cup of tea and some frozen fruit. I miss coming home to a house smelling of food, and dinner. There is something so nice about a ready meal after a days work. It also helped that she is a fabulous cook and half way home I would begin anticipating, wondering what she had whipped up.
Though she admitted to being overwhelmed by the scale of Bangalore, she learned to navigate, use public transport and explore the city on her own. I can safely say she knows this neighbourhood better than me and I probably have to call her to find out where the post office is. She made friends with neighbour and the maid and her consumption of watermelons made her a favourite at the local grocer.
I have now come to a place in my life where I can’t live with just anybody. I recently went to see a house, in the hopes of shifting closer to work. It was a nice warm place, with two sisters already living there. One sister asked me if I smoked. I said no, but I had no problems if she smoked. She said “oh I smoke a lot of weed” and pointed to a big bag of pot on the couch. Then a giant man, with a long pony tail walked out of one of the bedrooms and proceeded to roll a joint. I was informed that he was a quasi roommate and everyone who lived there had to love him. I then witnessed a group hug and some baby talk. ??!!??. I am not a prude, but the set up was not my scene.
(what has happened to me ??? Have I become a prude ??)
SA fortunately not just makes the cut but exceeds expectations. She is independent, sensitive, fun, good conversation and a good person to sit in silence with. She is also a person who is genuinely interested in my work, and everyone knows how I can ramble on and on. But for a change, someone listens :). She is a part urban designer now, who knows the characteristic of every engineer in the BBMP and inner workings of my team.
The two months passed very very quickly, there is so much we wanted to do – a picnic by a lake, a day trip to Mysore, bake gluten free bread and have a party. But there is so much we did do – consume insane amounts of papad, sample a lot of food inside and outside, eat breakfast at old Bangalore joints – standing on the road biting into a crispy vada outside Veena stores, eating a masala dosa at Halli Mane, shouting at each other to be heard above the music at the Loft, a open air dinner at MG road and a final thali at MTR. We also took a trip to Chennai and Udipi and met some friends scattered around the city and had a lot of conversation.
This is a rather difficult time in my life, where I have to make some decisions that will change the course of happy go lucky boat I have been on towards more responsibility and it was rather nice to have someone around, a sounding board to talk to and learn from.
Of all the lessons I learnt, the most important one is off course the wonderfulness of frozen fruit. SA entered Bangalore and had to adapt to the harsh summer. She accidentally on purpose froze some watermelon and it was delicious. So then we tried it with other fruits and the results were the same – DELICIOUS. My favourite so far is the frozen mango. It is by far the best thing I have eaten. Put a mango in the freezer in the morning. Take it out after dinner, let it thaw just a bit, cut, peel or dip a spoon into it and swallow a piece of heaven.
Another lesson I learnt is the importance of taking care of my body, and that work can wait. I have to learn not to pick up calls on a Sunday night, (though SA is not here to show her indignation) and I have to, have to exercise.This is something that is easier to type than to implement, but knowledge is power, and I have to start somewhere.
And the final one is to take a break, the world can wait.
SA is on a career break, and has a sense of peace and calm I envy. She has really inspired me to take a career break someday, to take some time off and focus on something else. For the last 5 years work has been so all consuming that there is really no time for anything else.
I now look forward to taking a year off, maybe two, to paint, write and cook. To be able to go for a walk everyday, to be able to read, start a film club and to be able to just be.
Maybe, just maybe I will decide to take a break to just be in Europe, while she wears fancy clothes and minimum heels and works at a chamber of commerce, I will smell the flowers and explore the neighbourhood and make her dinner. 🙂