04 January 2009


I once read somewhere that nostalgia can be a tricky affair. It is like an edited recollection of past events where you only remember the pleasant moments, where you felt loved and missed by those around you, and where there were no overpowering unpleasant moments to get distracted. Even though this outlook always captures one’s imagination with the vocal “Oh yeah !! So true !”, I beg to differ. I generally recall the total package, with dominance of the bad days. The good ones are taken for granted. One of the biggest factors that affect “my” nostalgia consists of the people around me. I mean who am I kidding? We all know that man is a social animal and I am no exception. Presently I feel the moment to be appropriate nostalgia-wise to pen some thoughts about this aspect of my life.

There have been three main phases of friendships I’ve had up till now. All of them are classified according to geography. My father has a transferable job and hence my past 22 years have consisted me moving from one place to another. I have never had a clear answer to the question of “Where is your hometown?” It obviously led to many embarrassing moments during the senior-junior “interactions” in college, especially with excessive sweat and no pants and the desire to be honest. This is my personal identity crisis. I am a Punjabi by birth, Hindi by tongue guy who has spent the majority of his time in Rajasthan. This has evidently created problems in terms of group-ism, as there was never a clear cut group among my peers which I could join.

Phase I of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was in Jaipur starting from year 1994. I was in class II and a lot more innocent and gullible as compared to the current situation. I was expecting to meet many people as innocent and gullible. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and after studying in Jaipur for 6 years, I was always the most innocent and gullible kid in spite of getting my ass kicked left, right and centre. My mother still misses my former self as that was when I never argued with her and did what she desired and of course because of the baby pink hue of my cheeks. My memory of phase I in general consists of my lonely recess sessions having food, the acute nervousness in terms of conversation with my outspoken peers and the sorry, pathetic staring at the two girls (crushes) at the next desk within a span of three years. It was during class VII when I suddenly started opening up, but it was too late as my family was shifting to Delhi by the end of the year. Nostalgia again started playing tricks on my mind as I could only remember the recent burst of extrovert-ness. I conveniently forgot my moments of misery because the incoming change was freaking me out. I mean Delhi meant meaner kids and tougher times. My mother actually went to an astrologer with a query regarding any possibility of change in my present punching bag status. I don’t know what the old man said, but there were definitely going to be a difference.

Phase II begins in the year 2000 with admission in my cousin sister’s school. I starkly remember my conversation with SP (for protecting his identity).

SP: So you’re new!!?

Me: Yeah.

SP: Okai, Hi dog !!! My name is S.

Me: You’re a dog !!
(Please note my immediate defence mechanism and the lamest counter statement ever made. This was mainly due to the bunch of hypocrites I spent time with for the past 6 years who bitched about everyone behind their backs but considered swearing equivalent to crossing the line.)

SP: Okai…….I am a dog then. That guy is a dog ! The entire world is full of fucking dogs !! Happy ?

Me: Huh !

SP: Listen dude….how would you feel if we met 10 years later and I address you by your first name? I mean friends don’t do that ! Swearing is symbolic of the deep bond we share that we don’t mind calling each other dogs.

This conversation simply explains the kind of people I met in Delhi. They were frank, in the face, and said what came to their minds. If they disliked someone, they would say so, instead of pretending anything. Secondly, there were no groups or clubs. I met many people who were facing a similar identity crisis as me. It took me hardly one week to get adjusted and then started the most significant part of my social life. I started to talk and lost my outer damaged shell. Even though I didn’t succeed much in telling some girls my true feelings about them, it was still a big step up at that moment. There were of course off days when I came to know of the materialistic pretense of many of my friends. I could see how conscious they were of their shoes, their fluency in English, or the overall demeanor which makes one differentiate between the “popular” and the not so popular geeks. I could find similarities in my school mates with characters from so many teen movies, getting both interested and repulsed at the same time. Our school trip to Pondicherry really kicked off my first moments of actual friendship and camaraderie, which are still part of my happy place. My two years of JEE preparation of course reduced my interaction with the popular guys due to key difference of priorities. I often had the sadistic outlook of pity towards the rich kids who sucked at studies and played basketball throughout the day thinking with pleasure how I have found focus in my life and they have not. It turned out to be fruitless labor as these kids were too rich to struggle in life. They are still partying in American and British Universities as we lesser mortals look at their pics on Facebook with envy. This was how I realized the giant gap between the upper and middle class. It can be seen that this phase of F.R.I.E.N.D.S is filled with elation and joy of finally being accepted somewhere and also the confusion and fogginess of adolescence.

My most important phase started in 2004 with admission at IIT. I have mentioned before many times that this place is a great leveler and I will now state why. I was suddenly shifted from a place of pretense and showiness to a merit based institution in the vast rural-ness of Bengal. In spite of being barren and devoid of the pleasures of a metropolis, I cherish something very invaluable about this place. For the first time, I witnessed people not being judged by looks, clothes, money, proficiency of English, but for who they really are. Guys/Girls who on the face look like cannon fodder for places mentioned in phase I/II are appreciated and respected for their abilities and talents. As hostel life enables one to be 24x7 with other people, character becomes very important. I myself judged so many people in the beginning, only being bogged down by their genuineness. Even though there were many social mishaps, but five years is a long time and I never claimed to be perfect. This has been the phase which I hope won’t fade in it’s impact for a long time. This is perhaps the last phase of it’s kind in my life.