Atrangi yaari

I always thought that after a certain age, it is difficult to develop friendships that are based on zero judgement, mutual respect and acceptance; since it’s a common notion that bonds of friendship that develop in school are the only ones that last, my belief became stronger.I have a very close circle of school friends that have been with me through everything and so I thought it would be difficult to find friends in Bombay that would be as non-judgemental, as loving and as caring as my friends back home. Little did I know that I was wrong.

For the last two years, I stayed in a PG with 11 other girls. Luckily, I had a small room to myself, so I didn’t face a lot of problems when I moved. In my first year, I initially got along with all of the girls in the PG, but I became good friends with two of them: Medha and Aditi. They’re both poles apart- Medha is extremely diligent and focused while Aditi is opinionated and whimsical. What these two share, though, are values like respect for one’s privacy, perseverance and patience. I love exploring and trying out new restaurants, cafes & monuments;Aditi is a big foodie and loves travelling so my bucket list became hers and she became the first person who would come to my mind when I read about a play screening, a restaurant opening or a new Terribly Tiny Tale.  Medha, on the other hand, shared my love for old Hindi songs and Indo-Chinese food. We bonded over cheesy fries and “Urvashi Urvashi”. In my first year, the three of us were in separate rooms but in my second year, we shared a room, which brought us closer(not just physically!). Since I love exploring, we would fully utilize our Sundays by picking one area and exploring it. We had a Bandra day, a Powai day, a Fort day, a Mahakali caves day, a Byculla day and a Mandwa day trip wherein we would visit places of interest, eat good food, sit by the lake or the sea. One of the things I love about the two of them is that we don’t necessarily have to talk all the time. We understand and appreciate each other’s silences.

One of the things you learn while living with someone new is how to adjust. Since we were in different rooms in the first year, we didn’t have to adjust too much, but in our second year, we did. I sleep earlier than the two of them so they had to keep quiet. Medha studies regularly so we had to use our earphones. Aditi sometimes comes late from college and naps till the evening so we had to maintain silence. We often had to adjust when we had to dry our clothes since the three of us had one drying line in common. We couldn’t get our friends over when someone was ill or had an exam; we also spoke softly when someone was sleeping. These things seem very small but when it comes to making these small sacrifices, one often becomes very egoistic. I learned how to adjust and talk softly when someone was sleeping, how to use the bathroom and get ready without making noise, how to watch movies on my laptop at a very low volume and most of all, I learned that this process is mutual, and that if you find people who will sacrifice for you as much as you sacrifice for them, they are meant to stay and that is how life is.

I always refer to my school friends as my ‘bestfriends’ because for me, the word bestfriend means someone who will always be there for me, someone who won’t judge, someone who will always listen, someone who I can bare my heart to and someone will sacrifice for me, just the way I will. I’ve learned not to use the word bestfriend for too many people since it comes with a lot of insecurity, jealousy and expectations. When I came to Bombay though, I realized that it’s not how you label your friendship that matters. Medha, Aditi and I have never used the term bestfriend for each other, yet we’ve been there for each other, been each other’s pillars of support, seen each other through thick and thin, laughed and cried together, celebrated each other’s victories and divided each other’s sorrows. Medha was the one who comforted me when I lost a relative while I cried on Aditi’s shoulder the night I was at my lowest. They taught me that sometimes, it’s best to leave some bonds undefined. “Batane se behtar hai nibhana”

Although we’ve never expected a lot from each other and we’ve respected each other’s privacy, there have been times when I expected them to do something that they didn’t; but those instances didn’t change anything because I could talk to them when I felt something was wrong and sort it out with them. We have had tons of tiny arguments but we’ve never fought once. I feel that you may not be able to live with all your friends, but if you’re able to be friends with the people you live with, those are the bonds that are built on a solid foundation of trust, acceptance and love.

Aditi and Medha will graduate this year and move out of Bombay. I will also move to another PG. In order to mark the end of these amazing two years, the three of us decided to go on a weekend trip. We saw this link which said that an eco-resort named Avanti Kalagram in Mulshi(which is 30-45 mins from Pune) was the perfect getaway and that it was regularly visited by families and that there were a lot of trekking options nearby. We managed to convince our parents to let us visit the place and we hired a cab and went. Once we reached there, we had no signal on our phones, the place was deserted, there was nobody staying there that night except us, the staff consisted only of men, there were no phones in the rooms and the door of the balcony didn’t lock properly. There were only rocks there and the roads were too narrow; there was no route that we could trek on. We were alarmed and I immediately called my dad; I asked him if we should go to Pune since we felt Mulshi was unsafe and he told me to do the same. Since we had to go to Pune because the situation demanded that, we decided that we would be together that night, which was a Saturday. We let our cab go and went partying in our camping clothes and enjoyed a lot. The next morning, we separately went to meet friends and relatives in Pune and we came back in a bus. When I was in Mulshi, I was worried because things didn’t turn out as I had planned but that worry didn’t turn into fear because I knew that the three of us would be together and that we would get through it and even though the trip was definitely what we planned, the sense of security I experienced in that one moment reminded me of why we were  so close and why we decided to go on a trip in the first place.

The realization that they won’t be there with me next year broke my heart because they had become my Bombay survivals, my daily diaries; Aditi helped me aim for the stars while Medha helped me stay on the ground. I don’t know if I’ll ever label them as my ‘bestfriends’ but they’re both living examples of what friendship stands for- mutual respect, care, sacrifice and understanding. I’ll surely meet them soon but it will be very hard for any roommate to fill their shoes. What helps me though is the fact that both of them will be just a phone call away. They’ve made me realize that at any point in your life, you can find friends who will last a lifetime, if you’re willing to try; it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. They taught me that not everyone is your ‘bestfriend’ and not all friendships are built on expectations but the ones where you do things for the other person without expecting anything in return are the best ones. Which is why I feel that the person you live with in a new city is the one you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Before I end, here are a few of our happiest memories:

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Our first picture together
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a picture from our Fort exploration day, at Afghan church
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The end of our fort exploration at Marine Drive
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A random midnight visit to Natural’s and Amar Juice Centre after which we bought balloons because Medha came home very tired
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Mahakali Caves
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When we decided to plait our hair because we were too bored and we were missing school
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Our Powai exploration day
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When we stayed up till 4 am and talked about almost everything
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My 20th birthday
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Mandwa(We forced Aditi to smile)
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When our road trip to Mulshi began
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Partying in Poona!

I came to Bombay to study in a good college and explore the city but I realized that my so-called ‘exploration days’ would be incomplete without them. I’d like to quote Aisha from Wake up Sid at this point:

“Inn goals ko paane ki khushi tab hi mehsoos ho sakti hai jab unhe baatne ke liye koi saath ho”

If you have someone like this in your life, tell them how much they matter, tell them how much you love them. Unadulterated, non-judgemental bonds of friendship are rare these days. Cherish them. And as far as Aditi, Medha and I are concerned, we’ll always have each other!

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“Ho bin kahe, thehra tu har mod par, oh yaara, mere liye,

bhula tu khud ki dagar, oh yaara, mere liye,

har kadam, sang chali, teri yaari ,

Iss bedhangi duniya ke sangi hum na hote yaara, apni toh yaari atrangi hai re!

 

 

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Turning २०

Three months back, my roommate celebrated her 20th birthday. She wasn’t excited about it because a)she thought she hadn’t accomplished anything in life and b)she thought she was growing old,something people our age are afraid of. When she told me this, I rubbished it saying that she was overthinking. We went out and partied to bring in her 20th birthday and forgot all about it.

A week before my 20th birthday, I was feeling the same things. I certainly hadn’t accomplished much in life, I was going to turn 20 and I wasn’t really looking forward to this new decade which sends innumerable challenges your way- a declining social circle,graduation, jobs, packages and what not.Although the idea of partying my worries away sounded very appealing, I decided to take the road I’d never travelled.

I decided to spend my day doing things I’d never done before; I decided to do most of these things alone and I decided not to tell anyone where I was going or what I was doing till the end of the day. It was my solo-exploration day, as I triumphantly named it!

The first place I went to was Cat Cafe Studio, in Versova. A cat café is a theme café whose attraction is cats that can be watched and played with. In countries like Australia and Canada, many cat cafes can be found and visitors usually pay a fee to play with the cats and to drink coffee. I always wanted to visit Cat Cafe Studio since it’s the only one in India, but lack of company restrained me. So on my birthday, I finally made the visit,alone. The place is run by a group of cat-loving individuals who run a film production company; they’ve set up the cat cafe along with their office. It’s housed in one of the few bungalows that Bombay has and is really pretty. 30 cats and 2 dogs greeted me as I entered. I was given props to play with the cats. I absolutely enjoyed playing with them and speaking to the people working there. They don’t charge visitors for playing with cats, unless of course one wants coffee or tea(they have a small menu which consists of light snacks and some beverages).They even offer free Wi-fi so one can go there, chill with the cats and work there for hours at end. It’s way better than all the much-advertised co-working spaces that Bombay has. One thing that I loved was the fact that these guys bear all the expenses incurred in the maintenance and treatment of these cats. In a world where money is the greatest motivation and profit is on the mind of every individual, these guys selflessly spend their time and money is nurturing a cause they care so deeply about. It also made me question myself- what is it that I would spend so much time and money on, without expecting any materialistic returns? Do I even have a passion so great? Lesson no. 1- If you care deeply about something, pursue it, without any excuses-there’s always a way.

 

The second thing I wanted to do was have a meal on my own,which I’d never done before. We live in a social space where we pride ourselves on having more friends on Facebook and being a loner is uncool. But on my birthday, I decided to experience the joys of a meal by myself. I went to The Village Shop, a hidden gem in Bandra. This isn’t the fancy, glamourous part of Bandra. It is the old Bandra, the one which has narrow, small lanes and small houses. It is the one that provides the most unadulterated view of the sea with the least crowd. The Village Shop has some really good and healthy options on their menu; their interiors are very well done, they’ve used a lot of plants and the walls are also green in colour, which is why the place stands out as a completely green spot in the concrete jungle that the city is. Very few people know about it so there were hardly 4-5 customers. I placed my order, chose a spot where I was surrounded by plants and had a great view of the sea. I took out a book, ate my food and sat there for nearly 2 hours(I normally finish a meal with a group in an hour).The food was delightfully tasty and the iced tea that I ordered had a hint of jaggery, which other places don’t use;it blended really well with the other ingredients of the drink. I thought having a meal by myself would make me feel lonely; on the contrary, I’d never felt more complete.I didn’t have to rush, didn’t have to worry about eating fast or slow, didn’t have to compromise on my order because of a group. After paying the bill, I walked through those lanes and reached one end of the road which joins Carter Road, I saw the sea and felt at peace with myself. Lesson no. 2- Try spending time with yourself, love your own company and always do your bit in making the world a greener and more beautiful place to live in. 

In the evening, I walked around in JVPD with a friend.carrying a bag of Parle-G packets in my hand. While a big garba celebration was going on inside a hall, the people sitting on the roads outside were making garlands with genda flowers to sustain their livelihood. I gave Parle-G packets to them, their kids and the watchman who was guarding the garba hall. When we were done distributing packets on that particular road,we sat in an auto. On our way, we saw some other street kids and I stopped to give them the rest of the biscuits. One of the girls, wasn’t really interested in the biscuits and was crying because her plastic bag was lost. I placed the biscuit packet in her hand but she was still crying. I knelt down, wiped her tears, opened the packet and fed her a biscuit. She stopped crying and I walked away with tears in my eyes.That was the only time in my life that I had tears of joy and I can safely say that I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. Lesson no. 3- Your birthday shouldn’t always be about yourself;sometimes the most fulfilling things in life are the ones you do for others.

The final thing I did was quite simple. My friend and I went to Silver Beach. For those who don’t live in Bombay,Silver Beach is an extension of Juhu Beach.Basically, the part of Juhu Beach other than the heavily crowded part is called Silver Beach. I took off my chappals and ran towards the water. I jumped, I splashed and I just stood there,embracing the water and the beach. As simple as it sounds. the satisfaction this gave me was unparalleled. Lesson no. 4-No matter how old you get, you can always do certain things and the best things in life are free of cost, yet priceless.  

My 20th birthday made me realize that birthdays aren’t always about partying and getting gifts or even about being carefree. Birthdays are about welcoming age and wisdom, about learning to let go, about enjoying the simpler things in life and doing something good for others. I still love going to parties,dancing and enjoying, but my birthday taught me that there’s more to life. My birthday taught me the importance of values like compassion, independence and selflessness. Here I’d like to quote one of my favourite teachers from school, Mrs. Mary D’Souza-                                                                                                                                            “Ultimately, what matters, in life, in death and in eternity, are these values, not our achievements”

With that thought, I’d like to end this LONG post by admitting that I’m looking forward to a new decade in my life, one that will throw a lot of responsibilities and challenges at me, some of which will surely bog me down. But when they do, and when I feel really low, I know I’ll have a really good ‘solo-exploration’ day planned to remind me how beautiful life is. To everyone who’s afraid of growing old like I was, try finding at least one reason to look forward to and trust me, you’ll find plenty. Keep exploring, keep loving, keep living. Stay Khanabadosh and stay happy.