I happened to see my good old school mate, when my brother and I were on the way back from the movie Autograph. It is always a pleasure to meet old friends, especially school-chums, who bring back the fond memories of our innocent childhood.
As I did my schooling at two beautiful hill stations, Coonoor and Kotagiri, in Nilgiris, I altogether had a different set of friends with different ambitions, interests and background. This made the ‘surprise’ meetings more exciting. Because, chances are, I may come upon friends who might be a fledgling director, a mouth-tight geologist, a restless market vendor, an aspiring writer, sometimes a carefree gypsy, and of course, the run-of-the-mill professionals.
Though, I loved such unexpected encounters, there was one thing that had always bothered me. It may be my forgetfulness, or my inability, or my poor memory, or my absentmindedness, or, call it whatever, but there was something that didn’t allow me to recall their names. I always had a tough time in remembering their names, that too, when my friends used my name once in every ten seconds while conversing… my god! I was embarrassed.
And this ‘dear’ friend was no exception. He called my name aloud and smiled. I don’t know whether he expected the same from me, but I went one step ahead (literally!) and hugged him tightly, so that he will never get the slightest feel that I had forgotten his name.
Freeing himself from my affectionate embrace, he began to ask all the regular queries - about job, health, family, friends and so on. Though my face was calm and serene as that of Buddha (of course, I should also mention the-all-knowing-smile my face exhibited) while answering his ‘thought provoking’ questions, there was a restless battle taking place within my mind to remember his name.
It came up with all possible tricks to get his name from his own mouth. Like asking his full name, or wondering how our English teacher would pronounce his name (since our English teacher was an Anglo-Indian, she always had a peculiar way of pronouncing our asli Indian names, giving altogether a new name, which instantly became our nickname), or, to the worst, in the act of getting his phone number, asking himself to spell out his name with initial…
Though a lot more ‘innovative’ ideas were buzzing in my mind, without trying any I simply gave up. Meanwhile, I may have used all the words that a slang thesaurus could possibly suggest for an ‘intimate’ friend (who knows, I could have also contributed some new words).
But, the moment I gave up, to my surprise and to everybody’s shock it happened. An uncontrolled force, deep inside from my stomach came through my mouth, thundering out his name ‘KISSHHHOOOOREEEEE!’
That was enough for the whole street to turn at us, and especially for a stray dog to run away, barking.
My dear friend, whom I thought would be happy with me for remembering his name, who was till then smiling and talking cheerfully, was now looking at me crazily, as if I were an unwonted extraterrestrial from one of the sixty three moons of Jupiter. My brother, who was till then engrossed with his mobile phone, gave me a look, which undoubtedly questioned my sanity. And that was enough for me to turn away from him, immediately, and grin at my friend, innocently.
Though the joy of discovering his name was overwhelming, I slowly understood my ‘affectionate’ outburst had created an ‘unaffectionate’ situation. Just to make it normal, I started conversing with him. I asked how our old school-mates Saravana, Anantha, John (the few names that popped up in my mind) were doing, and started saying stories about our pranks and (I alone) laughed loudly. Even the corner of Kishore’s lips never moved a bit to any of those mischievous-stories, which usually provoked non-stop laughter when told.
He remained disturbed and his eyes were now looking at me more strangely than ever before. I felt, he was not yet relieved by the shock of my outburst, or may be he might have understood what my brother had meant with his looks, and took that seriously.
It made me to wonder how to continue the conversation or better how to end it and escape from him. But suddenly my ingenious brain reminded me that I have not yet introduced my brother to him. So, immediately, I turned to my brother and said, “He is my good old school buddy Kishore. We were best friends at school. We sat next to each other, and he always used to empty my lunch box without my knowledge. Though he was very poor at his studies, he used to get through the exams by copying all my answers. He was an expert at that. And we both fought once to sit next to Shalini, our childhood sweetheart at
Seeing his eyes turn blood red like a furious Bollywood hero, I was confused, and was not able to comprehend the reason for his sudden fury.
I gave him that smile of knowing him for years, and asked, “What happened, don’t you remember any of them?” I winked naughtily and whispered, “How were you able to forget Shalini?” And that was enough for him to vent out his ire. Moving his head left to right and shaking his hands uncontrollably (I doubt whether he was shaking or it was the anger that made him shake his hands), he replied, with all hatred, “You jackass, I never studied at Green Valley, I studied in Stanes!” and left the place, giving me the same look my brother gave me before.
This piece of fiction cum true incident was written a year ago after a bizarre encounter with my school mate!