By Anjali V Raj
“Two birds balance on the top branches of a tree. Together they fly into the sky” --Snow flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Friendship is a perennial river of comfort where we can dive and swim throughout our life. Growing up, I was a silent student at school with not many friends and definitely no close companions. I was neither amicable nor bright and made little effort to change this attitude. I spent my teenage years trying to be inconspicuous to my classmates like they were some predatory animals. I didn’t own a personal phone until my undergrad years hence even if I made friends I couldn’t keep in touch with them, which I rarely did even after acquiring a phone. Communication technology especially mobile phones and social media plays a vital role in connecting people and maintaining friendships. At some point in one’s life, everyone finds someone who knows them better than the rest of the world, with whom they share a bit of everything from their life.
I remember the first time I met her; she was sitting across from me — two seats ahead in the institutional shuttle. I could only see a part of her little face, but I could make out the charming smile she wore. It was the second day at my first job. I was still intimidated by the new place and faces. Later that day, she came into our lab, a short affable girl and had the same charming smile. Apparently, she was also working on the same project as me but in a different team. She spoke to my colleague in English. However, I noticed the Malayalamaccent lingering in her words. I wondered why they spoke in English when they were both Malayalis; given that Malayalis have an inherent tendency to communicate with each other in Malayalam wherever they go. I observed her a little longer; definitely bold and smart, I concluded. Who knew then that this smart young woman was to be my north star?
With few joint project meetings, our acquaintance grew from colleagueship to friendship. She often visited our lab. Whenever she came, the gloomy chemical mood of our lab would transform into a jovial garden of fragrant flowers. She would laugh at almost anything and believe me her laughter was very contagious. The silent lab except for the perfunctorily grumbling instruments would suddenly mimic a rackety town hall. Her laughter made me wonder if it was hidden for a long time and finally finding its freedom made up for the lost time. I could see my stoic and altruistic friend find solace in the smile and laughter of others. After a few field trips together, I found a close companion in her. I didn’t know all of her. One can never know the whole of a person however close they are but I felt proud that I knew more of her each day. She was a popular smart friendly face at our institution and now, my friend. There was a sense of happiness and pride in finally finding someone who could bring warmth to your heart and to whom you were more than just a random person.
We had our differences and similarities, arguments and opinions, mischief and complaint — all as the part and parcel of our friendship. We never shared our deep secrets or fears, yet we knew the existence of such buried inside us. Importantly, we knew, if need be, we had each other’s shoulders to lean on and could confide in each other. She made a continuous effort to make me smile by sharing pictures of beautiful flowers, landscapes, hilarious memes, cute animal videos and such. She had inspired the scared timid mind inside me to come into the light. She encouraged me to discover the unmolded writer in me, inspired me to write and share my silly poems. Moreover, she educated me on certain domains of knowledge I lacked and she continued to inspire me every day. She encouraged me to fly with her into the unfathomable spread of the sky. I owe it to her for all my accomplishments in the past three years while all I could be was a listener. She was and is my laotong, the sister of my heart.
We are not perfect people in the perfect world and yet sometimes, our shortcomings drew us closer together. We are two overthinkers with our disconcerting opinions, who can never put a firm foot on the ground. Sometimes when she consults me for my opinion on certain matter,s all I provide her is obscure suggestions making the matter more ambiguous. But my dear friend is always pleased and content with whatever outlook I provide. Even with the continents separating us now we are still the ‘old sames’ close within our hearts.
I have only countable friends, of which there are very few that I still maintain communication. A strange sense of detachment grows in me when the common grounds of friendship alter and are separated by large physical distance. The connection through electronic devices usually wouldn’t suffice to regain my earlier attachment. Hence, I avoid any communication at all. However, I hold them, dear, within my heart even if I constantly fail to express this in person. Strangely with her, I have been able to communicate freely with no detachment as if no distance separated us, mostly due to her persistent efforts rather than mine. And still, she continues to inspire me, spread joy and bring laughter to my face. Like the two birds that return to the same tree branch to share the stories of their daily adventure, we share our daily bits through the electronic branch connecting us. I hope our friendship grows and travels beyond the grasp of time.
Anjali V Raj is a natural science researcher from Kerala, India. She currently works as a researcher at Azim Premji University. Her poems and short essays based on thoughts cultivated from observation of surrounding, lifestyle and society. She has published few of her works in the Down to Earth, The Wire, Café Dissensus Everyday, Borderless Journal and Times of India Reader’s Blog.
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