Unconditional friendship

A couple of weeks ago, P, an old friend of mine called up and asked me whether I was interested in accompanying G and him when they went to purchase a bicycle for P. I immediately agreed despite the fact that it had been more than two decades since I parked my butt on a bicycle. And the funny part was that while G, a reasonably avid bicycling enthusiast and P were discussing extremely technical details of what bicycle would suit P and were trying to figure out the options that would fit within his budget, not for one moment did I feel out of the conversation at all during the drive to the showroom itself. I guess, the fact that the three of us have been friends for almost three decades now helped the situation quite a bit.

In fact, after P was done paying for the new bicycle itself and we were on our way back, G started reminiscing about how it had been around 28 yrs since I first met him (and 24 yrs since both of us met P) and we laughed about some of the funnier incidents that we had encountered together. Pretty soon we realized that there was more to this friendship than the three of us could easily describe in words. There are very few times when either of us, especially P and me, are lost for words and this was well and truly one of them. And believe it or not, we ended the trip in complete silence, lost in our thoughts and memories. That’s what true friendships and true friends are about, they don’t need words, labels and hollow promises to keep them going. True friends just know that the others will be there for them, no matter what.

Somewhere in the second half of 2013, I once again had the opportunity to try and make similar new friendships, albeit in the virtual space. When the WordPress platform came up with this concept of daily blogging and published a list of blogging prompts for all the days of 2014, I conjured up this wild idea of putting together a small team of bloggers (initially four of us, which later expanded to around 25+) and participating in this ‘challenge’. And my first choice of the team members were Sakshi (www.sakshinanda.com), Sid (www.iwrotethose.com) and Rekha (www.rekhadhyani.com). Now the only reason that I chose the three of them was because all three of us were contributors to a parenting blog in those days and enjoyed each other’s writing quite a bit.

That being said, I did not know any of them well enough just to pick up the phone and ask them if they were game for this seemingly crazy endeavor of publishing at least one post for the group blog everyday of 2014, based on the prompts provided. But I did just that. Well, I didn’t pick up the phone, but messaged them on Facebook, laid out the plans and asked them if they were game. And surprisingly enough all of them agreed almost immediately. And this led to Project 365 (http://wepostdaily.wordpress.com) which soon became something that the four were known for in the blogging space. In any case, this post is not to talk about the blog itself, but something else, the friendship that started because of it.

Now, picture this. The fact that the three of them decided to take up this relatively crazy endeavor purely because they enjoyed my parenting related blog posts endeared all of them to me quite a bit. And pretty soon, in the few days of 2013 that were left, we all realized that there were more things that were common to us rather than just the fact that we were good parents and good bloggers as well. The fact that none of us let our egos get in the way, and we were all thoroughly professional and didn’t let down each other no matter what, meant that pretty soon we were good friends along with being team mates as well. We soon realized that the only way that Project 365 would see a post being published every day was if we all contributed in our small ways over and above what we had initially agreed upon. And the loosely coupled structure that we provided to the ‘core team’, that we called ourselves meant that one or more of us stepped in, when the person assigned a particular task couldn’t do it due to various reasons.

In more ways than one, Project 365 taught me a lot about how I performed in group situations, how I could make and more importantly retain new friendships, and more importantly have fun even under extremely stressful situations, on days when we were struggling to come up with posts to be published for the day.

Between these two groups (G, P and me) and the Project 365 one, I have well and truly experienced what true and unconditional friendship is, and I can quite confidently say that I will do whatever it takes to remain friends with these folks forever, if possible. After all, that is what friends are for, aren’t they.


This post has been written for the Housing.com blogging campaign, you can follow them on Twitter using the hashtag #together or #lookup or on Google+ to check out their latest offerings and media campaign.

Start A New Life

Having grown up in a strictly middle class family meant that while I was not denied anything in my childhood, I grew up without having too much of an exposure to the ‘cosmopolitan’ lifestyle that Bengaluru (then Bangalore) was opening up to in the 90s. While I personally didn’t miss that particular lifestyle and was happy with my own, it became somewhat of a hurdle when I joined my first job.

Right after college I was lucky enough to get recruited by a ‘boutique’ consulting firm and on my very first day on the job I realized that my situation was akin to that of a fish out of water. The rest of the employees there, my colleagues, were from relatively well-off families compared to mine and lived a lifestyle which was somewhat different from mine. While I carried a lunchbox to office, they didn’t mind spending a couple of hundred rupees everyday on food. While I wore my dad’s old shirts (impeccably maintained I must admit) with his old ties (once again in pristine condition), they didn’t mind shopping for new clothes every weekend. Although they didn’t behave in a manner where they discriminated against me, I was all of twenty years old and desperately wanted to fit in with the crowd. If not for them, at least for myself, to prove to myself that I had it in me to be part of the ‘hep gang’.

And that is how I happened to stumble upon the easiest way to break barriers in a corporate setting. By smoking. Yes, believe it or not, the number of friends and acquaintances that I made in the smoking corner of office outnumbers the number of friendships and relationships that I had carefully cultivated over twenty years of my life so far. And funnily enough, smoking as an action was completely democratic in nature, in terms of the fact that all smokers respected each other and shared bonhomie irrespective of class, creed or social strata. The smoking corner was a place where barriers of corporate hierarchy, income levels and formalities were broken and all of us were friends. Added to this was that a lot of my colleagues used to smoke to overcome the pressures of the jobs we were all doing.

What began as a method to ‘fit in’ with the crowd soon developed into an addiction that I started struggling with. Although I wasn’t a great athlete while in school or college, I was fit enough to run a few kilometers, play cricket or soccer or basketball for around an hour or so without feeling tired. But after taking up to smoking with great gusto, I soon found my lungs struggling for air. And without oxygen circulating in the blood stream, you can guess how my sporting endeavors had to take a backseat. And it was not only sports that took a hit, but my overall fitness levels.

The worst indicator of my overall fitness levels happened on a trip to Sravanabelagola, a hill shrine on the outskirts of Bangalore. During my last 4-5 trips to this place, I had happily climbed the steep 600+ steps to the shrine very easily, even beating my school and college classmates while doing so. But on an official trip to the place, I could barely climb 45 steps and was already panting for breath and struggling with cramps. My lungs were screaming due to all the tar and other carcinogens which had made their home there instead of allowing oxygen to circulate. That trip was an eye opener in more ways than one.

That day I decided to literally ‘kick the butt’ (the cigarette butt) for good and quit the habit of smoking. Even though most of my colleagues found it hard to believe that I could quit so easily, especially given their own unsuccessful attempts at doing so, I was determined to stick to my guns. And quit I did, once and for all.

My own motivation to stay healthy and stay fit for a long time won over my addiction to cigarettes. I chose to #StartANewLife that day and haven’t looked back since.

While I had my own motivations to #StartANewLife, I am sure some of you would have your own wonderful stories when you have affected change in your own lives and started things anew. Share those wonderful experiences as part of this Housing.Com campaign.

You can follow the wonderful folks at Housing.Com on Twitter or on Google+ and in case you are still not convinced, go ahead and watch this wonderful video of theirs below

A good morning indeed

It was a pleasant sunny morning, just like Bangalore mornings are wont to be during the early days of summer in the first week of March. There I was, taking my usual brisk morning walk on the jogging track of the integrated township I stayed in absorbing the usual morning sights and sounds which comprised mostly of well-groomed canine friends being walked by their masters, the regular joggers with their iPod earplugs and workout music, the elderly couples (and a few solitary old men and women with lazy spouses who didn’t join them) and the overweight couples who lived an otherwise sedentary lifestyle due to their ‘desk jobs’.

And then, I noticed her, right near the entry gate of the township. A little girl, Tanya, not more than 8 yrs old, walking briskly towards the gate with what looked like a thermos flask and a few plastic cups. I remembered having seen this girl when her parents introduced themselves to me a few days ago, when they newly moved into the apartment opposite mine. If memory served me right, both her parents Raghav and Indira had recently moved to Bangalore, both of them having taken a transfer in their respective jobs, and accompanied by Raghav’s old father, Venu.

Tanya reached the gate accompanied by her grandfather Venu, and immediately set down at least three separate cups on the footpath just outside the entry gate. She then went on to carefully pour out milk from the thermos flask into the cups. And as if by magic, three cute little puppies appeared from behind the large plastic waste disposal container kept outside the gate. The puppies, hungry as they were, immediately started lapping up the milk that Tanya had poured out. She then went on to put her hand into the small jute bag that her grandfather had carried, took out one of the few biscuit packets in there, opened up one of them and started lining up the biscuits on the footpath for the puppies.

In this day and age, where most of us don’t even have time to even absorb, let alone enjoy the sights and sounds of nature around us, this small gesture of the little girl warmed my heart quite a bit. Venu, who noticed me taking in this entire scene soon greeted me and came up to me. ‘Good morning!’ he said cheerfully.

Wishing him back, I expressed my appreciation at what Tanya was doing. Proud of his grand-daughter, Venu said, ‘Oh, this is nothing. You should see the smiles on the faces of Tanya’s young students after their English classes.’

‘English classes!’ But then, she is hardly eight years old. Who does she take classes for?’ I asked.

Venu smiled ‘Oh, her mother Indira managed to convince the domestic help and the some of the housekeeping and security personnel to send their kids for basic English classes conducted by Tanya. She doesn’t teach them much, other than just the alphabets and basic spoken English.’

Impressed by the initiative, I asked him, ‘Wow, that is something! At her age, I was busy running around open grounds, playing with my friends and busy reading comics.’

‘She does all that and more. It’s just that she makes it a point to spend at least two hours of her free time every day to help out others in some small way or the other. In fact, this whole milk and biscuit routine for the puppies started only yesterday when she noticed the puppies squealing in hunger when her school bus stopped outside the gates to drop her off’ he said.

‘I guess all the values that my wife and me imbibed in Raghav when he was young, and all the good work that Indira’s parents put into her upbringing have been hard-wired into little Tanya. Genetics and DNA do have their benefits, as she is displaying right now’ he proudly said.

‘Come Tanya, we have to get back home. Your school bus will be here in 45 minutes and you still have to bathe and have your breakfast’ he called out to her.

‘Sure grandpa! Now that these puppies have had their breakfast and milk, I can have mine as well’ Tanya jumped up and came running to her grandpa.

Walking back, I was left thinking if only more grandparents and parents nowadays spent more time teaching their young ones to be as considerate of other humans and all living beings in general, the world and its future would be that much more happier and secure.

It truly was a good morning!


This post has been written for the Housing.Com blog campaign conducted in association with IndiBlogger.