And heart is where the friends are. So, home is where the friends are. Pedal to the metal.
Growing up, the concept of “friendship” was based on what I saw in films and read in books. Most of what I saw and read indicated that friends were made in childhood and they stayed with you forever, if you were lucky. Else, you grew up, worked, maybe got married and your world revolved around work colleagues and family and maybe sometimes you would have the time to go back to your home town and some of your old friends would be there and you’d spend time reminiscing.
Those would be the people you could call at 3 a.m. if you were ever in a situation when you needed back up. The concept of friendship was different for boys and different for girls.
For the daughter of an Army Officer who moved schools and residences once in three years ( when we were lucky – else it was two or two-and-a-half years ), it seemed to me, pretty early on, that I would grow up with no friends. I tried to stay in touch via hand-written letters / postcards sometimes. When the Internet happened, it was chat and email. But Facebook comments don’t cut it when the connections are decades old and we have grown up to be very different from who we were as kids.
We’re essentially strangers, with some common memories.
Friendship between a girl and a boy was going to end in some kind of romantic misunderstanding, so, boys were best avoided.
Having resigned myself to my friendless state, I had completely bought into the trope that you don’t make friends after college. That the older you get, the more unlikely it is that you will make friends.
2017 / 2018 / 2019
But then over the last three years in particular, I’ve come to understand and embrace that there is no formula for friendship. I might get along GREAT with someone and we might both consider each other friends but we might not know a lot about each other. No shared history. But we are willing to create shared memories. There is intent and effort. We don’t need to see eye to eye on everything and we’ve got each other’s backs. The silences are comfortable.
And then I got to kick start the new year with a friend. And I’m looking forward to making new friends and staying in touch with the existing ones, more frequently, without WhatsApp, in the coming years.
We got to welcome 2020 and kickstart the 40and10in2020 hashtag in earnest, at Narendra Bhawan Bikaner. We almost did not make it because of the fog in Delhi. Flights were getting cancelled every 15 minutes and I was convinced that ours was next. Eventually, our flight was delayed by about 5 hours but it made it to Bikaner’s Nal Airport. From there on, it was a party.
First stop, straight from the airport, was the sundowner at Darbari Lake. Unparalleled service by Anand above. Gin & Tonic at the ready. The last time we did this sundowner was sometime in March 2017. It’s as beautiful. We missed Karan immensely. Siddharth made up for Karan’s absence somewhat but only Karan can call me “beta” 😉 Literally every corner I turn to, at the hotel, reminds me of Karan.
Dinner at the lake is an unexpected peace, so close to the city of Bikaner. Quiet. Sunset. With no concrete. Only Acacia trees.
After the sundowner, we checked into the hotel and settled into our room. We were in the India room. Number 210. It took me back to March 2017, which was the first time we had visited the hotel and the design of the India room was being finalized. There was a puppy called Eaton, a fresh rug, torn up rolls of toilet paper that the puppy was occupied with, Champagne, conversations about the color Indigo. And more that’s probably best taken to the grave. Memories we were willing to create.
Our room had a pretty balcony with a view of the ground floor. Too cold and windy to sit but nice enough to pop in for a view, some photos and then back to the centrally heated room.
Narendra Bhawan, for many disenchanted folks from the big cities, has become a haven of privacy, solitude, peace, party and friends. Bikaner is a small town, so there’s fewer facades. And the hotel has all amenities that a big city can provide. It’s a fully-equipped oasis in the desert, away from the desolation of a big city.
Even though it was just two nights at Narendra Bhawan, it felt like home. I think both Bharat and I have caught a cold but it was worth it – welcoming 2020 at Laxmi Niwas Palace, surrounded by more than 50 heaters, enjoying the jugalbandi of percussionists, DJ and saxophone, lots of G&Ts, fireworks and love.
You meet people, you have a conversation, you leave or they leave. Sometimes, you circle back and have more conversations. Sometimes you never see them again. There’s scope for friendship with everyone. But the pedal to the metal ones are something else.
If you’ve read this far and are wondering what this hashtag is : I’m turning 40 in 2020 and Bharat and I are celebrating 10 years of being married. There was no way I wasn’t coming up with a silly hashtag.
Happy New Year!