The gang

One of the toughest things about growing up is the challenge of making new friends. At school and college, there was a ready pool of people in the same age group. I just had to figure out who I could get along with and then hang out with those kids. The first job had plenty of comrades from my own college. If anything, I was spoilt for choice with students from other colleges joining in as well. A couple of years later though, it became obvious that people were changing jobs, moving cities, getting married and my circle of friends was only shrinking.

For the first time in my life, I was faced with the prospect of actually not having enough people to hang out with.

I am not a particularly shy person. Having been through six schools when growing up, making friends was a cinch. The issue was who to make friends with. I seemed to be going to work and coming back home to an empty house. Most people I was friendly with at work had moved jobs and the rest seemed to either be preoccupied with their own lives or on a completely different wavelength. Most women I could have shared a house with were all married or getting married.

I moved back home to Chennai to get some sort of a change. Unfortunately, work colleagues were nice but had gotten worse in terms of hanging-out value. Luckily, being home with the folks provided a welcome change from spending the evenings watching the idiot box.

Still what self respecting 20-something can depend solely on parents for conversation and entertainment without having the ‘LOSER’ tag slapped on the forehead. Besides, it is just plain impossible to have your parents substitute for friends.

My excess time and energy were channelized into various attempts at exercising – aerobics classes, tai chi classes, gym and so on. Eventually I ended up joining Salsa classes.

I am all for dancing. Put on solid Bollywood and Tamil dance numbers, and I am one of the early ones on the dance floor. Salsa was a whole different ball game. The music was unfamiliar. You had to move your hips and hands in an exaggerated manner. I was totally humbled by the difficulties of learning the dance. Yet, it was good fun. The teacher was quite enthusiastic despite the class’ extremely amateurish attempts at being Enrique Iglesias.

So I hung in there. Slowly a few faces started getting familiar with a twice-weekly viewing. Some of the folks had come with other friends of theirs. Some, like me, were there by themselves. We began greeting each other and making light conversation. Till the day came when P invited us all over for a birthday drink to a nice place in the neighbourhood.

I landed up, wondering how it would turn out since I had never hung out with anyone other than my ‘friends’. ‘Friends’ defined as people I knew from school, college or early days of working. It turned out to be good fun. I felt terribly guilty for not having bought a birthday present and made amends quickly by contributing for the cake. I did not really speak to everyone, maybe just P and a couple of more people. I did remember having a good time that evening.

Soon, we began to hang out more and more frequently. Till one fine day, we realized that we had become a ‘gang’.

When I look back, I realize that everyone in the gang had their own little story on needing friends back then. P and J were already good friends but were more than happy to find a big gang. J was getting out of a bad marriage. EX was rediscovering life in his late – 40s after having spent a lifetime dedicated to work and a tough personal life. C loved dancing and was looking for a diversion from the routine of marriage, a job and two kids. S was trying to woo P but the gang seemed to provide a nice cushion for the ups and downs of romance. Other people also came and went but somehow the core gang remained as it was.

It was a very motley crowd. Our age ranged from the late – 20s to the late – 40s. Our educational backgrounds and job profiles could not have been more different. Our social and economic backgrounds were not particularly homogeneous either. I guess we all just loved doing new things and hanging out with people and shooting the breeze.

The gang could be depended upon to provide weekend entertainment, and sometimes weeknight entertainment too. We soon became a travel group, exploring nearby places. We were shopping companions. We readily checked out new restaurants. Everyone joined in crazy but fun activities like doing a hash run or doing a car rally in a dinky, old Maruti 800. The gang provided endless support when something was bothering someone. Or something bad happened to someone. Like the death of a spouse or a bad breakup or a big family issue.

It has been over five years now (or maybe longer). I have moved cities, gotten married and can no longer enjoy the day-to-day companionship of this bunch. Yet, I make it a point to meet up whenever I am in town and spend the rest of my time persuading one or all of them to visit me.

The gang taught me that getting out of school and college need not necessarily spell the end of endearing friendships. You can still make friends as you grown older. You can make friends with people seemingly different from you. And you can stay friends despite the distance and the differences.

One of them sent a friendship day mail in the weekend. Normally something that the cynical me would have laughed at as yet another Archies initiative. Yet thinking back of how it all began and where it has gone so far, I had to admit it was something to be celebrated.

Happy Friendship day


hAAthi said...

Being someone who doesnt consciously go out and make friends too easily, resorting to friendships and relationships that happen over the natural course of time, I hear ya..

Happy friendship day to you!

Priyanthi said...

Oh my gosh - now I'm getting all soppy and gooey inside. I guess we all got something we needed from the gang. Happy Friendship day to you too.

Jerry said...

This tribute to the gang was long overdue. Gosh, the years that have flown by. Amazing. And you've been an integral part of it, despite the challenges of distance. Cheers!

Sonal said...

wow! truly a friendship special!

Mum's delight said...

Nice post Anita. Happy friendship day to you ! Have you figured out your skype id yet?

Anita said...

hAAthi - Yup, it is quite nice to let things take their course

Priyanthi - I think we are all growing old :)

Jeri - Thanks to our new, cheap telecom regime!

Sonal - Yup. Realised I can do multiple posts on multiple gangs

Mum's delight - Not yet. Feeling like a total technophobe now. Will do it soon