When I was in class 9, the following things happened simultaneously –
The government phone company decided to introduce metering. No longer could you pick up the phone and speak in the happy comfort of knowing you were being billed for just one call till you put the phone down. After every three minutes, one would be charged for a new telephone call. So a one hour call was no longer one call, but was charged as 20 calls.
I became a total teen and discovered chatting on the phone
Clearly these were not happy things to happen together. My mom saw the massive phone bill, had a mini-coronary and put a clampdown on phone conversations. Which meant that I would have to wait till the folks went to bed before going yakkity-yak (not too difficult considering everyone snoozed off by 9 or 9.30 at the latest)
My partner in crime was NG. NG was in school with me and she lived close by. We used to come home together quite often, hang out after school and sometimes in the weekends. But mostly we indulged in the meaningless chatter that one can do non-stop during one’s teens. I can no longer remember much of what we talked about. The one thing I have remembered over the years is that NG lived with her sisters and to me, her supply of them seemed quite endless. There was one, who was in her early thirties and kept an eye on the brood while NG’s parents worked overseas. There was one who was working and seemed all grown up, though she was only 26 or so. Another, who by virtue of being in college, seemed to be the coolest person I knew. A couple of sisters were working in other cities or doing their masters. Like I said, she had an endless supply.
Then I changed schools, moved into a hostel and promptly lost touch. I was used to moving and usually accepted that a new school meant new friends and old friends would turn into pleasant memories. Besides, we did not even have email then, forget Facebook and had to depend on a rickety common hostel phone, not one’s very own cellphone. It was very easy to lose touch with someone.
So almost eighteen years went by. Every once in a while I would think of NG. I remember visiting her massive apartment complex one day a few years after we had lost touch. I could not remember which flat she lived in, and just asked the watchman if he knew the house with the multiple sisters. Not surprisingly, he said no and thought I was some kind of weirdo.
Then lo behold, from nowhere NG got in touch with me a few days ago on Facebook. Turned out she had been in tech wilderness and had signed up for an account just recently. NG was no longer the pony-tailed girl with sparkling eyes and the awkward big teeth that I remembered. She had morphed into a prof in the U.S, was married and had a kid and looked totally confident , attractive and grown-up. This is not too surprising considering both of us are in our thirties now.
It was fun to get back in touch. We spent more than an hour online, catching up on each other’s lives, the conversation never pausing just like in the old days.
I don’t think we are going to go back to being the talk-on-the-phone pals we were. That phase in long gone and time and distance means there is little chance of beginning to build a daily presence in each other’s lives. Yet, I have been feeling quite happy all this week just to know where NG is and that she is no longer lost to me.
Social networking tools, take a bow.
P.S. when chatting with NG, she mentioned that she had spoken to me once when we were finishing college. Strangely I have no recollection of that despite the fact I remember absolutely meaningless things like one of her older sisters was a fan of George Michael and had some wonderful posters of his (this was before the world knew he was gay. This was before I knew what gay meant).