The Joy of Meeting Old Friends

Puspankar had picked me up on her sister’s scooty; we had reached.
“Fuck! Man!” I said, getting down the scooty. “Fuck! Man! Diram, I can’t believe it I am seeing you.”
“Fuck! Dick!” Diram said smiling profusely, “I can’t believe you really are here.”
I hugged him. I moved back, looked at him—that face and smile unlike any other face and smile in the world. I hugged him again. We were too happy right there. I hugged him one more time. We were meeting after four years.
“These are my friends, K.K, and Ribang—you might have met Ribang before.”
“Oh hi!” I shook hands with them, and remembered to mumble mine as was the norm. “I am loving this place, I never thought Jonai would be this cool, this place is a hill-station man, the air is cooler and healthier, I can smell it, it’s just so fresh, and those hills on the background…you guys are lucky this is your home.”
“But they say your Majuli is better,” Puspankar said, “You are just seeing it from a tourist’s point of view.”
“Yeah, you are right, I have the outsider’s perspective, but I can assure you Majuli is beautiful but Jonai is more beautiful. What are we gonna do now guys? What’s the plan?”
“Eating,” Diram said.
“Cool, I am starving,” I said, “Let’s go!”
And then we all walked in through the gate, there was a feast happening, one of the girls working in the household had grown into a woman the previous night and K.K’s family had decided to celebrate. Diram, Ribang, and K.K had been waiting on guests the entire day so Puspankar had to come and pick me up. We walked into the marquee in front, there on the right was the newly turned woman and her best friend, seated on a carpet, dressed like brides. They were huddled together, smiling and playing like kids. I smiled at them. In the next chamber we sat on the chairs, the tent was made of blue, yellow and red fabric. It was feisty. And beside me were Puspankar and Diram, friends from another time and another place. Wow! I am sitting here with you guys. Puspankar’s phone rang. It was Chaplina; I accidentally saw it on the phone screen. So Puspankar and Chaplina are still in touch. They talked for some time. “I want to talk to Chaplina,” I said half to myself and half to Puspankar. Yeah I want to talk to her.
“… and listen, we have a special guest with us, your best friend,” Puspankar kidded with her, “He wants to talk to you.”
Hello Chaplina Bai—” One night and many other nights—with my cousin Karabi, and with Stephan, my German friend—she had helped me out without any bias, at the slightest request. So with gratitude in my blood and voice, tenderly—“Hello Chaplina bai, how are you?”
“Conan! I am fine,” she said, “You tell me, how are you?”
“I am good!” I said.
“Where are you these days?”
“I am at home, Majuli.”
“What are you doing these days?”
“I am teaching at a school, for free.”
“You know that’s great! You are in the teaching profession now—” Once on talking about how I masturbate when I am in need of variety in my routine—my hand pumping the air casually while talking about the act—she had said, after recovering from her shock at my confession, that I speak like a prophet—“If you ever come to Guwahati—”
“—and I heard about your success. Congratulations for clearing the Prelims! Now you can go for the Mains—“
“But that was a long time ago—” We were just no more talking, had lost all trace of each other’s lives. Did I unfriend her in facebook? I think I did.
“—I was so happy to hear the news that you had cleared Prelims. Now you can sit for the Mains. Just practice writing on the topics. I will be very happy if you clear the Prelims.”
“—If you ever come to Guwahati you call my number okay,” she said.
“Yeah, that would be nice! We could sit in some place and drink tea and (lowering my voice) because I was in a public gathering although they were mostly my friends there—and maybe smoke a cigarette too.”
“Ok,” she said.
“Ok,” I said, and to Puspankar, “Are you gonna talk to her?”
“Yes,” Puspankar said, and I handed him the phone.
Once conversation was over, Puspankar and I stepped out to the back to wash our hands. From a large blue drum I got out the water with a mug and told Puspankar to wash his hands. When he was finished, he told me, your turn—and I washed mine.
Inside we ate the chicken curry and the fish curry with rice, while Ribang urged us to eat more. Diram and the others would eat only once all the guests had been served. “The girl is lucky to have elder brothers like you, Diram, someone who is helping in making this day, a once-in-a-lifetime day of her life, a special day.”
“Yo! Diram! Yo” said everyone. We all grinned merrily.

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