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     Volume 6 Issue 27 | July 13, 2007 |

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Straight Talk

Old Friends and New...

“Hello, may I speak to Laura please.” “Who's calling?” asked a very suspicious and rather nervous voice at the other end of the telephone. “It's Nadia”, was my cheerful response expecting a similarly excited greeting. Instead the voice sounded even more suspicious and irritable. I was completely taken aback when she asked, “Are you calling on behalf of a telemarketing company?” At this point I started becoming a little bit concerned. This was definitely the number I had been given and the voice at the other end sounded very much like my friend's voice. “No, of course not, we went to university together”. When she queried, which university and when, my concern turned into a full fledged panic attack. Had my friend actually gone completely and utterly loopy and therefore was not even aware of which university she had gone to and when. Had something drastic happened to her in the last few years to have made her suffer from partial amnesia? Had I suddenly been transported to the sets of a Bollywood film? Luckily, my fears were put to rest when she, the owner of the voice, finally admitted (after a mini Spanish inquisition) that Laura did not live there anymore and she was just sick of unwanted phone calls by the telemarketing companies, hence the third degree. I managed to get the correct number and this time when I called, the reaction was exactly what I had hoped for and when I told her about my misplaced alarm at her mental wellbeing, she found it highly amusing and within moments we were chatting and laughing away as if no time had passed since our last meeting almost three years ago.

A few weeks ago, during a short visit to the States, I got a very unexpected phone call myself and it took me a while to figure out who the other person was. The reason being that it was totally out of the blue and not because I myself was suffering from partial memory loss and therefore unable to recollect who the person on the other end of the mobile phone was! I was delighted to find out it was a friend of mine from school. As it seems to be the case with most Bangladeshis where we are all bound by six degrees of separation, my friend happened to be at a dinner party where my cousin had gone with her family. When my name cropped in the conversation, my school friend decided to call and surprise me. It is funny that I should feel so pleased to get a call from someone who I had not seen for years and had been to school with decades ago. I have to state here that I am actually the self proclaimed queen of nostalgia and if there was ever a contest on reminiscing, I would win it hands down. So as you can imagine the phone call definitely put a smile on my face for the rest of the evening.

On the one hand, there are some friends that you speak to regularly and are an integral part of your life. They are privy to most things about you and know the ins and outs of your life. You never seem to run out of things to say despite the fact you see them frequently and talk even more regularly. They are there when you need to unburden your soul but also just as available when you want to have a good old whinge about something as trivial as the incessant grey weather or traffic jams! Then there are also friends with whom you may not talk to everyday, or every month and even years may go by but when you do, it feels like no time has passed at all. You seem to pick up where you left off last time. However, we also have those friends who you shared a wonderful friendship with at some point in your life but when you see them, after the initial 'hi', 'hello', there isn't much to say and the conversation somehow peters out rather quickly. Although most of us would like to exist in a state of equilibrium where everything is just so, there are times where things do not always turn out the way we anticipate. Sometimes, despite ourselves, we see our friends less often than we would like to, we have added responsibilities and the practicalities of life take over and eventually we lose touch or have to make a concerted effort to stay in touch. Sometimes our relationship can feel a bit disjointed, almost like a picture where we have to connect the dots. I can only speak for myself when I say that to me friendship is a rare gift that I genuinely value and there is always something reassuring and almost comforting about old friends. They know who you were and they know the person you have become and still stand by you. Circumstances change but they do not. I read a quote by Bernard Meltzer which made me smile” A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” A very accurate assessment, don't you think?

All I can say is thank God for old friends. Okay, maybe I should change this to “Thank God for good friends”. If some of my friends read this, I am bound to get phone calls within a matter of minutes telling me that it is not necessarily the number of years you have known someone that should be the determining or defining factor for friendship, and they would be absolutely right. There are so many times that you find a good friend in the most unlikely of people or within an extremely short span of time but somehow that does not change the depth of the relationship. I am sure we all feel blessed with the friends we have and I will leave you with a little poem to reiterate this feeling...

“Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroken;
And the song, from the beginning to end
I found again in the heart of a friend.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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