by Samuel Wankhade
Childhood friends are like old underwear, it’s time to buy a new one but you have a liking for it so you can’t let go… Steven is like that old underwear which knows me inside-out.
It was an unusual interaction that led to our friendship. We are poles apart, the only similarity was that we visited the same church. Our pastor asked us to meet each other mid-week and work together for some prayer requests from church members, and for world peace.
Well… we met at Churchgate railway station – our prayers went somewhat like this “God, you know our hearts, You know what people want, You know it all… please give them what they want. In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Steven prayed 1 minute longer than me. Amen and Amen and done. Now what, we had time on our hands. Steven said “Picture dekhenge?” and we headed to the legendary Eros Cinema, dined at Baghdadi and chatted.
I realized that we were quite different; the only thing common was that both of us were introverts.
Steven is an asthmatic and each time we spoke, he would almost choke while laughing. Over the years, we stuck together through thick and thin. Whenever something good happened in my life, Steven was the first one I informed and boy, was he happy??? No… not at all. He was, and is, the most jealous.
When I was promoted, he said “No one should offer you a job to begin with and you are promoted… what is wrong with this world?? For heavens sake ..,” (He did not say heaven, though).
He bestowed me the honor of best man at his wedding. As per tradition, I was to pass on the wedding ring to Steven. But guess what, Steven kept the wedding ring with himself.
I had to act as if I am passing it and he acted as if he received it.
Basically, Steven always considered me to be callous, irresponsible and happy-go-lucky.
To me, Steven was exactly the other way around… the kind of guy you would like your sister to get married to. The following year, Steven became father to a beautiful girl and named her Joann. I felt madly in love with Joann and she loved me back.
In fact, I was the first one on her birthday party invitee list and hey, that’s an honour bigger than being best man at my best friend’s wedding.
However, in March of 2014, the political climate changed in India and you were either a BJP supporter or you were not; there was nothing in between. The difference between Steven and me was evident once again, as we took sides.
Not only did we hold strong convictions of who is a better leader and who is not but forced-fed our views on each other. In one such argument, Steven said the same crap that he always did but this time there was a context and I felt ‘you aren’t my friend … after all’.
Since then, we had rarely spoken to each other…
Days went by, weeks went by, months went by and then one day, I got a call from Steven’s number. Reluctantly, I picked up.
But it was Joann on the other side. She said, “Uncle Sam, I want you to make it to my birthday party”. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I flew from Malleswaram in Bangalore to Malad in Mumbai and the moment I stepped in. Joann looked at me, screamed “Uncle Sam” and I hugged her tight. The birthday party knew there was someone special in the room.
As Joann and her friends enjoyed the celebration, Steven and I chatted like we were back at Churchgate station. He almost choked while laughing and I had to fetch his asthma pump.
I was happy to find my old underwear… as familiar and comfortable as ever.
God, you know our hearts, You know what people want, You know it all…
This piece was written during Rashmi Bansal’s Short Story Writing workshop.