There is a world of difference between Train friends and Beach friends. In the train we become very friendly with fellow passengers in no time. And we have no hesitation in exchanging our respective life stories with them, within the short time that we are together. We invariably find some remote connection and feel happy that we have become so close. At the end of the journey, after much hand shaking and hugging we promise to keep in touch with each other. That never happens. Because we forget the train friends the moment weget down from the train.
On the other hand, beach friends who are friends you make while on a walk every morning on the beach front or wherever you go for regular walks are slow to cultivate. If you are a regular at a particular spot every morning/ evening you meet people whose faces become familiar to you. Over a period of time you try to express recognition of the face with a tentative smile. If the person responds you wish him `good morning` the next time you cross him/her. Good morning becomes `Hi` in course of time. You still don`t know the person you are wishing. Until you find the stranger talking to a common friend. When you stop to have a word with your friend he /she introduces the stranger to you. For the first time you shake hands with the stranger who now has a name. Talking to the new friend you invariably find some common interests or connections. You feel you have come closer to the stranger turned new friend. The next time when your paths cross you stop and exchange a few words. This could lead to exchanging contact details of social media you are active in - the latest craze being `WhatsApp`. Beginning of an enduring friendship is established leading to meeting such friends on other occasions. The bond becomes so strong that if you don`t see the familiar face for a few days during your morning walks, you miss the person.
While youngsters who come for walks have to rush back because they have a busy day ahead, there are no such pressures on senior citizens. After their morning walk some of them end up at a spot where a few friends are resting on the parapet wall or a bench in a garden.
It could be a small group. Or a bigger group - like the group I am associated with, consisting of people who are in their seventies or eighties. It is a mix of retired professionals from private/public sector, bureaucrats and even educators. Every morning the group meets at a fixed time – exchanging the latest gossip in town or the political situation or a few jokes- some among the group specialize in non vegetarian jokes. Jokes at the expense of some members are not uncommon. You can judge from the boisterous laughter emanating from the group from time to time that everyone is having fun. I make it a point to spend 10 minutes with this group every morning and indulge in some throaty laughter considered good for the mind and body. Laughter a day keeps the doctor or the `blues` away!
Thanks to old age and poor memory I still don`t know the names of a few friends whom I meet every day. I think It doesn`t matter because we enjoy each other`s company and look forward to meeting every day. What`s in a name after all!
This article appeared in Adyar Times issue dt. May 8-14, 2016 under my column Rajan`s Random Reflections