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May 28, 2016

Sepia tones!

I had gone out on a walk to meet a very dear school friend of mine. It's been nearly a decade and half since we last met. A bit of background is, this lady knew me from the time I was in Class 4, and she was a ravishing beauty with big talking eyes in Class 6. I remember falling asleep in the school bus over her shoulders or lap. A big bully for my age, I always spoke of studying abroad in the states and taking her with me wherever I went!.... That's what childhood was all about - dreaming, fantasizing, loving, holding hands, fighting and forgetting all about it. Coming back to today's meeting, she asked me to explain my "New found patriotism" and my reluctance to leave India. All I could tell her was this - I felt secure here. She gasped. What security was I talking about? Well, it's the same security you feel when you pace up and down your own portico. This is MY LAND. Yes, it's got all the flaws it has got, but then this is my backyard. I can do what I want to, live the way I am used to and be happy. I need not have the feeling that I am on permission to be here. I need not protect my passport here as if that were my license to live here. Here, I am the alpha male. "You seem to measure your words better now. You know how to talk, but then kiddo, you always did" - was her observation. Perhaps that's what experience does to a person? You talk a lot when you're young, learn to shut up as you grow older, and when you cross 30, you figure out how to use your silence to get the best out of what's around you. But we didn't change a few things! She still sat to my right today (mine was the left window seat in the school bus back in the day), and she did hold my hand. The same warmth was there, but it wasn't so tight as it used to be while crossing the roads. Perhaps, she now knew she could let go a bit now! It was like we had parted ways yesterday and met today. I remarked about a few silver strands already showing up despite she being under 35. She brushed it aside - literally and metaphorically. She was, if anything, more beautiful now - in flesh and as always, at heart. And did I tell you? For once and for the first time, I paid the bill. And felt so good about it :) As I prepared to bid good bye, albeit reluctantly, she looked into my eyes and said "You've grown up kiddo"! This was her remark after she gave me a half hug. If eyes could kiss, this was it. I knew I was a kid reliving his charmed days from an age almost 2 decades ago. As she waved from within the cab, I realized she was holding her daughter much the same way she used to hold me in the school bus. On her left, head over shoulder. Perhaps, she mothered me at that age? Perhaps, I am indeed her kiddo? I'd never know. I don't want to know either. I'd take her for what she is - a sweet lady who loved me in my childhood.