Have you noticed how re-connecting with old friends has been the flavour of the last couple of years? With all the social networking sites and the wonderful search engines of the internet, we find that names from the past pop out at us suddenly. And just one link-up leads us to others who had dropped off our personal radar for varied reasons.
Like everyone else, I too lost contact with dear friends who had been a part of my teen years. With me, it was sheer carelessness. During those days of letter-writing and keeping in touch in the old-fashioned way, I allowed my address book to disappear. At that time, I was absolutely confident that I had all my friends’ addresses safely memorised and I did not bother to panic or go back to the place where I thought I had misplaced the book. With the confidence and optimism of youth, I believed that house numbers and city codes would remain indelibly in my head and would flow directly out of my pen when I sat down to write letters.
Of course, it did not happen. Addresses flew away from me and when my friends wrote, they did not put address on the letters. (Ours was already the generation that had given up on that formality, probably not wanting the postal department to know where the letter came from and mysteriously affixing at the back only the initials or just the name of the city where we lived.)
I did not allow myself to rue the loss of communication with those friends, however. In the process of enjoying adulthood, why allow the past to weigh me down? There were new friends, new experiences and we were always moving forward. Twinges of regret were squashed and I marched towards the future believing that we would bump into each other sometime, some place.
That, too, did not happen. Decades went by. We moved from place to place and I had no doubt that they moved too. We grew older and largely unrecognisable. We would quite likely be totally unaware of who it was if we passed each other on the street — did we bear even a faint resemblance to the young and earnest people we once were?
But we still did not spend too much time thinking about it because there were so many other things in our lives. The past was relegated to that special wonderful place of memory, where we never had disagreements with our friends and there was no envy or pettiness between us — not because we had enjoyed relationships so sublime, but because we had forgotten whatever misunderstandings there had been.
And thus, the purity and perfection of remembered affection and the high level of understanding we thought we shared with our old buddies warmed our hearts and sustained us through the many occasions when we burnt our fingers and touched raw nerves with others or struggled through faux pas with new friends and acquaintances.
But now the world has become a tiny place and with just one nostalgic and tech-savvy friend, suddenly almost our entire gang is reunited online. Information covering three decades and more flies back and forth — and we earnestly make plans to meet. Soon.
Here is our chance to see whether our memories served us well: Are we really on the same page, ready to go forward, able to embrace the changes that our different paths and varied experiences have carved on our psyches? Or are we only able to dwell on the past and have a few laughs together for old times’ sake?
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.