A Friend Starts Life Afresh

I had posted in Facebook (in both an Atheist group as well as the regular Timeline) a couple of days ago and thought I’d follow it up with a post on this person. This is what I posted:

A muslim friend of mine is coming out as Atheist to her family. She wants to remove herself from the religion and is moving to Australia in fear of retaliation from family & community. She’s been planning the move & job in Australia for 3 years now and has only revealed her plans to 4 friends and 1 cousin. Says she lost belief in Islam & Allah, and religions in general, several years ago but was fearful of her family. Her story is quite sad, she’s had a lot of pain & suffering. I hope she finally finds some peace and can live a good life. She is getting help & support from some friends who have helped her get a place to stay in Australia and arranged the job.

Ok now let  me tell you how I know her. I think I first met Nazreen through mutual friends back when I was 16-17. Nazreen had lived in Dubai for a few years before her family resettled in Cochin. I would often see her on the way to computer classes and we did share many common interests and hence became close friends. Like me she was into science fiction; Star Trek TNG & the X-Files would later become our common favourite tv series and the center point of our phone calls. She also liked some of the same rock bands that I did but preferred the ballads more. I remember an incident that happened one late afternoon : usually it would be Nazreen who called to talk to me and we had certain times that we assigned for said calls. This one day I was bored and thought I’d give her a call. Her mother took the call and said that Nazreen wasn’t home. I was about to keep after saying thank you and that I would try later, when she said that her husband would want to talk to me. I was surprised but said ‘ok’. So Nazreen’s dad come on the line and asked me who I was and how I knew his daughter. I thought ‘Oh oh” but told him how and asked if there was a problem. Sounding a bit confused and hesitant, he said that his daughter was not “allowed” to have male friends or talk to boys over the phone! Not knowing what to say I said sorry and we closed the call.

Afterwards I thought about it for a while and then called back. Her mother took the phone and I asked to speak to Nazreen’s father. They were both surprised but she handed the phone to him and I apologized once again, said I wasn’t one to cause trouble. We were just friends who share similar tastes in fiction & music and I didn’t want Nazreen to get into any trouble because I had called. I wish them both a good day and said goodbye knowing that if they had any decency they would be embarrassed about the whole incident. Well they were – a couple of days later Nazreen called me up and said that she came to know everything from her parents and that she had a fight with them over it and called to say sorry to me. I stopped her and said that no apologies were necessary because her folks were never mean or rude to me. However we still remained friends and continued to talk over the phone but I knew that it was in secret for her.

Years passed and we still remained friends although I rarely got to see her. Then we started keeping touch via email and on cell phones when I finally got one in 2003. After a year or so I completely lost touch with her but heard about her from mutual friends. Her parents & family had become increasingly orthodox and she was even forbidden to have non-Islamic friends!! She contacted me on Facebook a few years ago – but guess what? It’s under a fake name so her relatives can’t find out that it’s actually her. So after a gap of a few years, we renewed our friendship. She told me about the restrictions – no music that’s in English in her house (she later moved due to work and was living with friends sharing an apartment in Bangalore), mandatory wearing of the hijab, no friends who weren’t Muslims, forced prayers etc. They tried to get her married off against her will but she revolted and it was only because of an uncle that she remained single. They wanted her to stay at home and not work, despite her education, and stay at home if she wasn’t going to get married.

Finally she agreed to move back home to Cochin, provided she could continue working. But she faced some physical abuse from her family because she did not believe in Islam and refused to pray. For the last 3 years she planned her move to Australia with the help of 4 friends and a cousin. And she’s gone – yesterday was her flight, her escape from her family & relatives. Her job had been arranged through her friends and she’s gonna share a house with 2 friends – and get this her family – who are lesbians! That oughta get the men in her family pissed off and their knickers in a twist! I hope she’s gonna be happy and finally live in some peace and start life afresh.

Meeting Anil After Almost 2 Months

Anil and I had met together for a long time, almost 2 months which is strange for us. We’ve been trying to meet up several Saturdays but something or the other always came in between. Today we put an end to it. He said that we would meet for a late lunch and I agreed and we decided to meet up at Volga bar & restaurant post 2:30pm.

I reached the place a little earlier and chose a table in the very dark bar (why the fuck do they do that?) and needed the light from my phone to read the menu. Just before Anil reached the bar I ordered a couple of vodkas + 7up for me and 2 brandys + soda for him.

We had some Chicken spring rolls that were quite delicious and light yet filling as we sipped our drinks and Anil had some garlic prawns while caught up. We even called up Madhu (for those just tuning in, Madhu is the 3rd member of our little rock band aka friendship gang) who just got promoted in the business he works for in Qatar. Yes rock band – I’ve compared the 3 of us to Rush & Nirvana and in non band related terms, I’ve also compared us to the 3 Musketeers and the holy trio of Kirk (me), Spock (Anil) & McCoy (Madhu).

We wound up our lunch with some fried rice and chilli chicken and then made our way to Kaloor where we had some ice cream. I had the chocolate one on the left, he had the strawberry one. Post that I came back home to crash on the bed at 6pm and watch some Big Bang Theory while he went back home to Thrissur.

Resistence Is Futile

I feel like having accomplished something great! My till now anti-Scifi friend is finally convinced and he called me up on Wednesday late in the evening and said that he, his wife, his brother & brothers wife are all planning to marathon the entire live action Star Trek franchise tv series & movies. I almost cried when he told me that he spent some time & money to buy all the dvds, cause I spent years berating his lack of enthusiasm regarding Star Trek & other SciFi stuff.

So starting on the 24th of May (it’s was a harthal or strike here so no offices will be open) they are gonna watch a few episodes a day as a group.

Here is my suggested viewing sequence:

  • Enterprise
  • The Original Series
  • The Motion Picture
  • Wrath of Khan
  • The Search for Spock
  • The Voyage Home
  • The Final Frontier
  • The Undiscovered Country
  • The Next Generation
  • Deep Space 9
  • Generations
  • First Contact
  • Insurrection
  • Voyager
  •  Nemesis
  •  Star Trek 2009

And I was extremely happy that it seems that by the end of the weekend the four of them seem to have become semi-converts and are excited about exploring the Star Trek Universe. Mission accomplished!

A Nice Evening Out With The Ladies

Well I ended up having a nice evening out with my friends. Like I stated earlier, an earlier plan for an evening with a nice lavish dinner with 10 of us did not take place at the end of last month and we were disappointed. A few days one of my former colleagues Ajeeba had asked me if I was free on the evening of the 25 to come out for a dinner. I said sure but it would only be four of us as the others wouldn’t be able to make it. That was still ok although I wish everyone could make it. So anyway, I checked two evenings ago and the dinner was still on.

Today late afternoon the venue was decided to be a restaurant called Salt n’Peppa (highly original I know :p especially since a stupid Malayalam movie with the same name became popular a year or so ago) which was earlier called Chicknik but they stopped the KFC style fried chicken business and it is now a family restaurant with Chinese & Indian fare. We agreed would meet there by 7:15 pm so I had time to go pay my cell phone bill. Ok so by 7:15pm I took an auto and managed to reach the place but they were delayed due to road blocks on their side of the city. So by 7:45pm finally the five of us – Ajeeba, Vidya, Shalina and her 6 year old cutie pie of a daughter & myself went into Salt n’Pepa and choose a table. We ordered fried rice & noodles, chilly chicken, chicken 65 – which we planned to share – while Shalina wanted a shwarma plate. Her daughter had porottas and chilly chicken. We also got us a 2liter bottle of Pepsi to wash our dinner down.

We had a lot of catching up to do and chatted 10 to the dozen. We spoke about a lot of our former colleagues, who got married, who got divorced, who got kids, blah blah blah. At times I think we were quite loud or….excuse me the ladies were loud. I was decent . Shalina’s kid, whose name escapes me but we all call her Chottu anyway, was energetic and inquisitive and explored all four corners of the small establishment. She was fun to be around and warmed up to me quite easily. I last saw her when she was 2 years old. The food & Pepsi arrived and we started eating and still continued to eat.

Pretty soon it was time for Vidya to go as she has the furthest to go by bus. I met Ajeeba’s husband, who is a friend and my senior from high school and also met Shalina’s husband for the first time. We left the hotel around 9:45 pm and I went to find an auto to bring me home. I really miss them and wish I could spend more time with them and the rest of my old team members. Next time I hope!

Meeting Friends

The last few weeks have seen me spend some time with friends but not as much as I’d like to. In April we have a really nice & fun get together on the 9th which created a lot of fond memories for me. From that day onwards me and another former colleague have been trying to find a suitable date to get all 10 of us to meet together for the first time since 2007 and it hasn’t worked till now. How hard can this be? May 1st was the deadline as 4 of them now live/work in different cities and they had some free days in the month of April but had to get back to their places on May 2nd. We planned, found a good venue close to everyone but one by everyone begged to change the date and it was just 3 of us who could make it. So cancelled/postponed.

We all felt bad & sad that it could not happen and made vague promises of meeting some other time. I know it’s gonna take time and who knows when it will happen. Two other similar events, with different people, got postponed and pushed and I dunno when they will take place. It’s easier to meet up with 2 or 3 other people but when the group is large it can become a hassle and frustrating if you are trying to organize the event. I know I felt so let down in April when I couldn’t get everyone to agree to spend 3-4 hours of their time on the same day at the same time. But you know, these things happen.

Tomorrow I am supposed to meet up with 3 of my friends for dinner in a place nearby. It’s a nice place where I have been exactly once and I do miss these friends & former colleagues of mine. I hope it happens, I’m free and the other 3 also seem eager to meet up for a couple of hours. And Saturday my buddy Anil and I have plans to spend some time during lunch and perhaps get a few drinks as well. Got my fingers crossed.

Traits of My Good Friends

Well let’s see. A good friend, according to me should be:

Loyal – well that’s a given. I have a few good friends in my life and they are loyal as hell.

Fun loving – no one likes a too serious a person. The more fun loving the better.

Open minded – try new things that you have never thought about doing but your friend asks you to do.

Honest & truthful – a true friend will not just agree with you for the sake of keeping things cordial. If you are wrong, they should tell you why you are wrong.

Has your back – No matter what, they will back you up and support you and vouch for you. Differences of opinion aside.

Simple. They need not beautiful or glamorous or popular. But they will be there to join you for that beer and laugh at your jokes!

1997 Kodaikannal Trip

Back in 1997, age 21, I had joined NIIT for a two year course (Diploma in Computer Science). I really enjoyed my time spent there and I had a bunch of friends who made life enjoyable during those years. The course was separated into 4 semesters and I would change batches after my first semester, 6 months after I joined due to a medical reason for which I needed a little over a month’s time to recover from. The first group of people I spent my 1st semester with were really fun to be around and although I didn’t know it when I changed batches, I would make friends with an even more appropriate & fun loving group of people but I still remember the members of the first batch with fondness. We were 9 guys and 3 girls in the batch. Just as the semester was ending we decided that we wanted to go on a trip. NIIT would arrange a vehicle for us and book a place for us to stay during our trip. Joining us was the young female faculty member who taught our batch and a clerk / office peon. As per policy they had to send him because the faculty member was a lady.

So we decided to go to Kodaikannal (a hill station) in Tamil Nadu for a 2 day stay. We were to leave on a Thursday evening and reach Kodaikannal early Friday morning and return back home on Saturday morning, reaching Cochin in the night. By 4pm we had all gathered at Ravipuram and waited for the 16 seater tempo traveler to reach the institute. We had a couple of bottles of brandy &  two huge bottle of coke being chilled in a freezer belonging to a shop right next to the institute. Before we left Ravipuram, one of the guys whose name was Sreehari (I think) said that he wanted to try some brandy as he had never had any till them and was quite excited. He had a little in the cap of the bottle – and he didn’t speak to us for the rest of the duration! I have never seen anyone have this extreme a reaction to a bit of alcohol! Not one word did he speak till the next Monday! Anyways, we left Ravipuram at 6pm and the guys minus 2 (Sree Hari and my buddy Prince, who didn’t like alcohol) started drinking at the back of the van. We left the 4 ladies in the front and mixed the brandy & coke in huge glasses and were quite smashed by the time we reached Thrissur (almost 2 hours later) where we stopped for dinner.

At the hotel, 4 of us made a beeline for the bar and had a couple of pints of beer each and then joined the rest for dinner. We were having a gala time but by 10pm most of us were sleeping in the van, effects of the drinks. A romance blossomed between a guy & a girl that last the duration of the weekend I managed to sleep for a couple of hours but was mostly content to go up front and sit with Prince and chat or look out the window. Prince was the designated treasurer of the group and he sat in the passenger seat up front with the driver on our way to Kodaikannal and back. We reached our rented rooms in a cottage ( 2 rooms for the guys and 1 for the girls) at around 7 am and went in for cold showers and shaves and brushing of teeth. We had breakfast at the cottage and then set out for sightseeing and rides (boat rides, horse rides). We stopped for lunch and tea and by 6pm we also bought a couple of more bottles of brandy and some beer.

At night at the cottage, we had secured some firewood for a nice campfire kinda atmosphere. Food was provided by the cottage cooks – porotta & some veggie stew – and the guys drank and sang and we had some games. By 10pm the girls were tired but 4 of us guys stayed back and joined a group of 3 men from Kottayam who shared our campfire and in return they gave us some of their food which was fried chicken and beef if I remember correctly. By 12 even we were too pooped out to party anymore and we retired to our rooms and the next morning it felt like there was a Slayer concert playing in my head – moshpit and the works!! We went for some more sight seeing and then made the way back to Cochin with beer drinking in the van. On the way a bunch of us did puke – not due to the drinking but due to the effect of driving down the slopes & turns of the road. I reached home at around 11pm, changed my clothes and took a long shower and then slept for a long time, maybe 9 or 10 hours. On Monday we all reached NIIT with big smiles on our faces.

I took a lot of photos but remember this was 1997 and I didn’t have anything scanned at that time. I would get them scanned a couple of years later but I lost most of them and only found a couple. The pic below is of some of us sitting near the campfire. Great memories.

FS Old Training Team Boys Reunion

Well I’m back from a little party / reunion. The old guys in my former team in First Source wanted to have a reunion with some booze and food and we picked today evening to have it. The date was fixed two day ago but the timing and venue was another thing altogether. We couldn’t finalize on a place or time for our reunion until the very last minute and since a couple of them had to leave before it got too late, we choose Velocity bar & restaurant for the venue and picked 5pm as the meeting time.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned due to various reasons (including taffifc blocks, office stuff & the rain) but it was still a very enjoyable evening.

We ended up having a few drinks (vodka, brandy & beer) and some snacks at Velocity until 9pm when 4 of us later went to have some dinner at a Arabian food place. We had some alfam chicken with khuboos for dinner, which was delicious. All in all a good evening.

Saturday Spent Outside

There was a couple of things I wanted to do today. And both had a clash in timings. Damn if I couldn’t change the timings for both! It would mean shifting the venue of one meeting and meeting the other person post lunch. Or whatever! I decided to just roll with it and see what happens.

I arranged for a friend to meet me at Cafe Coffee Day for a quick bite in between as I had some free time. I felt hungry as it was almost 1pm by then. We went in and sat at my favourite corner table. Before we could order, he got a call from home asking him to rush back as his uncle was ill, so I was on my own. I thought, no problem, I shall sit by myself and enjoy an hour of relaxing. I ordered a sandwich and a cold coffee and went to my table, waiting until they served me.

As you can see, Cafe Coffee Day seems to have run out of proper plates and served me my sandwich in a paper plate. How far down the social ladder have I fallen? Kidding! In terms of serving aesthetics the red serving tray more than made up for the looks or lack therefore of my paper plate. It’s blood red and looked much more sexy than the photo here.

My coffee was a cold Mochachillo with more ice than coffee it seems. Funny thing is this drink seems to have some milk added separate to the coffee. And the first sips are always great – as you wind towards the middle it gets a bit watery and yucky, no matter how much you stir & mix the drink. Oh well! Atleast it was cold and refreshing against the hot sun.

My sandwich, as seen here, was another thing altogether. In a class of it’s own, it’s the corn & spinach sandwich with lots of cheese. And it was piping hot, melting cheese just bursting in my mouth as I took a bite – yummy! I love this sandwich and it is consistently awesome the way CCD makes it, although not always this hot & fresh. I was sad when I was done and wanted more but I was to join my good friend Anil Alapatt for beer and snacks later so it would not be good to fill up.

Later that afternoon Anil & I met at the Volga bar & restaurant in Kadavanthara. The sun was blazing hot by then and we were both glad to sit in the cool air conditioned bar. We had a Kingfisher beer each, in these new cute looking tumblers from Royal Challenge. We ordered garlic prawns, dry chilli fish & chicken fry and sat for 2 hours talking about stuff. We tried calling up Madhu (now in Qatar) but he was at the bank and suffering spotty cell service, so we said we’d call him later. Anil & I chatted about the good memories and things coming up ahead until it was time for him to head on towards Thrissur. I went for a brief walk and then came back home.

Evening Party

I went for a wedding reception last evening. A former colleague of mine has gotten married on Sunday and since the wedding had taken place in the bride’s hometown (somewhere near Pala), his family had held a reception in Cochin for those of their family & friends in the city who could not travel to Pala on Sunday. I didn’t go for the wedding and hence along with 2 other former colleagues, decided to go to the reception, wish the newly weds, have some fun at the party and enjoy the evening.

I showered at 6:30pm and walked to the main road to wait for my friends to come & pick me up in a car. They came, picked me up and we rode onto the venue. The reception was being held at a Church owned hall right behind the house of the groom’s parents and we first arrived at the house, parked the car and went in. We were soon led to the hall where lots of chairs were placed at circular tables to seat 6-8 people each for the dinner. The cold, fruit punch was simply divine and welcome on a hot evening (oh we’ve been having wonderful weather since early January but the last few evenings have been quite warm & sweaty. We stood in one corner joined by 4 other friends and shouted rather than chatted as the music was being played rather loudly. Soon dinner was served.

A huge buffet was placed on 2 large tables that ran the length of the hall. Here’s the menu as much I could remember – chilli pork, chilli chicken, chicken fry, chicken curry, mutton roast, beef fry, beef fry, 2 types of fish dishes, chilli gobi, gobi manchurian, some other veggie dishes, fried rice, chicken noodles, veggie noodles, plain rice, roti & salads! And ofcourse beer and assorted alcoholic drinks with mixes for those of us that do! Just looking at the dishes on the tables made me stagger. Me and my companions waited until the kids had all had their food served and then we went to the buffet. I know that it’s proper that you should try and sample as much of the buffet as you can but I only wanted some noodles, pork and chicken so I took my plate and pointed and the servers heaped chilli pork and chilli chicken onto my plate and then I went to the noodles section. Satisfied that I wouldn’t be hungry for two more days after what was served on my plate, I joined my friends at our table.

Horror of horrors, the meat dishes were salted beyond redemption. I could barely get any taste other than strong salt from the chicken and pork. The same fate fared the mutton and other dishes said my companions, with the exception being the chicken curry & the fish dishes. I pushed aside the meat after some time and ate more noodles, which was delicious by the way. However I even found the beer unable to drink as all I could taste was salt. Have you tried drinking plain macro beer when you have had too much salt in your taste buds – yech! After a while I felt like I needed to remove my tongue and wash it in the sink. But one of my friends had a better idea – let’s skip out, head to Caravan ice cream parlour for some sundaes and wash out the heavy salt taste. Excellent & radical say I – but we waited to be decent, said our goodbyes to the groom & family and then the 7 of us left the hall. Only my 2 car-mates and I went to Caravan, the MG Road branch which is open all night but it was only 9pm, and we ordered big dishes. I had the banana split which was huge and strained my belly once I had devoured it.

By 10pm I crawled into the apartment and changed clothes. Feeling way too full than I should have any right to, I went to sleep while watching a movie.

On One Of The Worst Crimes

Many years ago a girl, who I had come to know & become close friends with just a few weeks before, told me in a moment of utter, open honesty that she suspected her father of having raped her when she was just 5 years old! 5 years old – how any sane man can think of harming an innocent girl of that age is beyond me and how can he even think sexual thoughts about her is also alien to me! And the fact that it was her own father; I must admit that although I was 21 at the time, I was still quite naive and still innocent to a little extent that I was quite shocked at this revelation by her.

“Are you sure?” was what stumbled out of my mouth at the time. She said that she herself wasn’t sure but a few years ago during an argument in which all her siblings &  her parents were involved in, she supported her father’s point of view and her mother was so angry that she took her aside and asked why did she always blindly side by her father and didn’t she know that he had molested her when she was a child! The girl was shocked and couldn’t speak for a while. She retreated into a shell and didn’t speak to her parents or her brothers & sisters for a couple of days. Her father came and told her later that it wasn’t true, that her mother didn’t know what she was talking about, she was very simple minded and not very educated (she had only completed high school while he was a respected doctor). She believed her father for a while but in the back of her mind she knew that he had raped her.

I would late come to know through other sources that yes he did molest her and there was infact an official enquiry into it but without sufficient evidence against him it was ruled out. Her parents separated for a while but due to lots of other reasons, which I can’t go into detail over here, her mother felt that she had no option but to stay with the father for the kids sake. I came to know of how the mother came to initially suspect something was wrong, how their relatives tried to intervene but because they lived in another country, there was only so much that they could do. The details, which I got to know from several sources are gory and I even managed to read a couple of letters that her mother had sent to her family back in India at the time.

Back to the day this girl, who is just a year older than me, told me about this stuff. My shock must have been all over my face cause she was more worried about me and changed the subject and speak of more cheery things to say. I didn’t quite know how to react and felt like a douchebag afterwards. I remember laying in my bed for an hour afterwards thinking how someone could do that to a 5 year old girl and how could someone do that to his own daughter or to anyone for that matter. I also remember going for a walk to clear my head and walking for almost 3 hours aimlessly. I’ve heard a lot of stuff happening to a lot of people since then and perhaps I am better adjusted to helping & talking to someone who has gone through that but I will never forget that time when this girl told me about it.

Lunch At The Attic Steakhouse @ Marine Drive

Today Anil, Madhu and I were supposed to meet up for a long lunch as Madhu is leaving for Qatar in a couple of days. We wanted to have a little farewell lunch for him and spend a few hours hanging out as it won’t be possible to do anymore until he comes back on vacation, which is whenever. And who knows what could happen in the meantime so I was really looking forward to the lunch today. Unfortunately, Madhu’s dad fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital and hence we couldn’t all meet up.  Now as this happened just 10 minutes before we were to leave for the meet up, Anil & I decided that we would still meet at Coffee Beanz and then head to lunch or get a couple of beers somewhere.

I left my apartment at around 1pm and went to Reliance Web World at Marine Drive to cancel my Netconnect+ connection which I had taken up last July. In hindsight it was a mistake to have taken up that connection but at the time it seemed like a good idea. Due to a mess up with their customer care call center, I still had the damn thing active even though I called in a request to cancel the damn thing. Anyways, I first went there to hand in a cancellation request after taking a copy of my id proof and a passport sized photo. Once that was done I met up with Anil for lemonades on this hot, sunny afternoon as we discussed where we would go for lunch. My cousin had brought up the suggestion of a place called the Attic and since I wanted to try it out, I convinced Anil to go there.

The Attic is a small steakhouse directly above the Ela restaurant and in fact both are owned by the same people. While the Ela is more of a family restaurant with traditional style dishes, the Attic is more hip & Western. We found the place to be quite and cozy but a bit dusty at the windows (we sat near the windows) even though the view looking out at the main roads below is worth it. Nice tables, chairs and tulip style glasses. We got our menus and after browsing through them, Anil settled for a chicken steak while I selected the fish & chips.

I must tell you that I found the food a bit too pricey but boy of boy were they delicious. Both Anil & I loved our food. His chicken steak came with sizzling gravy, veggies & a large mashed potato while my fish was succulent & delicious but a bit small. I had a cup of mayo and another of chopped up onions and I had French fries version of chips. Everything was delicious. At first as we took our first bites Anil & I stopped to dissect the dishes and offer opinions but soon we stopped talking and concentrated on munching the food down. He was quite happy with our decision as initially he wasn’t so sure of the place and had wanted to get a beer as well (The Attic doesn’t have a liquor license) and it took some convincing from my side for him to come here. He managed to say good choice in between bites.

That being said it would have been the perfect place for some chilled beer which would have gone down excellently with the food we had. That was a shame. Anyhow once we finished out food, not feeling bogged down with spices and stuff, we still ordered fruit salads with ice cream. Very nice meal and a bit costly for regular outings but we might go there once in a while for a change of pace and to have some good solid steaks. The pic above is Anil’s chicken steak and below is my fish & chips. Finger licking good.

RIP Koshy Thomas

About 2 hours ago I found out about the death of a former colleague and friend Koshy Thomas. He passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. He was just 42 and leaves behind his wife Ann and two young sons.

I met Koshy while I was working in Idea Cellular’s main office for Kerala in Mercy Estate, Ravipuram. I worked there from Jan 2004 to Jan 2006. It was probably around September of 2004 when I first met Koshy while being called to get some details on the issues of a major customer. Koshy came back up upstairs to where my station was and said thanks. Afterwards I got promoted and I got to spend more time with him. We found out that we had a couple of mutual friends. He like me was also a former resident of Kuwait and we went to the same school but during different years as he was 7 years older to me. We shared similar tastes in music He treated me like I was his younger brother and used to tease me about my weight. I remember spending a couple of hours with him during New Year’s eve 2005 drinking a few vodkas before we had to leave, laughing at his jokes. I’ll forever cherish that memory.

Other than being a respected, well loved & admire long time Manager in Idea, Koshy was also a musician. From his college days he was the lead vocalist for a popular local rock band called Wrenz and later stints with Atma. When his father passed away, Koshy took up a job as a customer care rep for Escotel (which later was taken over by Idea cellular) and grew within the organization. He also met his wife Ann, who is also my former colleague & friend, at the office and there a friendship & love blossomed. Although I lost touch with them around 2007 after I had moved out, they were still in my mind as being wonderful friends. A few months back I friended him on Facebook and came to know about his battle with cancer.

Recently his friends got together to record a video of their popular single My House which was originally released a few years ago. Koshy is there singing with his beautiful voice. He’s the first one who sings, with sunglasses & bandana. Rest In Peace brother! We will all miss you. Thank you for treating me like a brother, thanks for the laughs & the friendship.

Evening Stroll Along Marine Drive

It had been a couple of months since the trio had met up and today Anil called Madhu and me for a nice evening outside. He called at around 4:30 pm and said that we’d meet for coffee. A shower & shave later I stood outside Coffee Beanz waiting for my two best friends to arrive. They both came and we decided to go across to the walkway on Marine drive. We had a little snack at Ann’s Bakery, which for years was so famous & prestigious as being one of the best bakeries in Cochin. I remember people from Trivandrum, Trichur & Calicut coming over to Cochin and saying that “we must buy marble cake and some snacks from Ann’s”! It was that famous but nowadays competitions seems to have beaten them down and the place look drab and deserted.

Then we walked along the walkway for a while, found ourselves a nice spot and sat and yakked for an hour or so. We always seems to discuss similar topics but this is the first time since two significant things have happened – Anil is going to be a dad as his wife is expecting. It will be around June July when the baby is due. And Madhu has got his visa for going to Qatar. He will be leaving in a month’s time. He has relatives of his wife in Qatar and they have arranged a job for him and the work visa. So Anil & I will be saying goodbye to him for atleast a couple of years. Hopefully before he leaves we can get together again and have a nice lunch or dinner and spend a lot more time. I hope he does well.

The Last Time I Saw Someone From High School

It’s been a while since I met anyone from my school days. I haven’t been able to keep in touch with any of my friends (School ended at grade 10, age 15 and then college for 2 years of predegree as was the format at that time) since I turned 23. From age 17 till 23 I met a few of my friends on a semi-regular basis as some of them lived near me and it was easier to hang out with them. I would go to one of their houses or they would come to mine and we’d go for a movie or get some lunch or beer during the evenings. I think I last met one of my friends Binju at the wedding of a mutual non-school friend we both in 1999. Another friend, Renjish, lived quite near to my old house in Thrikkakara and we met quite often until 2003-04.

Couple of times I have had my old school mates join the same company that I worked for. In 2005 I was quite surprised to see Jesna, sitting in as a call center agent in my old office while I was a trainer in one of their other centers. I happened to come over to the main office for a meeting when I saw her and was pleasantly surprised. Jesna was a girl I would often run to in & around Marin drive for a few years after we completed 5 years of being in the same school of our school. Also in 2008 just when i got promoted, another of my school friends (I just can’t remember her name right now) joined at the entry level after spending the past 6 years raising her twins. Unfortunately she found the ever changing shift timings tough to handle, especially since she had a young family and quit in a month’s time.

Through Facebook I have been in touch with a few friends from school and while that is great, it is nothing compared to meeting them in real life. Most of them are married and have kids right now, some of them are abroad and some of them look very different from what I remember, going by pictures, and some of them have barely aged except for looking like older versions of their 15 year old selves. I just feel that we should be able to find the time and space to meet up sometime since a lot of us live in the same city.

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Cheapest Full Meal I Ever Ate

I’d like to take you back to early 1992. I was in grade 10, a very young lad of just 15 years old. Until this particular day I’d only gone to the movies with my family & cousins. Never had I gone to the theatres with friends. From 16 till 28 I would go quite often with friends or a cousin or 2 (or 3 or 4 or infinity) and many, many times on my own as well. But the memory that I am digging up from my cellar of a mind is this day, I think late January or so. My best friend Samir and I decided that we would go out on a Saturday afternoon and catch a movie and then have an early dinner before heading back to our homes.

So post a quick lunch I caught a bus to Edapally Toll, where he was waiting for me and then we both headed out to the city (we used to live in the suburbs) for some window shopping and bird watching. So we roamed around for a bit and then went for the movie. It was sold out. We tried another one that we thought would be good but that was sold out too. What do we do now? Well Samir was a closet Kamal Hassan fan and so he talked into going for this really dumb Tamil movie and 8 minutes in, I almost killed him because it was really quite stupid!

Anyways, 3 hours later we came out of the theatres, minus a few brain cells that didn’t survive the movie viewing and then walked for about an hour talking about stuff. We came to the North Railway station area and selected a small hotel that was known for their good food. For 9 bucks each we had a belly full of dinner – 4 porottos each and beef curry! Just 9 bucks per person. Nowadays that will cost you 40-60 bucks easily, depending on where you eat. The hotel had since closed down and demolished and rebuilt, I think 7 years ago after the owner died of old age. It’s now a store that sells books but everytime I pass it, I always remember my buddy & I having dinner there all those years ago. Cheapest full meal I ever ate.

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The Cruelty Of Illness

Two evenings ago my mother went with two other ladies, both family friends who my family have known for over 40 years, to visit another family friend. This 3rd lady is unwell and mostly bed ridden and has been unwell for a couple of years. However things have taken a turn for the worse. It is a nervous disorder which basically shuts down all functions, slowly one at a time. She first started losing her eyesight and then it started affecting her speech and her ability to move.  Her husband & son have hired a home nurse and two house keepers to take care of things at home while this lady has spent the last two years of her life in agony. For a long time she refused to let others see her, with ofcourse the exception of her immediate family. Other than her son Sujith aka Joji who is 2 years younger than me, she has a daughter Sapna who is a year older than me.

I grew up with Sapna and Joji till the age of 11. Since then I have seen them exactly 5 times, at parties and stuff. I’m sure they and their parents was there at my sister’s wedding in 1995 but I do not remember seeing them at that time. I think I saw their mother the last time in 2001. If you met this woman you would be struck by how beautiful, classy and what a wonderful person she is to talk to. She is kind, caring and everyone always comments on the fact that she is very energetic. She used to be involved in so many activities, other than with her husband’s business. She hosted parties for her friends and relatives and adored kids. I remember wondering, along with other people, how she always managed to look so young & pretty even as she became a grandmother – if you saw pictures of her & her daughter even 5 years ago, you’d be hard pressed to guess that they were mother & daughter.

And it is to this person that this awful illness had struck. There is no cure and complete paralysis is a certainty. My mother went to see her and had to excuse herself after a few minutes as she couldn’t hold back the tears from falling. She told me that to see her lying in this state is torture to everyone and she doesn’t get as to why this had to happen to a wonderful woman. I have no answers myself. Why does it have to affect someone so nice?

Losing Touch with Old Friends

I think we all do have friends who we couldn’t keep in touch with and look back and regret the fact that we couldn’t. I find it ironic that in today’s world of easy access to communication via phones, cell phones, SMS, MMS, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs etc we probably find it even more difficult to keep in touch with people. Is it just me or do you all agree? Here’s the situation, everyone is just so busy and unfortunately that is not gonna change anytime soon. But odd that I find lots of time to send 20 tweets that are read or can be read by 300 people atleast and I have met around 10 of them in real life & know what another 50 people look like through their pics that they post.

I studied with around 55 other students from grades 6 to 10 and I thought that I’d be lifelong buds with atleast 20 of them. I catch up with them on Facebook & the occasional email. From the ages of 16 to 23 I had some really strong friendships that I thought would last – I do not have contact with any of them! Friends I made since then are much easier to keep in contact with, I dunno why just is so. But I can tell you that I regret not keeping in touch with atleast 30 people, who I think had a lot to contribute to my life and experiences.

And believe it or not I also have a few online friends, ones I have never met in real life, that I regret not keeping in touch with. I wish I could have changed that. Sometimes with some people, it doesn’t matter that you have never met them or never will. They still are great friends and precious to you. I treasure the friends I have now – here and online. And I promise that I will try harder.

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