It must have been some Tumblr or Pinterest post where I had come across this popular saying that if a friendship lasts for seven years, it has stood the test of time and is meant for a lifetime. Well by that logic, the friendships that I am about to describe has passed the test with flying colors as this bunch of miscreants (of which I am a proud member) share a bond forged by eighteen years and counting. Now, before I make you all teary-eyed by telling you all about this special brotherhood and how it has completely altered the course of our lives, it is imperative that you are able to visualize these characters — how they were back in the day compared to the present. Before I introduce you to these devils, I implore you not to be offended by the language which I’m going to use, for the sake of factual accuracy and humor.
Being unable to figure out who to start with, I have just decided to go by order of height. This must be an unconscious decision rooted in me from standing in school queues. Even back in the day, Soumya was the tallest, certainly not a man-mountain standing at 6’4 feet tall, as he does at present. Now, what’s funny is a young Soumya was also the thinnest — and I don’t mean thin like a supermodel but even thinner, like a wooden stick with an emo haircut. He was also the best dribbler on the football field but no surprise, a heavy tackle would easily bring him down. And much to his ill-fate one day, he was showboating in a football match and a crunchy tackle broke his arm. From that day he earned the moniker Handi, short for handicapped. You see, we try to find humor even amidst tragedy and that was the logic behind this name. Back in the day, we had zero ideas about political correctness.
Now, Soumya lives in Bangalore and is a self-made man in the world of sales. He is the only one among us living in a different city. You will probably find him cruising on his bike or practicing the guitar at home. He has always been the musician in the group and if your eyes are closed you cannot tell if it’s him or Alex Turner singing. He is no longer that thin kid with an emo haircut but rocks a dad bod and long silky hair now.
Now, Harsh was the athlete in the group and the fittest of us all. During the middle school years, he wasn’t just winning measly school sports competitions, but racking up medals even at the district and state levels. Track and field events, long jump, high jump, triple jump, relay 100 and 200 mts sprint — you name it, he won it all. If you go to his home, there is a trophy cabinet with uncountable medals. I am, in no way being hyperbolic when I say this, he had the potential to become an absolute sports icon at the national level and that’s how all of us imagined his future. But, he too was a victim of circumstances and pure Indian parenting mentality which dictates there no child can have a bright future in sports. At present, the once-athletic prodigy sits in an office chair all day and works in the field of real estate. Even though he is doing quite well in his career, we will always have that unfulfilled collective dream of seeing our very own homegrown Usain Bolt standing on the podium with a gold medal around his neck at the National Games.
In this merry band of delinquents, Ishaan has always been the tech wizard. During our childhood, we were all thin (now, not so much) but Ishaan is the only one who has only grown vertically and has managed to retain his physique. It is a rare sight to see him eat and that probably says a lot. He also looks the same as he did a decade ago, except now he sports a beard and his hair is white ( even though he is not that old). His nickname is Sceneman and the reason behind it? Wherever there is a party, he is right on the clock. The initiator of all parties, he is never late to the “scene”.
Amidst the countless funny things I can share with you about Sceneman, this one deserves special mention. We all used to live in the same neighborhood back in the day. Our houses were at a stone’s throw distance away from each other except for Ishaan. He lived and still does in the middle of nowhere and I mean there's not a single soul around his house. Imagine his house like the one where Courage the Cowardly Dog lived. There was no transportation to and fro from his house then. However every morning, we would find him to be the first to reach the football field. So one day we asked him his secret. So he had made friends with a cattleman who used to graze his cows early in the morning. Sitting on the back of a cow, he would travel from his house to the main street, where he could catch an autorickshaw. I’ve always wanted to photograph that but alas! Now, this once boy on a cow works as a coder in a cyber security firm and travels everywhere in a cab.
Now I want you to recall Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis in the Hangover trilogy. That’s our beloved Jeet. Like Ishaan, he has managed to retain his physique and looks the exact same as he did back in the day, except for a cooler haircut now. He still retains his baby face from his puberty days and is as fat as he has always been, earning him the evergreen nickname — Mota. Speaking from personal experience, if he falls on top of you, you will never be able to get up no matter how strong you are. By now, you must’ve realized that we are quite incapable of imagination when it comes to bestowing monikers and end up choosing very literal ones. Jeet will be the quietest around strangers but when he is with us he is more lively than a box of dynamite. He is also my favorite person to play FIFA with as he is the only one capable of giving me some real competition and I say that with more than slice of pride. Now, he is working in the field of accountancy and it’s a mystery to all of us what he does in his leisure time.
Last but not least, is Brojen. He is the pretty boy of the group. During our childhood days, Broken epitomized the edgy teenager trope. Sometimes he would not return home for days at a stretch. He did not use a phone for the longest time so tracking him down was an arduous feat. One time, I went to the football field at dawn and found him sleeping there. He told me that there was a power cut in his home at night and so he was unable to sleep. Since we were scheduled to start playing at 6 a.m. he decided to get the four hours remainder of his sleep on the grass. One time he even slept inside an ATM booth as there was air-conditioning there. He would often surprise us with such unthinkable acts. Now, he is a big-time businessman but that has done nothing to change the acute miser that he is. He is such a penny-pincher that even though he earns in lakhs he would rather walk five kilometers than board a bus and spend a sum of 10 rupees. However, on his birthdays, we do not let him off the hook. We literally loot him to secure a treat for ourselves.
My descriptions of my friends were riddled with humor but there is more to the story than I’ve shared. There are so many unfulfilled dreams and passions that could never blossom. A gifted musician now works in sales; a prolific athlete now works in real estate; a boy with a large-scale business vision now fights cyber threats behind a desk. It’s the unspoken things, the dark secrets and the deep-seated regrets that we never speak about but we all know about each other. Even though Brojen told us that it was the power cuts, we all knew back then that his frequent escapes were because things were not always peaceful at home. To forge a true friendship with someone, we need to know their inner child. We are adults now with many responsibilities on our shoulders. We do not also live in the same place anymore and busy individual schedules leave us almost little to no time to have fun like we used to. But with true friendship comes a distinct certainty and that means no matter which part of the world any of us are in, we are always a phone call away from each other.
I think by now you have a fairly good idea about this mischievous merry band of friends. So what’s the big secret? How have such characteristically different individuals managed to retain this friendship for so many years? I believe it's the childhood we shared. You see we had no luxuries back in the day — no smartphones, no tablets, no going to fancy places. We just had a football at our bare feet, the grassy field before us, and each other. Sports taught us more about unity, cooperation, and love than the thickest philosophy books. There was no class, caste or religious divide because on the field we are all equals. And it is that core foundation that has carried us along.
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