Chicken Kari

Embarrassing nicknames anyone? Of course, we all have them. I have had my fair share too, although I have thankfully outgrown being embarrassed by them.

An old school friend was in my town recently, and we made plans to meet up. I had last caught up with him 5 years ago, and we had subsequently chatted online a few times. It was great fun to see him again, because, even though he may not remember it, he bestowed my enduring school nickname upon me.

Back when I was in the third grade, all of 7 years old, my mum had her silk business in Dubai. She was always into design, so she had a couple of fashion shows, although she was primarily into upholstery fabric and corporate gifts. [One day I will list out all the stuff my incredible mother has accomplished. She is really a cracker.]

Being a doting mum, she named her brand after me: 4 letters from my first name, and 3 letters from my surname. I was torn between being chuffed and embarrassed with all the attention. Also, I was in the fashion show. [A really, really doting mum. I am not sure I would let my hypothetical children into anything, because they are sure to be hellions.]

Since I was in the fashion show, I needed special permission to leave school early that one day. Of course, the leave was applied for and granted early on, so my class teacher knew about it. My mum asked me to get the permission slip signed on the day of, and so I did so, an hour or so before leaving.

Reliving the memory, I realise that my teacher asking me to do the steps for one of the choreographed sequences was fairly atypical. But at the time, I did it with aplomb. She asked me a lot of questions, and the innocent 7 year-old blurted out that my mother’s brand name was named after me: Kari—. And I explained how it was coined too.

Only for my friends to pick up on the fact that ‘Kari’ is a homonym of ‘curry’.

The next day, I learned that my new nickname was Chicken Curry. Everyone had picked up on it. The boys were hollering it all throughout break, and the girls ranged on my side for defence.

The funny part was that I didn’t mind. Every break, my friend stood in the doorway, yelled out “Chicken Curry!”, and peeled out into the school yard with the other boys. The girls and I would give chase, although what we were supposed to do once we caught them, we never really considered.

Today, only I and another friend remember that nickname. But it still makes me smile.

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Three Strikes?

I wonder what is the breaking point of any friendship. I mean, I am no expert on friendship as such, so I am curious. I have fallen in love (platonically) with my friends, only to have my heart handed back to me broken. Where exactly am I going wrong here?

[I have already come to terms with what I am about to narrate, so I guess I am used to dealing with this now. Of course, everyone is different and has varying priorities in life. C’est la vie. Allons-y.]

So, I have had a good friend from back in the day. She joined my school in 8th grade, and we became firm friends from day one. She is a Parsi girl, and grew up in a sheltered and rather strict home. I was notorious for bunking school (because my mum thought my teachers were a waste of space), and famous for being the highly intelligent under-achiever (my teachers’ words, not mine).

We connected over a mutual love of all things boys, and being Aries-born. Silly things, of course. I could confide all my deepest darkest desires to her, and she to me. We spoke for hours, and found much comfort in each other’s company.

Then, we moved to different schools, her to one in Dubai itself, and me to one two continents away.

Although we were far, we did keep in touch via email. We met up the few times I came home to Dubai to visit my folks. Generally, we never lost touch. But, as my last semester was ending, her family decided to move to New Zealand. Permanently. I was heartbroken. When would I see her again?

My life took a strange series of turns in any case, and we moved back to India shortly after. We still kept in touch, but the emails became more infrequent as college life and new friends came into the picture. But, she was still my best friend, and I fondly imagined I was hers.

I wasn’t.

Lots of turmoil was happening in my life, as I adjusted to life in India. New people, new paradigms, and new problems. I tried valiantly to keep in touch with old friends, but sometimes I just couldn’t. This is perhaps where I went seriously wrong.

She fell in love with someone, and was in a long-term relationship with him for years. I fell in and out of (puppy) love, and had a string of boyfriends. She always felt my life had unbelievable amounts of romance, and I always thought my life was fraught with inconsistency. I imagine that the relatability factor plummeted at that point.

Soon, we moved on from college and into the workforce. She decided to marry her boyfriend, after much opposition from both families was patiently dealt with. (And after she had a brief crisis of confidence, where she thought she “needed a change in life”.)

Now, before I launch into the strikes, I must say that she is a lovely person. A little wishy-washy and flaky, but still lovely. I sometimes think that stuff just doesn’t occur to her, and she will do practically anything to avoid confrontation. Also, I just don’t figure very prominently in her life. So yeah, my expectations should be appropriately reconfigured for that. Even when we were in school together, she would flake out on me all the time.

Strike 1: I tried to keep her up to date on my life, but it was a fast-paced one, with several complicated twists and turns. Trying to explain all that in an email? Impossible. Plus, I didn’t have anything figured out for myself; how was I meant to explain it to someone else?

But, in spite of these deficiencies, I tried. I did tell the salient parts: who I was dating, who I dumped, when my grandmother passed away, etc. She? Not so much. I get one email saying: “I dunno. I want a change. I’m bored. Not too happy with my guy. Dunno how to break it to him.” I try and be supportive. Next thing I know, 3 years later she is engaged. To whom, I ask with lots of excitement. The same guy, she chortles in disbelief. Who did you think of?

Right. Because I was supposed to know that your imminent breakup was just a thought?

Ok, so maybe I overreacted. I was happy for her, and swallowed the unease, the vague inkling that my days were numbered.

Strike 2: After she got married in New Zealand, she came to India to have Indian ceremonies with her whole family. I was in Goa, and the wedding was in Mumbai. I wasn’t actually invited for the wedding, because not important enough, but for both receptions. I went. She kept me by her side the whole time, because I was the only friend who turned up. Our other school friends didn’t bother to show, and her NZ friends were too far away. I was ok to be there for her, and we had fun.

Fast-forward a few years later, and she was back in Mumbai. I had moved back, so I was in the city as well. She was there for her sister-in-law’s wedding this time, and she was very tied up of course. Plus, her first son had made his appearance, and was not doing well in Mumbai’s harshness. I understood and I was working too, so she told me a time where we could talk properly at least. Something incredibly specific, like 2:00 pm on Wednesday, or the like.

I called at 2:00 pm on that Wednesday, only to be told by her mother that she was on her way to Sri Lanka. Probably had reached by then actually. Ok?

Ok. Ouch.

Strike 3: She lives in NZ now, after a brief year or so in Doha. NZ is very far away from India. We are in touch on Facebook, but barely because I am not the best at Facebook. She occasionally pings me on Whatsapp, and I reply with news, because again, my life seems to be more happening overall. [She has a husband, a job, two kids, big extended family, loads of friends, in-laws, and works; but MY life is more exciting. Sure.]

The other day, I was feeling a bit guilty about always being the party to respond, not initiate. So I pinged her: “Hey! How’re you? What’s up?”

Only to receive this in response:

Friend:ย Hey babe
Friend: I’m good
Friend: I’m in pune
Friend: Attending a wedding
Friend: Lol
Friend: How’s u?

Pune. A city 3 hours away from Mumbai. Same country though. Same state too, as a matter of fact. I thought she was in New Zealand. Also, she probably had to fly to Mumbai first, to get to Pune at all.

Clearly I don’t warrant even a call. Apparently it is three strikes, and I am out.

Lines of Farewell

One of my friends from ParserPile was ecstatically in the process of leaving, so much so that he planned his farewell email days in advance. The only catch was that he didn’t know how to draft it. So he called me with an SOS.

Friend: Dude, need help
Friend: Something urgent
Me: haan bolo
Me: what’s up?
Me: what do you need?
Friend: ๐Ÿ˜ˆ
Friend: Need a farewell email
Me: if it is cake…
Me: ahh
Me: hahaha
Friend: Can you write one for me. Plzzzz
Me: you can’t be serious
Friend: Cake too..
Me: aaj last day hai?
Friend: I am damn serious
Friend: Kal hai
Me: get lost. not making cake for you
Friend: I am giving you proper timelines/deadlines. ๐Ÿ˜‚
Me: I will write the email and send it to you
Friend: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
Friend: Thnx เค•เคฐเคฟเคถเฅเคฎเคพ
Friend: You’re a true friend, Karishma

The next day, though:

Friend: dude, your personal email id plz..
Have written one myself.. Need someone to proof read it ๐Ÿ˜›
Me: <email>
Friend: sent
Me: Got it. Will check and send by afternoon
Friend: ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
Friend: thnx
Me: done
Me: check and let me know if you need anything else
Me: btw
Me: the personal messages are awesome ๐Ÿ™‚
Friend: โ˜บ
Friend: Thnx
Me: ๐Ÿ˜€
Friend: Such smooth language.. I am planning to deliberately add some linguistic errors, just to make it feel real. ๐Ÿ˜‚
Me: ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
Me: What a cartoon you are

And then later that day, two of his team members called me, asking me to write a few lines [on their behalf] so that they could inscribe it on his farewell card.

After I had finished all of this, I realised that at least in one permutation, I wrote a farewell email to myself, and then replied to it too!

Smallish Sort of World

Funny coincidence happened a few weeks ago.

I was out and about in the market with mum, and we started feeling a bit peckish. So we slipped into the highly acclaimed, slightly overrated Cafe Madras for a quick lunch.

The place is so insanely popular that the tables have to be shared. That means, since there were just the two of us, and all the tables are four-tops, there were two young lads seated opposite us. They looked nice enough, and we carried on our conversation, and they did the same peaceably.

One of the waiters evidently recognised us, because he came up to us smiling, asking whether we would like to have a condiment we had had on a previous occasion. My mother nodded, and he brought a little bowlful to the table.

Granted it was little more than a tablespoon, but this was what is commonly known as gunpowder. I will refrain from carrying the metaphor forward to its logical conclusion, and leave the contemplation of location and exit of the (metaphorical) cannon ball to your imagination.

My mum wasn’t about eat all of it, so she offered it to the boys in front of us. This little gesture probably signalled that we were not stuck up or averse to mild interaction. And thus, a conversation started.

One of the guys was doing most of the talking, and most of it addressed to me. We exchanged small talk along the usual lines: what do you do; do you come here often; where to you work; etc. It just so happened that he was a software engineer at a startup. I laughed a bit, because of course he was. I told him that I was in that world till 6 months ago, and he must have heard of ParserPile.

He had. In fact, one of his colleagues was from ParserPile. When I asked him which startup he worked for, I was pleasantly surprised to learn its name. Let’s call it VaGaTor.

A good friend from ParserPile works at VaGaTor, so I knew who the colleague in question was. And then I uttered the fateful words: “Have you gotten used to his PJs yet?” [Aside: ‘PJ’ in India is slang for ‘poor joke’. I wasn’t referring to his nightwear.]

To my surprise, the guy did a double take. “What?!” he exclaimed. “But he is the one who complains the first, loudest, and longest about any joke cracked in the office.”

My turn to do the double take. “But he cracked the worst jokes at our shared table! In fact, I created a classification system, where the lowest bar, beyond which jokes are mere statements, were his level: JH-level jokes!” I responded.

The look of sheer, unadulterated glee that dawned slowly over his face was priceless.

The next day, I receive this from the friend:

joke-levelSo not sorry.

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Do You Even Lift Bro?

For the last couple of days, I have been having hysterical giggle fits in the evening. This particular evening, one of my friends was unfortunate enough to ring up to discuss a project we are both working on.

He sounded a bit out of breath, so:

Me: “Hey, are you climbing stairs or something? Why are you out of breath?”
Friend: “No man. Started working out a bit every evening.”
Me: *stunned because he is a super scrawny character who eats like a sparrow* “You. You’re working out?!”
Friend: “Oh dude, just stretches. No weights or anything!”
Me: *giggling* “Good. Although, if you wanted to start, they suggest water bottles. You should start with empty ones though.”
Friend: “Geez Karishma. Thanks man. I should always call you when I’m down. You will always show me that there is obviously further to go.”
Me: *in hysterics at this point* “Of course! And you can increase the quantity by 10 ml each week!”
Friend: “You need to go lie down. Good night!”
Me: *crying with laughter*

Ok, so I know it wasn’t that funny. But he thought it was funny too, and we both got a good laugh.