This is the second chapter of A BFF Tale – the true story of a friendship spanning over four decades. Readers who have reached this page for the first time would do well to first read Chapter 1 to get the flow.
Chapter 1 ended with JJ and Anu getting together. Chapter 2 will reveal more of that story plus reminiscence some about how the BFF pair of Aruna and Lata began traversing life’s coming of age passages.
Ah, the flush of young love and all those underlying life dreams and aspirations. When we are young we always believe that the world will bestow a charmed life on us. Not for a minute do we imagine that life is more full of disappointments and broken dreams. Not for a second do we even contemplate that life is won through commitment and perseverance. You have to climb the mountain first to reach the summit. It is only when you have done that can you even begin to appreciate the true meaning of life.
In Chapter 1, I mentioned that Anu and I virtually lived in each other’s pockets. On the rare occasions we were seen without the other, some smart aleck or the other in college would ask, “Where’s your side kick?”
There was one exception to our being together though – the days when I would take off with the St. Xavier’s Adventurer’s Mountaineering Club to trek up to one or the other of Shivaji’s forts in the Sahyadris. Those hikes are amongst my most precious memories. Nowadays, my heart literally breaks when I see high rises being built in front of Ishalgad near Karjat. Here’s an old snap from my college hiking days. That’s me in the foreground to the extreme right.
Anu’s parents were stricter than mine. But she did get permission to come along on a couple of hikes. In our college years, however, she was a weakling and she couldn’t keep up with the arduous treks. She did try more than once. But mostly, this was the one activity where I took off and left her to her own devices. I just loved being amongst the hills, especially in the rains.
Then, of course, things changed once she began seeing JJ. I remember feeling bereft for a while. I was just so used to her being always there. But I got over the feeling quickly enough because they made sure they included me as much as possible. So much so, whenever JJ went home to Malaysia (yes, he was an overseas student), he came back with a suitcase full of gifts for both Anu and her side kick!
Thinking back today, I feel now that I must have been like the heroine’s best friend. Much like the friend roles played by Mumtaz in those old Hindi films before she went on to heroine status. Years later, Anu once remarked that I was akin to Betty in Archie comics. She hit the nail on the head there because most guys through my life would either adopt me as their sister or treat me like their best friend. There were a couple of guys interested in me but they were not my type. I guess that’s why I related so much to Kajol’s character in the Bollywood film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Only I never transformed into society’s image of the ultra-feminine woman as she did in the second half of the film. My views on femininity can be read in Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Many years later, I learnt that a couple of guys who I thought were really nice were interested in romancing me. I can tell you I was totally taken aback when I heard that. Because I had been oblivious to the fact. It’s a good thing I didn’t know because it would have just made things awkward and spoilt good friendships. You see, I was waiting for someone to come along and sweep me off my feet a-la Shammi Kapoor. Told you, I was an idjit.
Anu that way was far more grounded. Though she says she fell for JJ’s eyes, I know she saw the inherent niceness and strength in JJ. Sensible of her to go for character over anything else. And, let me tell you that our JJ has strength of character but is also a character par none. God probably threw the mould away after he made him. You can get more than a hint of the character JJ is in Our very own Desi Indiana Jones.
Not that their romance didn’t go through some bumps. It did. They even stopped talking to each other for a few months over some misunderstanding. But luckily they patched up. Or, life would have been very different. Anu would probably have ended up marrying a nice Rajput boy chosen by her parents.
In fact, they learnt about JJ’s existence in Anu’s life when they did exactly that. Her poor parents. Imagine their utter shock when their obedient, quiet daughter informed them that she had already chosen the man she wanted to marry! If you recall, I had mentioned that Anu belonged to a royal family. And JJ belonged to the Patel clan – relatively way down the horrible Indian system of laddering castes. Also, remember this was the 1970s in India. Good girls did not date and they certainly did not even think of falling in love. That happened only in the movies. My mom, the heroine, gave me many a lecture when I began to go to college. She practically made out that I would get pregnant if I so much as held hands with a boy.
It was in that climate that Anu went through a year of tension at home. She recalls it as a terrible cold silence reigning between her parents and her. Till one day when she went to her father and said, “At least meet Jianti. You may like him.” I can tell you she must have screwed up all her courage to do that. You can believe that because it took a whole year!
Her father was one of the most gentle souls I have had the good fortune to know. When his Anu spoke to him, his heart must have melted. I am sure it did because he agreed. And JJ was invited home to meet Anu’s parents. I should mention here that I practically worshipped the ground her mother trod on as well.
JJ is JJ. It didn’t take him long to win Anu’s parents over once the first ice melted. Years later, her father told me, “My Anu is smart. She chose her spouse well.”
Here are some pictures of JJ and Anu’s wedding, which took place on December 2, 1980. The top image on this post is also from her wedding (I am sitting next to her in a yellow sari).
Lovely pictures, no? I have great memories of the occasion. Including how a depressed JJ (he had some altercation with his family) demanded I leave my BFF’s mehndi ceremony (a function where the bride and female guests apply henna on their hands and feet) and meet him at the Trattoria, President. I sat there the entire afternoon lending him solace and ended up being the only female at the wedding without mehndi on her hands. You owe me for that, JJ!
Funny thing is I practically lived at Anu’s house. But, I don’t remember any tension in the year leading up to her parents meeting JJ. I am simply recounting what Anu told me some fifteen/twenty years later when we were yakking one day. I was so shocked when I heard her account because my memory was blank.
When I told her I had zero memory of all that she was telling me, all she said was, “You had your own problems. Your mind was always brooding on that.”
I think she was right. Because my family had fallen on hard times and there was always financial stress. So much so, I do remember one thing. My mom and I had to scrape together every rupee we had with us to buy Anu a wedding gift. Somehow we managed and bought her a vanity case for what was then quite a princely sum of some four hundred rupees. A younger generation will ask what’s the big deal. It was because there was no consumer credit those days. Everything had to be paid for in hard cash. And my family didn’t have it. Here’s a picture of my family at Anu’s wedding. From left to right are Ravi (my brother-in-law), my mother, JJ, Aruna, me, my sister Sudha and my dad.
Our coming of age travails had begun. Mine certainly had. You can read a bit about that in The Mother of all Influences. In fact, I would strongly urge readers who are interested in this BFF tale to read that post as it contains more than a hint as to how this story is going to develop.
As for Anu? She had a great couple of years following her marriage. JJ’s and her parents had bought them this cute little apartment in Carter Road, Mumbai. What great times we had there. Our own little pad and free to live life the way we wanted.
But life spares no one. And had plenty in store for all of us.
More on that in Chapter 3 of this BFF story. Wait for it. The real action begins then!
#BFF, # Friendship
Featured Image Credit: Aruna and Lata at Aruna’s wedding – from the Wala, Trada and Subramanian Family Photo Archives.