A BFF Tale – Chapter 1

The Word Press dashboard for Lata Wonders informs me that I am about to publish my 100th post. A special milestone this, deserving of a special post.

So, to mark the occasion, I am going to narrate a true story of a friendship spanning a little over 40 years. Let’s call it a BFF tale! My BFF tale:)

No blog of a few hundred words can possibly do justice to a BFF tale spanning over four decades. That’s why this post is titled ‘A BFF Tale – Chapter 1’.

Aruna Wala was born on November 24, 1958 into the royal family of the small State of Vadia, near Rajkot in Saurashtra, India. I followed eight months later, making my appearance in a middle class Tam Brahm (the current abbreviation for the Tamil Brahmin community in India) family. Check the old snaps below out. Aren’t they a study in contrast?

 

Aruna Wala, as a toddler.
Aruna Wala as a toddler.
Lata Subramanian as a 4 or 5-year old
Lata Subramanian as a 4 or 5-year old

The contrast is probably why we operated in different life spheres for the first 15 years of our lives. That’s just the way it was though we were in the same class in Walsingham House School, Mumbai. Not to mention that our mothers met every week for their card playing kitty sessions.

I clearly remember my mother inviting me to go along with her to Pushpa Aunty’s house saying, “Isn’t her daughter in your class? You can play with her.”

They say memory always exaggerates. Maybe so. But I hold to the way I have always recounted my response down the years – “Nah, she’s boring!”

Who would have suspected that Aruna & I would go on to be BFF a few years later?

The way it happened was this.

I was away from Walsingham for two years as my father had taken up an assignment in Chennai (then Madras). In 1974, the family returned to Mumbai and I was promptly sent back to my old school to finish my last year.

Arriving after the term had started, I was assigned the only empty desk in the class – the one next to Aruna.

I sauntered to my place, took one look at her and said, “My God, you have grown so pretty!” At which remark, Aruna (Anu) turned a deep pink shade all over.

That’s how our BFF tale began! (God, the term BFF always make me think it’s a curse. In fact, I did think so till I discovered it expands to ‘best friends forever’).

Over that year, we grew comfortable with each other. I never really questioned it then, but looking back, I think I drew comfort from the friendship because she had such a calming presence. Her nature was the exact foil I needed then to quieten down my emotional, excitable nature.

Years later, I discovered she felt exactly the same. But the converse. I brought excitement into her life as I was always saying, “Let’s do this or let’s do that.” You see, those days I always had a gleam in my eyes and was ever ready to get into mischief. Not that we ever did anything wild. We just got our kicks talking about it. What a pair of idiots, we were…lol.

Anyway, we were happy in each other’s company. I guess that’s the only thing that really counted. In fact, we were so contented that we arranged to attend the same college (St. Xavier’s, Mumbai) and hung out together all the time; even organising alternating sleep overs at each other’s home. So, we were always together 24*7, to use today’s terminology. It never even occurred to us that our families may want privacy. We just took them so much for granted. Or, you could say that’s how generous families were then, opening their doors to feed and shelter relatives and friends. These days, I am hearing more and more that people have to schedule quality time with their own families!

And no, we were not inclined anyway other than heterosexual. On the contrary. All we really did was to listen eternally to romantic, old Bollywood film songs and dream of our future knights in shining armour.

The listening to old Hindi film songs, by the way, goes on till today. With our all-time favourites remaining, among others, O Sajna, Barkha Bahar Aayi (O my lover, the verdant monsoon is here) from the film Parakh, and Abhi na jao chod kar (Please don’t leave me right now) from the film Hum Dono*. Those songs should tell you that the two of us shared common dreams and values. Looking back, that was, and is, the foundation of this BFF tale.

But we were no twin peas in a pod. The difference in our personalities showed even in our choice of top favourite, old Hindi film songs. I will forever associate the songs Lag ja gale ke phir ye haseen raat ho na ho (Come let’s embrace for who knows if we will ever see a night as beautiful as this) from the film Woh Kaun Thi and Kaun aaya mere man ke dware (Who is this who has entered the portals of my mind) from the film Dekh Kabira Roya*  with her.

She probably has some song associations with me as well. But those days, I was a broody, moody sort. So, to the best of my memory the songs that I sang my life tune to in that era were Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai  (Our dreams are now coloured with the same hues) from the film Guide) and Jaye tho jaye kahan (Where will I go) from Taxi Driver. Regretfully, I saw myself as the epitome of the ever sacrificing, tragedy figure in life. I related to the song Tere Mere Sapne because of the line tere dukh ab mere/mere sukh ab tere (your sorrows are mine/my joys are yours)*.

Sheez, what an idjit! Falling for the idealistic world of old Bollywood films. Actually, Anu and I often lament that believing in the ideals of the old Hindi films was both our benefactor and fatal life mistake. Truth to tell, though, I think we still won’t have it any other way:) Proof of that is the fact that we still hold to Waheeda Rehman* (in reel and real life) being our role model of the ideal woman.

Here’s a picture of the two nadaan (naive, foolish) girls we were in the 1970’s. This was at my cousin’s wedding in 1976 (I think). By the way, the top featured image in this post is of Anu and myself in college. Doesn’t the innocence show?

Aruna & Lata at a wedding in 1976
Lata & Aruna – the two ‘nadaan‘ college girls

This nadaan girl did not meet her Prince Charming in college. But Anu did – Jiantilal Jethalal Trada (JJ).

Young people can be so stupid and melodramatic. Some guy in college actually advised JJ that he would have to break up our friendship if he wanted to get anywhere near Anu. Well, JJ was nicer and smarter than that. He simply befriended me. And, to this day, if he is upset with Anu for some reason, guess who he calls? Here’s a grainy snap of JJ and me from those days.

JJ Trada and Lata Subramanian in 1980 or thereabouts
JJ Trada and Lata Subramanian in 1980 or thereabouts

 

I still remember how their first date transpired. JJ had a close friend Rajen Seeberun (a student from Mauritius). Rajen came to me one day and told me that JJ wanted to take Anu to the Navy Ball but that he was too nervous. We conspired over it. Rajen gave JJ the moral support and one day over a crowded college canteen table, JJ worked up the courage to pop the question.

It’s one of my favourite stories. One, which I have enacted many a time to entertain Anu’s sons.

JJ was so nervous, he mumbled to Anu over and under all the excited college canteen buzz (think scenes from the Bollywood film Main Hoon Na). Yes, that’s right. We may be oldie goldies now but the movie is proof positive that life hasn’t changed at all.

Before I go on with my BFF tale, here’s the punch line to JJ asking for that historic first date. Anu went her usual deep pink and said, “I have to ask my parents.” Now that response would not hold in this day and age. No, siree!

Luckily, Anu’s unsuspecting parents gave their consent. And two young people in love began a lifelong relationship swaying to the tune of Morris Albert’s Feelings at the 1977 or ’78 Navy Ball in Mumbai, India. Why Feelings? Because that’s the song JJ used to repeatedly listen to while mooning over Anu at the St. Xavier’s hostel in the days before they got together. I told you we were idjits! But hey, we were lovable idjits:)

As for me? Well….Rajen had insisted that he and I should double date with JJ and Anu that night of destiny… to lend moral support. I tell you it’s one of my most precious memories. No, not the one of JJ and Anu sealing their relationship. The memory is of looking at them and then looking up at Rajen to share my delight. I was waltzing with him at that moment.

I tell you I got the shock of my life. Because what I saw was this body builder of a male unabashedly letting tears roll down his face at the sight of his best friend getting the woman of his dreams.

That’s how emotional we were. And more important, that’s exactly how idealistic we were about friendship, romance and life!

Here’s the song from You Tube. Listen, enjoy and relive the dreams, hopes and feelings of some youngsters over four decades ago. And then, if you are interested in knowing what happened next, wait for Chapter 2 of this BFF tale tomorrow!

 

#friendship #BFF

Post Script: To understand how old Hindi films influenced the ideals of several generations, do read A Life Mirrored in Old Hindi Film Songs! 

 


Featured Image Credit: From the Wala, Trada and Subramanian Family Photo Archives.

  • The song O Sajna was picturised on the actor Sadhana in the film Parakh. With lyrics by Shailendra, the song was composed by Salil Choudhary and sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Abhi na jao chod kar was picturised on Dev Anand and Sadhana in the film Hum Dono. Sung by Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle, the song was composed by Jaidev to the lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi. Roughly translated the songs were a lover’s eulogising of the romance of spring and an appeal to one’s lover not to leave respectively.

  • The song Lag ja gale ke phir ye haseen raat was picturised on actors Manoj Kumar and Sadhana in the film Woh Kaun Thi. The lyrics and melody were composed by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Madan Mohan respectively. Kaun aaya mere man ke dware was filmed on the actor Anoop Kumar in the film Dekh Kabira Roya. The lyrics credit goes to Rajinder Krishan and the composition credit to Madan Mohan. A rough translation of the songs is a lover inviting an embrace in the folds of a romantic night and a lover reflecting on the one who has entered his mind’s portal.

Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai was written by Shailendra. The tune was composed by S. D. Burman for a song picturised on Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in the film Guide. Jaye tho jaye kahan was composed by S. D. Burman for the film Taxi Driver. The lyrics were by Sahir Ludhianvi and the song was picturised on Dev Anand.

*Waheeda Rehman – a popular leading actor (female) in Bollywood films of yesteryear.

 

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