Jab we met on the net


March 25, 2012. That’s when he finally met her. Like a scene sliced out from Bollywood, they stood on either side of the railway platform in Pune, looking at each other. A friendship moulded by a million online chats over a span of five years, finally seemed real.

“I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t look at her face. I just kept smiling like a fool,” says Arun Sakthinarayanan (23), an IT employee from Chennai who deems his friendship with Fatma Tanveer(27), IT employee from Pune, to be a miracle. “I just became too busy associating each of our conversations with the expressions on her face,” he says, beaming.

It was during his second year in college, in 2008, that Arun first got a scrap from Fatma in Orkut. It was a comment enquiring about a Robotic project that he had posted online. From academic discussions, they say, the conversations became more personal with every session of chat.

“I never had to think twice before saying anything to him. He was a stranger then, and his judgement wouldn’t affect me, anyway!” says Fatma, who believes that it’s the distance which has worked the magic. For both of them, who were going through a rough patch in their life then, the conversations were a respite from their immediate surrounding world. But, how much can one trust a stranger?

Yes, online friendship is seen with a lot of speculation, Fatma agrees. However, she says that it’s the gradual growth which cemented the trust. “He respected my messages and never nagged me for my number,” she says. For the first one and a half years, neither the telephone numbers were exchanged, nor the photographs. There was only a slight hop from Orkut to Gchat, from Gchat to Facebook. “Today, both mine and his family know about our friendship. Sometimes, I find my brother chatting with him,” she adds.

Unlike with friends from within the city, misunderstandings cannot be solved with a treat or hug. So when there was a sudden retreat in 2011 from her side, Arun recalls suffering the pangs of loneliness. “No messages or calls. I was horrified if I had done anything wrong,” he says.

It took a long conversation to analyse the issue and sort it out. The incident taught them to break the filters and speak, as that was the only medium for them to share their emotions.

“Since then I have never kept any of my feelings bottled up. It’s better talking to him about it,” she confesses. Be it a new crush, ego clashes with parents or a bad day at work, Arun talks about it to Fatma, whom he considers his personal diary.

While Arun plans to leave to the US this month for higher studies, the ‘bestest buddies’ have come to accept online as their abode for friendship. “We started off like this. Though the distance does seem enormous, we are at our best online,” says Fatma. No farewell hug?

“Whenever you feel lonely, just look behind

For a friend whom distances don’t bind,” quotes Fatma, from one of her poems she wrote for him.

The article was previously published in The New Indian Express. Check out -http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1441638


A Gift to daddy’s liking


‘There was a cake, a candle and burnt curtains,’ recalls Nikithaa, 19-year-old student. Last year, on father’s day, she had tiptoed to her parent’s room at the stroke of twelve carrying a baked cheese cake topped with a candle. “I only remember saying ‘Happy’, before my dad sprang out of bed and started waving the curtains frantically, thinking the house was on fire,” she laughs.  Though her cake lay in a puddle alongside burnt curtains, the mere effort, she says, had her dad beaming.

Failed surprises, quickie plans and nearest showrooms have somehow become synonymous to father’s day blast. One gets to know the day’s arrival only when the top five super dads of the year list is out and the Facebook statuses get revised to exhibit ones love for dad. Then comes the rush to the nearest shop to pick from the restricted options – perfumes, wallets, ties and more ties. Finally, a tweet about how you can’t wait for the day.

While the hypocrite in us might have a ball, the pinch is felt when you see the gift left forlorn in a day or two. “My daughter was angry that I did not use her perfume. But, how can I use Tommy Girl?” says Kaushik, 54, embarrassed.

For Rohit George, IT employee, who plans to gift his dad a personalized version of ‘The Man’ with write ups and pictures of friends and family in the inside pages, ‘dads are like popsicles. They might be in different flavours, but have a heart which melts easily.’ Studying the flavor is the next tough job.

While moms can nag you to get that Kanchipuram silk with a palm sized border, dads are implicit in their wants. Look out for cues, candid statements and those casual references to know his flavour. ‘My dad always wanted me to be adventurous. So I planned out a treasure hunt leading to his watch’ says Amritha Ajithkumar. “It went on for an hour and then I realized, probably, I took his advice too literally,” she sighs.

Nostalgic dads, however, leave no room for doubts. They are the ones who have their kids’ greeting cards neatly stacked up in the cupboard and who would set their alarm an hour early just to be able to skype more. Buy them those mushy worded cards, the personalized mugs and shirts, because they understand sweetness. So when O S Nair, 93, says he still has the bag which his son gifted him with his first salary, you can guess the daddy in him.

Talk about taking the trend to a global level. Adithya Jayakumar, Phd student, donated money to Syrian refugees through World food program in his dad’s name for father’s day. “My dad was shocked. It’s not everyday that you get a Thank you note for a charity you haven’t made,” smiles Adithya.

If you still haven’t decided your dad’s flavour, read on – the ones with the George Clooney look deserve a nice massage package, cuff links or the men grooming products; If you have seen your dad doing the jumping jhapak anytime, know that he is the best company for a stand up comedy show in the city; If he critiques home made food, take him to the best cuisine; If he accompanies you for walks, a new pair of sneakers would make his day; and if you can’t stand his bathroom singing – you know what to do.  

P.S. Keep these away from the idads. Break that piggy, go stand in queue and get that fancy ipad. If that is tough, just go stand anyway.


The article was previously published in The New Indian Express – Check out http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/1212083