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


Captaining the Friend ‘ship’

The atmosphere defines comfort.  Basking in the eveniing sun, Durga and Revathi, housewives in their mid-thirties, sit reclined in the sofa sipping a cup of coffee. Their dialogues have intermittent laughs, slight nudges and sudden loud claps. A small distance away, their toddlers follow the trail of a toy car into the kitchen.

“It has been more than 30 years,” sighed Durga. “And am still bearing with you,” she adds with a tinge of naughty smile. Revathi knows more than just to give a direct answer, and retorts, “So, what now? We break up?”  Both of them break into fits of laughter. It’s the same laughter which they had shared after pulling pranks at friends in school, bunking classes without their parent’s knowledge or after coming up with a funny name for their teachers.

The duo was an unlikely combination though. While Durga was more of the extrovert types, the brainchild behind any ruckus at school and gang leader of sorts, Revathi was on the subtle side, counting her academic cards and making sure her name was never blotted. “We were ‘outstanding’ in our own ways,” Durga says with a laugh.

“She used to nag me to talk with her while the teacher was inside the class,” says Revathi, widening her eyes to convey the magnitude of risk she had taken passing small scraps of paper, in reply to Durga’s silly questions. This happened during one of those instances when Durga was asked to stand outside the class for dedicating a famous Tamil song, yaro yarodi to one of their teachers, who had recently been engaged then. “Atrocious!” quips Revathi, while Durga blushes acknowledging her action. “What was I thinking!” she cups her face in her palm.

After their school days, they parted ways. The college indulged them with new friends. The calls became scarce. Meet-ups, none. Neither of their marriage invitations reached the other. But life is surprisingly kind at times. This time it came in Facebook avatar. “All it took is a friend request to reinvent the wheel of friendship,” says Durga, passionately recollecting the day when she tracked down Revathi’s profile.

Finding each other after years is exciting indeed, but imagine finding each other pregnant at the same time. “It was mind whacking!” admits Durga, who was in South Africa then. “The green status beside her name was the green signal for my day,” jests Revathi, recalling those days when they used to survive on food, water and online chats. “I knew even the exact count of kicks which she would have experienced,” giggles Durga. There have been days when Durga’s husband has sung lullaby for both of them to sleep, admits the duo.

Baby boys for both, the happy news had been conveyed. But when did they meet? “It was a Sunday morning, when my door bell rang,” recounts Revathi, now embracing Durga’s son. “It was Durga with her 5-month-old son! I swear I could have dropped dead with happiness,” she says almost tearing up.

It’s been two years since then and till date, Durga says, not a day goes without hearing her voice. The conversation then diverts to finding the best way to explain the mounting phone bills to their husbands. Their hushed tones and animated actions remind one, of the four-year-olds they were – sitting beside each other in a group photo that now stays framed in the hall.

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