A friend indeed

Friendship day wishes, orkut scraps, calls from friends, touching messages – yet another day I paused and looked back at life and what an influence friends have been, how some of them kept contact and ties over time and tide, and how my friendships have matured with time and I still keep making new friends.

Probably the first imprint in my mind of friendship is of a thin small built man with prematurely graying hair, who used to drop in at my home most frequently on working day evenings. Balancing a burning cigarette between his lips, he used to voice to Amma, “Mani…Chaaya…”. This is my oldest memory of my dad’s closest friend. From then on, my eyes and mind got used to this man, whom I called Uncle initially, but later from somewhere came to be addressed with a homely “Mondasammavan”.

Amma traces our association with Mondasammavan when he made way into the humble rented house, my parents first home together in Chennai. She still remembers putting out a small paaya (mat) for him. From then on, she remembers him as a constant companion of Achan, and as the best admirer of her own cooking skills.

Every time I used to call Achan’s office line when I missed my bus or for any emergency, my fingers moved to Mondasammavan’s extension as soon as I could not connect the line to Achan’s. A young Reshmi was advised not to go if a stranger offers a chocolate and tells “I’ll take you to Achan/Amma”. “Go only if Mondasammavan calls you other than me or Amma”, Achan used to tell me.

I grew up to learn that I could rely on this person like Achan. I could call him anytime for any help. His family became frequenters at my home during weekends and holidays. We started recognizing each other’s relatives, building strong ties between our families, and being there for each other. I can never forget the zeal with which he used to bring up vacation trip plans and the way he used to side with Amma in all her temple visit endeavors like the famous Mookambika Temple visit which surfaced every year in pretext of Reshmi going a grade higher in studies.

With a mechanical engineering graduate degree, this man showed me what engineering skill truly meant. I still remember the enthusiasm that lit up his eyes when I got an engineering admission. He energetically took up the task of making me understand the concepts of Basic Mechanical Engineering in first year. I still remember that crammed workshop where he proudly operated the lathe and I stood gaping with a wonderstruck expression. His home was a mini-workshop where all his colleagues’ vehicles received a dose of his engineering skill. Our car used to be transformed to the best Maruti on earth with his touch, and we used settle back comfortably into our seats as he taught Achan the intricacies of managing Maruti steering with a single finger.

I still remember how he stood by Achan all through Ammoomma’s long treatment days and later when Ammoomma passed away. I still remember how he used to be the surety of all loans taken by my parents. I still remember how overjoyed he used be in Achan’s professional success. I still remember the triumph in his voice when he dictated my 12th marks on phone. I still remember the warmth and love he showered upon all our relations. I still remember the lesson of friendship and commitment he taught through the example of his life.

I had just wished for small small things like seeing the combined joy on Mondasammavan’s and Achan’s face when I got a job, the plans they would have made take me to Hyderabad to join my company, getting the same pattern shirt for both of them when I get my first salary, getting Mondasammavan's expert advice when I would buy a vehicle on my own and wanting to see Achan and Mondasammavan hand in hand for the preparation of the marriage of their daughters. But HE probably had some other plans for this engineer in heaven. And at times when tears fill my eyes as I think back, I feel I cannot thank HIM enough for sharing this wonderful person with our family, and most importantly for teaching through his life what friendship really means.