The schoolmates

Most of the schoolmates I see after many years are faces or names that I do not remember. Yet they all had stories to share that sometimes would make you wonder how to respond. There was one I met in a bar while I was with another friend. This guy came to me and asked if I remembered him. I had no clue. “Are you not Joseph?”, he asked. I was surprised. Then he told me he was my schoolmate and how he remember me singing in the school and all that. I was dumbstruck that he remembered my name and recognized me after all these years. Then he told me the story of his life. Romancing and marrying a girl who was the daughter of a top police official and how his father-in-law got furious at him and made life difficult for him and he had to run to Gulf. “Now we are settled”, he said. “Her family has come to terms and we are visiting them now.” I felt happy for him though I didn’t recall who he was. And then while he was leaving, he said “Never had I imagined that I would see you in a bar”. I didn’t know what to say to that. I just smiled.

I met another old friend and I remembered this guy’s name, Suresh, who is an autorickshaw driver now. I was just walking out of the fireworks store when I spotted him. He asked about my family and I asked about him. “That went up as a disaster”, he said while he was still smiling at me. “I lost a lot of money and I don’t know where my life is headed”. In our society where divorce is still a taboo, I could see what he meant. But I was at loss of words. I did try to console a bit though but I was pitying myself.

What are the odds you remember a face that you last saw while you were nine years old or so? None I would say, if I was speaking for myself. So I was waiting for an autorickshaw at midnight on a Sunday and this autorickshaw drops by. I get in and after a short while he says my name. Surprises again! Not only my name, but he recalls many other names from that small lower primary school we all studied in until 4th. This came as a real surprise to me. “I have our annual group photo with me and I check on it from time to time. And you haven’t changed much that it was easy for me to recognize!”, he said with a big smile. I apologized to him that I didn’t remember anything about him. He said that he understands completely but those were some of the best years he had. He added much life to that night which otherwise would have been a sleepy, homesick trip to the railway station.

You know what, I believe in people and their inherent goodness even with so much evil around. Oh, so much.