In the first 13 years of my life I was never very far from Shuvo. His house was a 10-minute walk from mine. As soon as I’d get back from school, I’d eat, change and go over to his house.
Our mothers were good friends too and would spend hours chatting while we played. Birthdays, anniversaries, a trip to Goa, another to Haridwar.. we were inseparable.
Once when there was a death in the family and my parents had to leave town, I stayed with him. Our families were entwined.. in joy and sorrow. We both had our first crush on the same girl. Of course, this led to chaos.. fights and then patch-ups. Those were the wonder years of my life!
Then we moved to a new place, far away.. and our friendship was never the same. He would come over sometimes, to spend the weekend with me. But the comfort of having him living next door disappeared.
After a year, he moved to Kolkata. Since there were no mobile phones, Facebook or even cheap STD calls then, we drifted away. We made new friends and grew up.. and 25 years passed. Shuvo became just a childhood memory!
Then one evening, a few years ago, I got a call. I heard the voice at the other end and in my heart knew instantly that it was Shuvo.He had just heard the Parineeta score and was checking if the music director was the same Shantanu Moitra he had known. We chatted for a long time.. memories flooded in.
He had settled in the U S and was a marine engineer with two children. My music had connected us once again. Since technology was friendlier now, we kept in touch through sms and emails.
He shifted back to Kolkata a couple of years ago. I was dying to spend some time, alone, with him. Last week, I was on my way to Arunachal Pradesh to attend a harvest festival. It was at the back of beyond, far away from civilisation and a perfect place for a reunion. I proposed the idea to him. He instantly agreed to join me there.
Two friends met again. As we were crossing the Brahmaputra on a wooden boat, I realised there is never enough time to do everything you want. But there is enough time to do that one important thing. Meeting Shuvo again was one of them.
Yesterday once more
We talked and talked over the next four days as if trying to make up for the 25 years that had flashed past. We called all our friends.. Mala, Diptesh and Bubul, wishing they were there too. We called our parents and reminisced. We laughed at silly things.
The trip was not easy. Arunachal Pradesh is a huge state and travelling would take up to 10 hours at a time through roads that could barely be called roads. Yet the hardships barely registered.
The festival was great. We had rice beer, river fish steamed in Bamboo and some strange vegetable which is supposed to be good for your libido, which I insisted Shuvo eat in plenty.
Then we played Holi with the Apathini tribe with rice flakes. When a tribal girl smeared Shuvo with rice paste he squealed like he used to when we put gulaal on his face as kids.
At the end of the trip we sat sipping tea in the tranquility of a tea estate in Dibrugarh. We agreed that social networking sites can put long lost friends in touch but to feel real friendship you have to meet.