Majority of my friends in my school whatsapp group have known each other since their first day at school. Some stayed on till the end of the school days, some left in between and some joined in between. I joined towards the end and so have only known them for a very short time. Strictly speaking I am an outsider. Yet they consider me as one of their own and treat me like a long lost friend.
I sometimes sit back and watch the little squabbles and the depth of the friendship between my friends and wonder how I would behave if I came across my primary school friends. What would my reaction be? Will we reconnect where we left off the last time we met or will we behave like strangers? Well I had a glimpse of that today.
There were 4 malayalee families in our little community in Bukit Ibam. One couple did not have any children. Dawood uncle and auntie lived not far from us. I still clearly remember the day they looked after us. I am not sure what the reason was, whether my parents needed the help or whether it was purely because auntie wanted our company. Asha and I took full advantage of their affection that day. Despite not having any other children for company that day, we had one of the best days of our lives. Once they settled in India they had a child later in life, but uncle died soon after. When my dad died last year their daughter came to visit us one evening. A young lady with a family of her own. I’m not sure if I told her that we were her parents’ children before they had her.
The other families were Ruby and her parents, she was our closest neighbour and then Prasad, Shanthini, Sheela and Leela, who also lived close by. Sheela and Leela were older to me and they didn’t stay there for long.
The school in Bukit Ibam, could only cater for children up to the age of 10. The two of them were sent to India to continue with their education. The rest of the children were all younger to me. Shanthini was a year younger and for the first time in my life I was in charge of a group of children who were younger than me. I should have led by example, but was too much of a tomboy to take on any such responsibilities.
Shanthini and Prasad were both very mild mannered and well behaved children and I don’t remember picking any fights with the two of them, unlike Ruby, who we used to fight with all the time.
Today Asha sent me a photo asking me to identify this long lost friend and his mum. It was not difficult to identify Auntie. Although she looks older and slimmer than her younger days, her facial features haven’t changed. Otherwise I wouldn’t have recognised Prasad at all. The last time I saw them was when they were in Palaghat and during Sheela’s wedding in the early 1980s. Asha somehow managed to track them down in Trissur and it was really nice to see their photos after all these years. It was nice to see my mum and auntie together after all these years as well. Uncle and auntie used to go shopping every year in Singapore and my mum would check out all the children’s dresses and stitch us identical ones.
Regarding my earlier question, if I had the chance whether I would take off from where we left off, if we ever met? I don’t know. It’s been a very long time. The affection is still there, but beyond that I’m struggling to remember anything more.
You might be thinking, well they were not actually your classmates. My best friend in those days was a Chinese girl called Peng. She lived in the next house to us, but I can only remember visiting her once in her house and my memory of her is pretty sketchy. My spare times were all spent in the company of the five of us, Ruby, Shanthini, Prasad, my sister and I. Occasionally Prabha and Prameela joined us, but they were much more younger than us.