If after reading Meeting and Un-meeting Familiar Strangers you contact even one person, please do let me know.
In November last year, while cleaning a box full of books, I came across a scrapbook. Remember the ones in which as kids, you and I wrote about our “pet name”, “dream job”, and of course, ” the first crush”, in hideous handwriting? I was browsing through names and people I have not spoken to in years. Every person, every memory, seems like it belongs to another life. Which is very ironic, because I always took pride in keeping my bonds with people intact. But those pages full of unkept, forgotten ties spoke another story.
A story, I conveniently chose to ignore.
But this realisation caught up with me again, two weeks ago. I tend to go for walks past 10 PM in my society because the weather suits my ever melancholic mood and an auntyless society is much more tolerable. But whenever I pass by my mother’s friends with a strenuous smile I say ‘hello’. It is just courteous to acknowledge someone’s presence, isn’t it? And I am very well aware of the fact, that it indeed is.
Yet, when a few nights ago I crossed paths with this person I spent hours with, as a kid, I did not even make an eye contact. I passed by like I did not know who she was. However, truth be told, in that moment every single time we passed our curfews, came rushing back to me. All those times we spent sitting outside her building eating Kurkure, with my younger brother hovering over like a bee, seemed just like yesterday.
We did not have a fallout, we did not have a meltdown, we did not get bored of each other’s company. It was a curious case of unconscious separation. You know what I mean? And just like that, behind a familiar face was an unfamiliar person.
Yet again, I chose to occupy my mind somewhere else, rather than thinking about this.
Yes, I know, this article has an absurd flow, but it is how we are, absurd fragments in a huge ass fragment called earth.
Last week, the NGO I work with, held its annual fund-raising event. This is one time of the year, apart from Navratri, that one realises how tiny Ahmedabad really is. There were many known and unknown faces amongst the crowd. Amidst all those were some faces I was overly familiar at one point in my life, in this case, my childhood. I am not who I was back in a school, rather I turned out to be a very different person today. Still, I did not go up to them and talk. Instead, I preferred not being noticed. People who were a part of my everyday life now seemed like complete strangers, and not the good kind. The kind that knew you, and not for things you do but did.
I really do not know why did it matter to me, or why should it matter to anyone. But it does. And this time, that feeling which passed into oblivion twice already, did not perish again. It finally started settling in, compelling me to think about and over it. Screaming about the absurdity of this internalised pattern.
It hit me hard like an elbow on a wall, that letting people go, and letting people fade away to the point where they are nothing but figments of a reality that ceases to exist anymore, are two very different things.
Oh and let me tell you, it was not one of the most wonderful revelations. Can you even fathom how many such familiar strangers exist in your life? Do you not want to know how are they doing, or how things would have been if they had not dissipated? I think, I do.
Ah, and this is—not about ex-lovers or long lost best friends—about normal people, who just existed and were involved in our being.
I am still reflecting upon this thought. Neither do I have answers, nor do I think I will for a very long time. So, I will leave you with a lot of questions. Along with this tiny confession, that having these familiar strangers, made me realise that we can be so incapable to of nurturing relationships. It is the worst realisation to have, because I, somehow have this belief, that no one deserves to be forgotten. Meanwhile, let us work on our fear and say that “Hello” before our entire life becomes an old dusty scrapbook.
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