A VINTAGE FRIENDSHIP FROM 1950s ....
by Mr. Durgesh Kumar Srsivastava - New Delhi, India
( Janakpuri New Delhi, India)
The incident that I narrate here happened in the early 1950s. I was about 10 years of age at the time.
I lived in Daraganj, a densely populated locality on the banks of the Ganga river in Allahabad City of North Central India. Our family knew almost every one in Daraganj and almost everyone in Daraganj knew our family. We all spoke the same language (Hindi), ate similar kind of vegetarian food, wore almost similar dresses, shared the same religion (Hinduism) and had the same culture. Children bonded in life long friendships.
I had many friends. We studied in the same school (Radha Raman Intermediate College, Daraganj, Allahabad), played cricket, football, Gilli-Danda, Pakadam-Pakdaai, Chor Sipahi etc. together and generally had a good time. When the summer months came, we would all go together to river Ganga for a bath and some splashings which thought was swimming.
One of my many friends was Lalla, who was a little older than me, although he studied in a class that was one step lower than mine. We spent a lot of time together. When I would have nothing to do, I would just go to his father's sweet shop, call him out and we will be off for play or just plain loitering. He also did likewise.
Our fathers were also close friends. His father was a sweet maker and had come into contact with my father in connection with some legal matter many years ago. My father was a lawyer. Both men were about 50 at that time. They had been neighbours and good friends for many years.
One day, in the evening my friend's father came to meet my father. They sat in my father's consultation room and were discussing some thing. I and Lalla were on the roof top of my house flying kites.
Suddenly, we heard loud shouting from my father's room below. The discussion between the two men had suddenly hotted up. As children, we did not understand anything but we both were full of fear. Soon the loud shouting turned into a full fledged verbal quarrel. We children fell silent. Lalla prepared to leave without a word.
As we were coming down the stairs, we could see my father holding Lalla's father by his shirt collar and pushing him out of his room. He almost kicked him out of the house, shouting at the same time. Lalla's father was weeping loudly and saying that the friendship of years had been ruined by this insulting incident.
As he stepped out, my father said loudly that he would never again see the face of his friend who was now worse than an enemy. I and Lalla were dumb-founded by this unhappy turn of events. Lalla quietly slipped away and went home weeping. I was sobbing uncontrollably, did not eat my food and went to sleep.
Very early the next morning my father called out my name and asked me to go and find out if Lalla's father was sitting in his shop which was very close to our house.
Before I could come back home to tell my father that he was indeed sitting on the platform of his shop, my father grabbed me by the arm and took me towards the shop of Lalla's father. My father was carrying a ruler aggressively in his hand. My face went white with fear. I knew that my father was going to mete out more physical punishment to Lalla's father. I started trembling and weeping. My father continued to hold me by the hand.
When we reached Lalla's father's shop, my father let go of my hand, walked purposely towards Lalla's father who was sitting on the shop platform at a height of about three feet and before Lalla's father could react, my father put his forehead on the feet of Lalla's father.
Startled, Lalla's father jumped up, climbed down from the platform and fell at the feet of his friend, my father, weeping uncontrollably and saying again and again that my father had done the right thing last evening in insulting and beating him. He grabbed the hand of my father and made him hit his back with the ruler again and again asking him to beat him more.
The friends started weeping loudly and publicly, then they embraced each other, kissed each other's cheeks and finally started laughing out aloud together much to the amusement of the large crowd that had collected to watch this unusual drama.
Lalla's father immediately asked his servant to bring Barfi (a popular Indian sweet made from cow's milk, sugar and dry fruits) and started distributing the sweets to all and sundry. Both friends fed Barfi into each other's mouth and embraced again and again. The quarrel of the last evening had been completely forgotten.
My father died in 1971. Lalla's father, who was younger to my father, wept as if he had lost a real elder brother. He made all the arrangements for the ritual feast called Terahvin which has to be given to relatives and friends after the death of the family patriarch. Lalla's father lived for another 10 years or so. He too died peacefully, sitting in his shop.
I and Lalla maintained our friendship all along. Lalla had become a lawyer with the inspiration of my father. He died in 2008.
Our families continue to be in touch through letters, phone calls and occasional mutual visits. This friendship must have continued for more than 60 years.
I wish all friendships were as strong and forgiving as the friendship between the two senior men of our two families.
Mr. Durgesh Kumar Srivastava JiBhaiya@gmail.com New Delhi, 19.9.10
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