Of my two years in boarding school, he was in one. In the beginning, I would’ve described him as a pompous, narcissistic brat. And he was. An NRI from a well-to-do family with a high-end fancy DSLR camera. He probably had costly branded clothes as well, but since we were always in one or the other of our three school uniforms, clothes didn’t really matter.
I couldn’t pinpoint a certain moment where we became friends, nor could I explain how or why we became friends. I have random flashes of him strutting around with his camera in hand, trying to flirt with random (or all) girls. I remember him walking into the empty class I sat in during my free lectures. I was pretending to study while actually reading Percy Jackson on my laptop. It began with him asking me what I was doing, catching me in my pretence and then sitting next to me to do his own reading. Eventually, we started spending all our free periods together in that empty classroom. I would sit on the bench with my laptop and he would sit on the floor beside me. We would do our respective work. An occasional doubt would be asked and answered. A random fact or quote would be shared. Calculators and pens would be shared. And if he felt bored, he would find a way to annoy me. Typically, he would keep pressing the button of my laptop’s CD drives so it would pop out and I would be forced to push it back in. Only for him to do it all over again.
In the middle of calculus and Shakespeare, we swapped life stories. I learnt about the life he used to live, the life he wanted to live and the life he would probably end up living. I learned about the mistakes he had made and the mistakes he kept repeating.
I guess it’s something to do with boarding schools. Or maybe our particular one. It broke you. It brought you down. And once there was nothing left, it created a brand new you. I didn’t want to be a brand new me. Neither did he. We just wanted to be better versions of ourselves. We weren’t broken pots that needed to be remade. We were decent pots who just wanted to be painted well. And in that fight of ours with the world we were living in, we found a friendship that fuelled our resilience.
Then I left. I graduated but he still had one more year to go. When I visited school a few months later for our annual week celebrations, we spent all of two days together. It was like I’d never gone away, except that now I was allowed to visit the boy’s dorm because I was an alumnus. We spent the entire time catching up and walking around campus reliving memories. When he graduated the year after me, he came to study in Pune. And in the one year that he lived there, he visited Thane twice. Once, just to hang out, check out my house, eat my food and meet my family. The other time he came all the way over from Pune for a day and a night even though I couldn’t host him – all because that day was debatably one of the important days in my entire life. And the best or worst part of it is that he didn’t think it was a big deal. For him, he wouldn’t have done anything differently. It was an important day in my life, and I needed a friendly face who wouldn’t judge me no matter how I performed. I needed him, and he was there. No questions asked.
And that’s what makes him one of the most beautiful people I know. He’s not without faults. But he is unquestionably the best friend one could ever have. He’s not without mistakes. But he learns from them. He is my harshest critic. But he doesn’t judge me for the things I do. He always forgets to message. But I know that if I needed him, he would cross the oceans to be with me. And one day, I hope I can do the same for him.