When Friends Part Ways

When Friends Part Ways

We friends had decided to meet. I looked for Sunil, my friend as I entered the Udipi café. He was not there but Datta was at the corner table, he noticed me and waved. It was a Udipi café, and it was busy serving idli, dosa and coffee to customers. The walls were dirtying where the tables touched them. The waiters wore a dirty brown uniform.

“Sir?” the waiter enquired. That is the way they asked for food orders.

“We are waiting for someone to join us” I said, and the waiter went away.

“Isn’t Sunil joining us?” I asked Datta as he waved to someone. Sunil had entered the restaurant. He sat next to Datta.

“We are meeting after a long time” Sunil said. It was his 60th birthday and he had invited our friends for breakfast in the café.

“I was in US for two months” Datta said. “It has been seven years since I retired from my job and have decided to travel. And pursue photography.”

“Telling me? It has been fifteen years since my retirement.”

“What about Naresh?”

“He is not keeping well. He said he is not able to join us.”

I signalled the waiter to come. We placed our order for breakfast. This café served tasty food. Moreover, it served it quickly.

Datta did not speak much, he ate his idli and dosa quietly. There was a long silence.

“Naresh was hospitalised last week.”

“Oh! I did not know.”

“It has been a long time since we all met together” I said. I was referring to our four friends who could not join us for the breakfast.” Patel heads a big company now. He was promoted last year.”

“Akash has just bought a farmhouse. He spends his time there.”

“They are busy in their jobs.”

“It has been a long time since we all met” Datta repeated my line. “Why can’t they meet us once in a while?”

“True. Nobody is so busy that a meeting in the six months is not possible.”

Sunil did not speak or respond. He continued to eat his idli and dosa.

“Prakash rarely came for our meetings in the past too. He has his flourishing business.”

“That is right. But no one is so busy that we cannot meet for a long time.”

It was uncomfortable silence.

“I have been thinking that there is a time for people to stay in our lives. When the time is over, they tend to move out. People come in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime, as someone has said.”

“You can’t expect every friend to be with you all the time.”

“True, but it feels bad when friendship bond weakens.”

“Yes, we feel bad.”

“We must recognise that our utility to them is negligible, if not zero. Our friends have become acquaintances now. We no longer fit in their world.”

“Yet they will still come if we need them badly.”

“Yes. But where is the sharing of thoughts, views, discussion on politics – we have not had such a discussion for over a year.”

The waiter in dirty brown uniform brought coffee for us. It was piping hot. We sipped it carefully and slowly. That halted the discussion.

“Datta and I are seventy now. We have ceased to be relevant to our friends.”

“Maybe they think that our thoughts and ideas are outdated.”

“Unless there is a takeaway for them why will they continue their association with us? Our utility for them is over.”

“We should accept this reality. People may like us, but they will gradually move away from us. We are not in their scheme of things. We are not relevant for their purpose.”

“They will speak to us with respect as they did in the past.”

“Yes, we are not a part of their world. We must accept it. Our path gradually diverges from that of our young friends. We must accept it gracefully.”

“When we move to our eighties, there will be even fewer friends.”

“Do you remember the song – Kathin hai raahgujar, thodi door saath chalo?”

Long silence.

“You pay the bill; I will host the next breakfast. That gives us a reason to meet.”

We got up. And walked out of the café. But we were not sure if we will meet again soon.