The One With F.R.I.E.N.D.S
This is our third winter in Jaipur. Sometimes, I can’t quite believe, it has actually been so long. Slowly but surely, we have fallen in love with this quiet and unpretentious city with its lovely colors and hues.
Until recently, the one thing that irked me – other than the obsession with vegetarianism – about being here, was the lack of half decent company. The kind, with whom we could relax and hang out with. Once in a while there were those office parties, or catching up with the few fellow Bengalis we know during Pujo/Diwali. But they were not nearly enough. Of late, the few odd visits from friends outside the city, too, have stopped proceeding beyond plans, for some reason or the other.
But then, just like everything else – including our waist sizes – things started getting bigger (and better). We found people around whom we were comfortable, could have effortless conversations with, and above all who would not judge us. People with whom we could spend a Friday evening idly chatting over coffee or share a few beers with. It is not as ‘regular’ as I used to think!
Having spent most of my life in metros (or at least among people with similar backgrounds), I had always taken friendships – casual or close – for granted. Before moving to Jaipur, I had never really thought about finding good company so much. Because I always had it by default. Sometimes one or two, sometimes more in number. But always there. I didn’t have to make an effort to find it. Anyway…
Winters make good company even better. Sometime in mid-November, I found myself at Tapri Central – the most celebrated tea place in all of Jaipur – with another tea enthusiast. Overlooking Central Park, this lovely rooftop cafe, was the perfect place for a casual Sunday adda. The tangerine glow from the setting sun , the constant low cooing of a pigeon pacing up and down the nearby railing, the plant pots and steaming hot cups of tea and free-flowing conversation on a mildly wintry evening. How could it get any better!
A few weeks down the line, with the nights decidedly colder and events being advertised a dime a dozen on social media, the title ‘Stories and Strangers’ caught my eye. The description promised acoustics, bonfire, stories, meeting strangers (of course) and tandoori on a rooftop. It looked like the kind of thing we would enjoy. A message here, a call there, and things were arranged. I cannot remember having spent a better Friday after work.
When we reached the event venue, The Mellow, – a hostel cum cafe – a funny spectacle greeted us. The Aunty next door was having problems with people enjoying themselves. Apparently, she had thrown two flower pots – from her roof – because she couldn’t sleep! And this was around 8.30 PM. We thought people must have stopped making merry because of the fiasco. But we went up anyway and heard soft strums of the guitar and a melodious voice accompanying the chords. People sat in groups, nodding to the music or speaking among themselves. There was no way, that white-haired woman could have been ‘disturbed by the noise’ because there wasn’t any! Fire crackled merrily in the middle and more people joined the singing. We were a group of 4 and found our own corner, sipping on coffee and awaiting the tandoori chicken. The story-telling part was over before we arrived but a couple of people read out shayaris and ghazals they had written. The crowd mostly comprised college-goers, gathered around that bonfire, so happy, so aglow, so full of life!
An hour later, we headed to this wonderful bar we had been to, on the 9th floor, for a team party. This time, it was better. For the simple reason that it was neither an obligation nor a people-pleasing act. The view, the chill, a few drinks, and a pizza, and the blue flames of the sigree burning bright lifted our moods up, further.
I hope to make a few more friends, have many more such soirees, and probably even settle down in this city I never quite thought I would warm up to.