Friends, we inherited a very large 10 room house from my parents, a place we have called home for more than half a century. I distinctly remember that when we were children the house never appeared to be that big. Even two decades back my parents, me, my wife, my brother, my sister and our two children would occupy every nook and corner and our playthings still overflowed out into the garden, and on the roof and all around to the utter displeasure of my mother. The window panes were broken almost every month by the cricket ball and the mirror on the dressing table was changed every year because of our indoor football prowess. The expensive porcelain flower vases were always in locked show cases but were still not safe and the attempt at owning an aquarium once was an absolute disaster because of our WMDs!
Evenings were meant for outdoor sports with neighbors and friends and staying indoors was unthinkable. Relatives and friends would be visiting all the year round. My parents were local guardians to who so ever from the hinterland was studying in Lucknow, and they too would come and spend their weekends at our place. Saturday evenings had no mess services in our hostel and my friends from Colvin and from medical college – seniors, juniors and batch mates would visit our home without a hint of concern. Even if it was well past midnight a friend, a relative or a guest was always welcomed and I still don’t know how, but there was always food for them in the kitchen or the refrigerator!
Today however ours is a very neat and clean house with things displayed in proper place and there is order and tidiness all around. The porcelain and the bone china are so safe that they have become antiques! But, had they been alive, I doubt whether my parents would have loved the cleanliness, the order and the deathly calm that prevails today. My siblings and my elder son have left the nest for good and are occasional visitors. But my biggest grouse is with my friends. I was talking to one of my batch mates and after Diwali he lamented that though there were innumerable messages and posts on What’s App and Facebook, except a couple of neighbors no one bothered to visit his home and convey to him the Diwali greetings in person. It struck me that I was in the same boat, just two friends in two days, and that’s all! Some friends couriered sweets and some sent their drivers or clinic assistants with gifts, but only two friends visited us in person. My thumb muscles have gone into a spasm answering to all the messages, that kept on pouring in and deluging my phone but their senders were nowhere to be seen.
Our home is no more what it used to be. To tell you the fact, if hospital is our work station the home has become a sleep station. We work all day and when we are tired we come home to rest and relax. It has become an R&R base from where you launch yourself to work every day. The home now belongs to the owners only and exclusively and it is sadly losing all contact with the society. Staying in flats we often do not know our neighbors and even if we do it is to the extent of Hi and Hello.
I quite agree with my Diwali friend when he says that soon a time will come when homes will not have lounge rooms but simply a space for two work-stations one each for the gentleman and the lady of the house, equipped with a large screen computer, mike, earphones and software galore for communication and infotainment! Even today we live in 3 rooms and clean the remaining seven, so why should houses of tomorrow have all these rooms and for whom? Relatives visiting Lucknow choose the comfort and privacy of a five star hotel and only come to visit us formally for a dinner perhaps. Now marriages are held in marriage halls, birthday parties are held in Mac Donald and Pizza Hut, the sick and the elderly are nursed in nursing homes and even when someone dies, people choose to go to the cremation or burial site rather than their home! With the prevalence of ATM and Debit cards, forget about guests, even thieves and robbers do not bother to pay you a visit!
The virtual friendship in the virtual world has undoubtedly brought many of us, staying worlds apart, quite unexpectedly together after a very long time, but this has come with a heavy price. Those of us who are staying close by and who would meet almost daily when we were children and at least weekly when we were in college, and at least once a month when we started our professional career, now do not meet for months and even years! And no, we are not busy; we are just managing our time poorly and drifting apart. Friends are best stress busters and a home that has not seen friends howling, screaming and celebrating together is almost a haunted house.
So friends, pick up your car, and despite the fact that you are tired, the roads are choked, it is pouring outdoors, give your friend a call and tell him you are coming over to his place to wish him Happy Diwali! For that is what friends are supposed to do….they care two hoots about invading some friend’s privacy. In friendship the only privacy that is allowed is in the depth of the grave.