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On The Other Side Of The Screen, Forever

19/10/2016 8:58 AM IST | Updated 25/10/2016 8:31 AM IST
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David Freund
Young woman calling and texting on a mobile telephone

My best friend texted me in the evening to say she had a surprise for me. But instead we talked about the ingredients I should use to make vegetarian French toasts. For the next five minutes, our WhatsApp conversation was all about choosing between milk or curd with the vegetables to make the toast more delicious. We didn't talk about the surprise and I went inside my kitchen to cook. Just five minutes after that, another friend called me. I saw his name on my cellphone screen and smiled before I answered. I expected a few minutes of casual chit-chat while I cut onions. But even this phone call centred on food. He wanted to know how to make a certain type of dal with green grams. I answered without a thought and he disconnected the call.

What struck me in that moment was how our friendship had changed. I became friends with most of my currently super-close-people when I was 18. Today I am about 10 years older, as are they of course. From discussing assignments, classmates, upcoming movies, crushes and arguments with our parents, we have reached a point where we talk about cooking and cleaning, marriages and promotions and the idea of settling down. What's beautiful about this thought is the realization that with us, our bond grew as well.

Despite being in different continents, the only thing that's really between us is a screen.

Ten years ago, we were all in India, living in the same small city, meeting almost every day for class. Now, I live in the United States and the others are spread across the globe in different cities, countries and continents. On most days when I talk to them, at separate points in the conversation, we shamelessly admit "we're old" and laugh. We don't go to bars and dance as much as we sit on our couches and talk, even though we are all miles apart. One of my friends in India usually Facetimes with me while he cooks his lunch early morning; I sit back after dinner at night and watch him add salt and pepper in his capsicum gravy. Another one in Singapore Skypes with me before he sleeps on Saturday nights while I swiftly brush my teeth and join him with my morning coffee.

I haven't met some of these friends in years, but I can still see a white hair popping out of someone's neat black 'do, I can still discern signs of freckles on their facial skin through the lens of technology. I can see the furniture in their new homes and the new clothes they got that weekend as they turn their phone or laptop cameras toward anything they want to show off. I can still fight with them over silly things and let them see my tears when I cry. Despite being in different continents, the only thing that's really between us is a screen.

In a few years, I'll see some of them become parents and their hair will gradually turn grey. There'll be wives and husbands, babies and poop and unseen developments in all of our lives. We'll grow older, stress out more, take pills as we speak, suffer from backaches and knee aches and yet we'll have each other. On the other side of the screen.

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