Dissatisfied with my desperate attempts at self improvement and home improvement all at once, the first week of the lockdown comes to a close with little to account for. Of course, the house is a little cleaner and I'm the richer, having finished two chapters of a book and at least one film (Throne of Blood) I had been wanting to watch for long. But, this period hasn't really provided the impetus for self-growth I hoped it would.
Call it socially phobic behaviour or laziness, but keeping in touch is something I've never been good at. But in this period of intense social distancing, the only form of personal growth that has taken place is due to a recurring "task" I've worked into my to-do list for these days after revisiting Kamal's Meghamalhar, starring Biju Menon and Samyuktha Varma. I have decided to get in touch with at least one old friend, every day. As I see it, breaking the ice at a time like this is easy. "Hey. How are you? I hope you're safe and at home." That's all it takes. Given the gravity of what's happening, there's no need for small talk or for the person on the other side to question your motivation for having sent a message on FB Messenger or an email to the @yahoo.com ID you hope is still active.
The result has been very satisfying. I was lucky enough to get back in touch with a friend I hadn't spoken to in 17 years. He was an old neighbour and he was one of two people who taught me how to ride a cycle. But the search wasn't easy. I was only familiar with his nickname (Sunny) and it took me close to half-a-dozen connections and a couple of phone calls to finally reach out to him. Speaking to him has given me more joy than almost everything else that has happened this past year, even though he made it a point to tell me that I still owed him a certain amount of money (Rs. 200, he says) from all those years ago.
But with people I've had a fallout with, the search hasn't been as optimistic. Apparently, it's not very difficult to find out if someone has blocked you or deleted you from their friends list. As upsetting as that might be, there's no need to stop trying. Meghamalhar is about the friendship and the eventual relationship that arises between two people in seemingly happy marriages. What makes the film so profoundly beautiful is how they later discover that they were childhood friends, sharing an important secret that's almost as old as they are. In such extraordinary times, there's no need to hold back or overthink. You're probably just 15 minutes away from speaking to that friend (or ex) who may have defined a decade for you. It's a lesson you learn early on while adulting; there are few things in life that are as meaningful as unexpected phone calls from long-lost friends that end with your realising the call itself was neither a wedding invite nor one asking you for a favour.