“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

‘How’s Life?’

Today, Viswan, an old colleague of mine telephoned. We had worked together at Kochi in 1984. It was strangely an all-bachelor branch, except for the Manager. We used to call each other the intimate ‘eda, poda, entheda’ etc. Every Friday evening after work, the 6 or 7 of us would gather in the basement of our office and have a party. By turn, one of us would contribute Rs.100/- and the balance expenses would be shared by others. Our head peon who previously had been the cook of the bank’s then GM, would whip up fantastic salads. We usually bought a couple of bottles of rum. The old Manager would sit at the head of the table; he would be content with a double. After the usual banter, we would swing into song session. V was an excellent singer; during festival seasons, he would go with music troupes as a lead singer. His repertoire consisted of Malayalam and Tamil; and Yours Faithfully supplied the Hindi section. Now don’t you laugh, my voice may not be great, but I made it up with a lot of passion into my singing and I had all my Mukesh and Hemant Da and Talat; anyway, after a few drinks, nobody cared much about the finesse of one’s singing.

The session would last till midnight. If the spirits diminshed, it would be immediately replenished from the nearby shop; our spirits soared high with the sentimental, romantic songs and the cozy camaraderie of young men – of modest means we were, yet we reveled in our freedom.

V is retiring tomorrow. I had met him only a few times during the last 26 years since we parted company; he had done reasonably well in his career. V still sings professionally. Family is fine. Two boys, one got married a few months back. Wife is an officer in our Bank.

I wish him all the best. I urge him to take up his musical interest with vigour. I tell him now is the time to start the real life, doing things which you always wanted to do, but never did. After the initial burst of conversation, it kind of tapers down. Pauses, hum-mings, how’s the family – and then it comes – “so, how’s life?”

How’s life? How many times, to how many people have we asked this, how many times people have asked us the same! And we reply – ah, angine pokunnu, appidiye pokuthu, chalta hai yaar, OK not bad, a shrug, a smile, a shake of the head – how’s life?

‘How’s life, my friend? How I have been, how I am, is that what you want to know, or- do you really want to know? Would you really care to know it all, my joys my sorrows, my fortunes and misfortunes?  

V is quite likely to disappear from my horizon. Of course, even now we retain that fragrance of friendship we had shared for a few months in the past. But we are like two pieces of flotsam that flowed together long ago and now drifted apart. If you watch the flowing stream as it takes us along finally to disappear behind the bend and to be lost from sight forever, what else is there to do but to turn away and walk back into the woods?

It is Hartal today in Kerala. Endosulfan issue. Hardly any customers in the Bank. Quiet day. I listen to old Hindi movie songs. Pankaj Mullick sings – ‘ Jeevan naiya behti jaaye, ai ho ai ho….
********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 29.04.2011


  1. I wrote a lengthy comment from my phone yday. Blogspot rejected it with some failure.

    Here I am sitting outside - I am locked out of my home. I forgot to take my house keys this morning. Its raining, I am contemplating, went for a walk and bought few buns and boiled peanuts. Thought will befriend the street dogs; feed them the buns. I much the peanuts while reading the travel magazine I bought.

    Munnar, Kochi, Coorg, Tibet, Leh, Ladakh, Ethiopia, Antarctica....as I read. A friend calls in and during the course of conversation asks "Hows life?"

    Now would it make any difference to that person how my life is? :-)

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  3. Hi Bala sir ..I can percieve some unexpressed sense lonliness ..Often happens with long lost friends whom u expect to be there for u.I have a friend since age 10 who is there with me almost now after 2 decades and I feel so lucky to have her as my well wisher as well as a critic.

  4. Bindu has point there. It is just a superficial inquiry- need not see any tag attached.
    And in what way does it matter to the other, whether one rots or one thrives. It is a trivial question, with no substance and meaning. And taught to us by the fair skinned- "how are you",” how’s life” etc.
    Perhaps just a smile, a nod would suffice.

    And everybody has to take “the bend down the river” and be gone.
    And that is perhaps why a harmless acknowledgement, a nod or a smile would help navigate beyond the bend!

  5. I do mean it when i ask my friend ,'how's life ?'And i hope it is same on the other side too.

  6. The fondest memories are the earliest ones.
    I have always felt it is difficult to make good,lasting friendships after an age.

  7. The vagueness in that query owes to over usage it seems ! But then there are times when an old friend meets unexpectedly and with the glare in eyes,hold your hands tight and ask the same question.I have met with few which obviously left me in silence.I love to recollect the lines..
    "maayunna sandhyakal madangi varumo,paadi marayunna pakshikal madangi varumo...enkilum sandhyayude kayyile swarnanvum,painkilikkokkil kininja then thulliyum maarappilundu,ente maarappilundathum peri njan yaathra thudarunnu..(O.N.V)


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