Friends and Family

by Sahadev Komaragiri

In 1993, when I was leaving for the U.S, I collected a list of all the phone numbers of all my brothers and sisters, their spouses and their children. I have 4 four brothers and 4 sisters, so you can imagine how big that list can be! Whenever there is a birthday of a brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nephew or niece, I dutifully called them and greeted them.

This is the seventh article in my series of articles on Living in India.

The calls initially were of a high volume and it dawned on me an year later that I am a poor grad student in the U.S who cannot really afford such calls. The calls dwindled and I made phone calls only to the brothers, sisters and their spouses. But that was it, it has to be an occasion like a birthday that I was able to call them and have a hearty talk. You see the distance grows. You will get updates once in a year from each of them and that too it is going to be something like “around the world in 60 seconds” and not something like “CBS 60 minutes”.

After coming back to India the distance stays if you still make those phone calls once in a year. Staying in touch is something that you grow unfamiliar with when you are away from friends and family for a long duration. I am now trying my best to get back in touch with the family members, relatives and friends. But it is tough. Occasional birthday parties, weddings and unannounced visits are certainly helping. I am slowly bridging the gap but there is still quite a distance to cover.

Over the year, I made contact with nearly a dozen high school friends and an equal number of friends from the neighborhood in which I grew up. I also met many of my college time friends and we occasionally meet and talk for hours. It is certainly elating to meet friends who you think were long lost. The names and faces that faded away from your memory are slowly taking back their space and this time along with their spouses and children. Some of my friends made it big in life and some are experiencing life in a whole new dimension. It is when I talk to them that I realize how much India has changed over the years when I was away. Materialism is here to stay in India, but the warmth of friendship and bonding that is so natural to the Indian way of life is not lost.

Over the year, I also met many of my uncles, aunts and had close conversations with my brothers, sisters and with my nephews, nieces and cousins. It is apparent that I am still a stranger to many of them. We occasionally go out to movies and meet at various gatherings, obviously more often now than it was during our occasional trips to India when I was away. I am working on getting to know them and their aspirations. Some of them acquired wings and flew to their own nests in the U.K, Australia and the U.S. and I meet them whenever they come home to India. There are many of my close relatives, daughters, sons and grandchildren of my paternal and maternal uncles, whom I met for the first time. It is a joy to know them and their talents. Some of them turned out to be good singers, good sportsmen and good Samaritans.

Perhaps, getting back to roots means much more than what we imagine!

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