Freedom Of Friendship
Freedom Of Friendship5 mins 351 5 mins 351
Chembai gramam in Palakkad District came into annals of history also through its famous Carnatic music singer Vaidyanatha Iyer popularly known as Chembai or Bhagavathar or Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. There may be other incidents that I am not privy to. Acclaimed also amongst critics with his unique style and powerful voice, he has stood tallest amongst all majestic stalwarts of Carnatic Music. Born on Janmashtami Day, blessings of Lord Guruvayurappan was a part of his life. Within a distance of approximately 1 km from Chembai gramam is the Ayyappan temple through the inside paddy fields. The large pond situated outside the temple had a separate entrance for ladies and gents. A large banyan tree occupies the space opposite the left side of the entrance. The space towards the temple is good enough for children to play which was usual in the evenings.
The Banyan tree was commonplace for oldies to chit chat in the evenings. Of late the children playing around were less and mostly occupied the walls of the entrance towards the temple pond. All of them had one thing in common i.e. a mobile in hand and glued to it with their neck bent. From the distance of the banyan tree they seemed to be lifeless hanging objects rather than human beings and resembled the hanging clothes after the day’s use. Narayan, a retired person from PWD Department of the Central Government Infrastructure Ministry watched them from a distance and felt sad. After lighting the small earthen lamp below the banyan tree, he sat discussing this with his childhood friend Mustafa. Their friendship had been the 2nd best thing possibly after Chembai’s music geniuses. Nobody knew but why they lit the lamp before their evening gossip. One afternoon both were seen distributing a pamphlet to all the children outside Kottayi Government higher school. They followed it up by distributing the same at the bus stop as soon as any college bus stopped. It was for a magic show to be conducted by them under the banyan tree. The highlight which attracted everybody’s eyes was the free mutton biryani and an ice cream which would be distributed at the start of the show. Sreeju who studied in Nehru College and his friends thought that they could just take the pack of biryani and head off to the football ground.
The programme was scheduled at 12 noon on a sunny Sunday afternoon. A small pandal was erected by the foursome for the children. They expected a handful of children so had kept around 20 coupons for the food. By 11.30 am there were 40 children of all age group. Some collected the coupon and left. Few stood there loafing thinking that they shall leave once the show started. Sreeju and his 7 friends came at 12.05 noon. Girls studying in engineering is still a rarity. Mustafa had sent his daughter Shanaya to pursue her interest in Computer Science to Nehru College against family wishes. He understood the importance of education in life.
The broad smile in Sreeju’s face meant that Shanaya was close by. Their subtle glances meant no heroic pronouncement of love but only a poignant hint of it. No words are spoken but their eyes convey how much they loved each other. Arrival of Shanaya and her friends meant that Sreeju and his friends would never think of the football ground. Since the count of children had increased the food distribution had to be postponed. Mustafa announced that the food will be distributed after the programme. Though there was a sigh of despair around the pandal, the giggling of small children eagerly awaiting the magic show filled the air with hope.
Mustafa then announced that since the magic show team was yet to come, there would be a small story narration by his childhood friend Narayan. The children did not bother much. Sreeju and his friends were getting restless but Shanaya and her friends kept them at bay. Narayan asked to the gathering – Who is a friend? Since it was a crowd of all ages, the murmurs lead to names of each of their friend. The next question was - What is freedom? Sreeju shouted, “The one who guides you is a friend”. “Who is that for you?” retorted Narayan. He turned his back towards the crowd and said “You all are gadget slaves and gadgets are your friends. Freedom is state of not being enslaved or imprisoned. Right now, my dear children – you are slaves of gadgets”. Sreeju replied “No Uncle, it’s incorrect. We have friends”. Narayan replied “Yes, but you trust your google more than him, Isn’t it? Let me narrate you one incident and you decide for yourself. Narayan narrated “Till my last year of engineering I was clueless about my vision and goals. I used to blindly follow others. I had made some new friends, wealthy friends”.
They were fun-loving and used to bunk classes, go for movies and spend their tuition fee on their girlfriends. Being in their company affected me and I began doing the same. Result? I failed in my 7th semester. All my relatives abused me for not studying. My wealthy friends laughed and said, 'Let's celebrate your Ist failure'. They took me to an AC restaurant to have Biryani and we enjoyed the food. My childhood friend Mustafa was with me. We had met after a long gap of 7 years as his father was in the Indian Army and was transferred to several places. The bill was on our desk and it read ₹1200. Then my friends told me, 'Nari, you pay the bill today as it's your party.' I said I can't as I don't have the money. They made fun of me and paid the bill, Mustafa seemed unhappy. I still did not dawn on me. I asked him “What happened to you?” Mustafa said “Today you have friends to pay for your failure, hope they will be there in all your failures”. “That, ONE STATEMENT Changed my life…so friends - Do you need friends who turn you into failures or Friends who guide you and make you rise from failures. The choice is yours.” It wise to quote Rabindranath Tagore here – Depth of friendship does not depend on the length of acquaintance.