Friendship Day: Three pairs of friends share what makes their bond unusual
On Friendship Day, three pairs of friends share with Jane Borges what makes their bond unusual, and one of a kind
The bridge between the street and the highrise
Satish DeSa, former executive creative director and educator, 44, and Raaj alias Ovie Ghosh, labourer, 35
It was back in 2005, when Satish DeSa, who was making it big in the advertising world, yearned to do something more selfless and satisfying. That's how he landed at a shelter in Lonavla, and met Raaj. The youth had run away from Kolkata and landed up on the streets of Mumbai, where he got into drugs, and was then, being rehabilitated.
There was an instant connection between the two, and one that Raaj says worked on him like magic. And so, even as DeSa left for Mumbai, Raaj started hoarding R1 coins, to make that call to his new friend on the STD booth. "I was surrounded by so many good people at the shelter, but I can't till date explain what just listening to his voice, would do to me. It brought so much peace and happiness," recalls Raaj.
When Raaj came back to Mumbai, it was DeSa whom he turned to, for mentoring. "He is a very talented boy and innocent too. Raaj has lots of dreams - one of which is to sing in Bollywood. Unfortunately, lots of people took advantage of this dream of his," says DeSa, adding that his friend sings Bengali folk music beautifully. In the past, DeSa has made attempts at financially supporting him, and also tried to get him a job interview or two. "But, the world is not fair on people, living on the street," says DeSa. Raaj, however, has never believed in giving up on his dreams. He, currently, make ends meet by pushing loaded carts in the city.
One of the most moving moments in their friendship, says DeSa, was when Raaj called him out of the blue, saying he wanted to know the meaning of a dream he recently had. "I was so touched. Here was someone, who was sharing his dreams with me, and I didn't even know how to express my gratitude to him, for making me feel so special," says DeSa.
Their friendship, however, hit a rough patch, when Raaj took some money from him, and put it where he shouldn't have. "At that time, I felt so miserable. I thought I had cheated my elder brother and couldn't even look him in the eye." After three months of not talking, DeSa, who realised that their bond was too special to let go, reconnected with Raaj. "It was a misunderstanding. We are now, back to where we started, and it feels good. Truth be told, I cannot describe this bond we share. I am so blessed to have him in my life, and feel very protective of him. I don't want to ruin what we share, by giving it a label. I just know it's special, and that there is a lot of love between the two of us."
Across borders of religion
Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, 50, and Ransell D'Souza, scientist and researcher, 28
Ransell D'Souza had his fanboy moment 14 years ago, when he met Fr Nigel Barrett on the sports ground of St Anne's High School compound in Malad. D'Souza was in Std IX then, and Fr Barrett, who had previously represented India in hockey, was in-charge of sports at the school.
"We couldn't believe that we had such a talented sportsperson to mentor us. What was even better was that he was not the typical priest. In fact, I was most comfortable around him," says D'Souza. Fr Barrett, on the other hand, remembers D'Souza as being "very naughty". It was, however, his talent in football that immediately caught the priest's attention.
That he would play a crucial role in motivating D'Souza to further his sports career, even going the extra mile and convincing his parents that his education wouldn't be affected, meant that Fr Barrett would leave a lasting impression on the teen. So much so that seven years on, when D'Souza, who belongs to a devout Catholic family, declared that he was to sever his ties with the church and become an atheist, their relationship, which by then had grown into a beautiful friendship, remained impervious to the ideological clash. "I would never have wanted to infringe on his thought process," says Fr Barrett, adding that he never convinced him to think otherwise. "The reason why I left the church, was because I am a very strong supporter of gay rights, and our religion doesn't support it. But Fr Barrett has never chided me for that," says D'Souza. "Sometimes Ransell would tell me you are wasting yourself in this profession, but it was always in good jest, and there has always been mutual respect for each other's point of view. It has never come in the way of being able to talk and relate," adds Fr Barrett.
Today, despite moving to Kolkata, where he is doing his PhD, D'Souza has continued to stay in touch with Fr Barrett, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bombay. In fact, D'Souza describes his priest friend as his confidant and therapist, never once giving him "godly advice," which he says, would have otherwise put him off. "He even helped me during a rough patch, when I broke up with my girlfriend," he says.
There have been occasions when Fr Barrett has put up a post related to faith on his social media timeline, and D'Souza would immediately pick it up and share it, sometimes even indulging in Catholic-bashing. "But it hasn't caused a rift in our friendship," admits Fr Barrett.
The one time, Fr Barrett gets to take a dig at his atheist friend, is when Manchester United does badly in game. "It's payback," jokes Fr Barrett. "Since he decides to take on God with me, I can do it with his team." That's how they get even.
A bond born in the train
Preksha Malu, journalist, 26, and Zoya Thomas Lobo, 24, tarot card reader
On seeing a transgender person begging on a train, one is wont to blankly stare into the phone, or turn a blind eye. Back in 2015, Preksha Malu would have been one among us, had she not chanced upon Zoya Thomas Lobo, whom she had just seen a few hours before at the Pink Rally, in the same Churchgate-Borivli local as hers, again. "My work led me to interact with her. Otherwise, I would have never approached her," says Malu. Zoya, who was doing her usual rounds in the train, was amused when Malu reached out to her and asked if she had participated at the rally. They went on to speak about their careers, and Zoya remembers enjoying that conversation.
Soon after, they kept running into each other. "Both of us would acknowledge the other and sometimes, even speak about how our day had been. She always had so many questions to ask," recalls Malu. It wasn't long before, numbers were exchanged, and the duo became inseparable. "Preksha is everything to me - my guardian, sister and friend. Whenever I am depressed or unsure about a decision in my life, I just make that call to her. In fact, even if I do something wrong, she is the first person to know about it. She always gives me sound advice," says Zoya.
What Malu likes most about her friend is her "distinct laughter". "It stays with you. She also inspires me to be true to myself because she is so fiercely committed to her truth," says Malu.
Recalling a funny incident that took place three years ago, Malu says, "I was suffering from dengue and had just gotten better. I knew I wouldn't be seeing her as often. When I told her this, she said 'nazar lag gai hogi tujhe,' and claimed that she'd remove the evil eye. She asked me to meet her at the foot-over bridge of Vile Parle station. I agreed. When I arrived, she recited some mantras and threw the lemon that she had brought along. It went so far that it landed on a lady at the end of a platform. She was horrified and both of us were so embarrassed. But her love and care for me is so pure."
Zoya, who has been trying to find her footing beyond the rigours of begging, has dabbled in dancing, done odd jobs in the media and also pursued higher studies. "Each time, I have tried to do something different, she has encouraged me. I am now a tarot card reader, and again, I know, I have her full support," says Zoya.
Malu has also introduced Zoya to her friends, sisters and mum. "My mum is so fond of Zoya. She gifted her a beautiful saree on her birthday recently. It surprised me because I didn't think my mom would be so open to her."
The friends admit that they have nothing in common. "But our love, respect and camaraderie for each other stays. My friendship with her has brought a new perspective to my life and opened up a world of possibilities," says Malu.
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