lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Toy boys ahoy!

Friend: somebody who knows all about you - and likes you just the same.

When we make friends in our childhood, there is always the Sword of Damocles of parental disapproval; of parents making sure our friends pass muster, that they belong to the same social circle or class. When we are young, these ties are limited by factors that are beyond a child's ability to control. Later, we prefer not to mix our family and friends, mostly.

I always knew my mother disapproved of my best friend in school. She had a traumatic time, what with her mother dying and her father marrying her aunt, the mother's sister. She called herself Cinderella and no adult could ever understand what she went through, what she shared with me. My mother only knew of school reports that she was a troublemaker, a handful.

We weren't like the groups who met over the weekend or during weekdays to do homework together. We lived in different social orbits. Most of my friends were in Mylapore, Luz and Mandavalli, whereas I lived in T Nagar. They were all from conservative families and my family was somewhat bohemian. Visiting each other and hanging out after school wasn't possible.

It was the same in college. Family life was still separate and my social life happened in canteens, movie theatres, Marina beach and college campus. Of course, my boyfriends came home to pick me up for movies or in my buddy's case for the gooseberry tree in our garden. But they didn't become part of the family. Other than polite greetings, they hardly spoke to my parents, nor my parents to them.

Adulthood and moving away from home bring a change. You don't have to justify your friendships. You don't need approval nor have to put up with disapproval. Your friends are yours, and that is that.

When you change cities, you leave behind your friends. There was no Internet and text messaging to keep in touch then. You may start off writing each week, but it tapers off, and gets reduced to cards, and even those dry up and stop after a while.

Marriage brings a different set of friends, those of your spouse's. You may get along with them, but you hardly know them as well as your spouse does, and your circles don't always jell.

Being a homebody mostly, I never made many friends. Oh, I had acquaintances aplenty, but not friends. Some of the friends I made at my gym would drop in once in a while, but I never socialised much.

But Internet changed all that. I have a lot of friends now. People I chat with, exchange mails with, have furious debates with. Where else but online can I find a kindred spirit in Hyderabad to discuss fourteenth century Telugu poetry or argue that Srinaadha's fondness for the phrase "gamikarmeekritanaikaneevrita" is pedantry not poetic brilliance? Where but online can I say, "Ole Massa done freed us slaves," and get a chuckle in reply? Where but on my blog can I talk away about crosswords to my heart's content?

Most of my friends online are so young, though. I suppose it is inevitable. The majority of Internet users are young, after all. I have only a couple of buddies older than me, and they are both male. That's another thing. I have met some wonderful women online, but most of my friends are male. That's inevitable, too.

They all tend to be savvier than I am, about computers, and they don't mind giving me lessons.

Praveen taught me how to tweak my template. Another taught me how to retrieve lost or misplaced documents. Yet another friend demystified the control key and taught me how to copy and paste using it. From them I slowly learnt to use my computer as more than a glorified typewriter.

Karthik Ram, (he likes a lil separation between) translated a song for me beautifully. Siva and I agree on environment issues and exercising sensibly. We both think flab is admission of personal sloppiness. The other Ram a k a Prophet of Doom croaks "the end is nigh" and posts lively comments on my blog, yes, but he also gives HTML tutorials.

Lahar can coax me to mail him crosswords, grids and clues. Arka can wheedle what I'd have thought unlikely, a literal translation, and I do mean a verbatim translation of a Tyaagaraja composition from me.

The thing about online friendships is that age isn't a barrier. Common interests, intelligence, English skills, and a sense of humour are all that are needed to make connections and for a friendship to flourish. But as these friendships grow, I find that I am socialising more now.

When an online buddy comes to Calcutta, or I go to his or her city, it's but natural that you want to meet up in real life. I find that my young friends are all as much fun in real life as they are online. I met the trio of lovely lady bloggers Urmi, Rimi, and Priya.

I met a buddy in Hyderabad, my pals came to Calcutta and I met them for a meal or coffee. Of course, I know about stalking and harassment; that it could turn unpleasant. But here is where my age is a great asset. All my buddies are just that. Buddies.

The last time I went to have coffee with a pal, my irreverent son remarked that Mom is off to meet her toy boy. I was scandalised. I looked it up. Yeah, that's Missus Em. When in doubt, look it up.

Good grief. Young and personable they certainly are, but they are just friends. Except for my toy boy, of course.



Blogger Malathy said...

I stumbled onto your blog when I was in pingoat.

Attracted by your Indian name, I visited your blog.

I like everything about your blog, your attitude about friendship.

Keep writing.
Best wishes.

8:45 am  
Blogger Priya said...

A post after my heart. My Mom disapproved of most of my friends, especially the boys,still does. But as N taught me, God's given you a pair of ears precisely for such purposes;) Friends have always been my lifeline and I prolly cherish them more because most of the good times have been spent with them in person. The internet has changed certain dynamics and I'm ever grateful to it because despite being so many thousands of miles apart, I can still share the same bonhomie with Urmi or my other friends as we do in person. As for my toyboys, let's take it up offline, shall we? ;)
Great post, Lali.

10:15 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Malathy- Thanks. Drop in again.

Priya- You're on. Offline tales of toys boys, yay!
Seriously, though, I seem to have come a full circle. Now I have my son disapproving my friends. :D

1:35 pm  
Blogger Speech is Golden said...

My parents almost never disapproved of my friends (and where they did, they turned out right). It is important to choose one's friends carefully, right?

Granted that internet has widened social circles but we don't want them too wide, do we? Every morning it takes me 30 mins to just check msgs; yahoo, gmail, rediff, orkut, blog.

so I kinda feel that while I have more friends now, they are not as close to me as I used to have before.

As for toy boys/toy girls, I am scared to message strangers given that there are a million out there waiting to 'do friendship'. wud rather have no new friends than be considered a perv.

2:34 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- You raise an interesting point. You are saying that our freindships may be widely spread now, but they are shallow.

You have a point there. Lemme think this through.

3:44 pm  
Anonymous Rajesh said...

Except for my toy boy, of course. The mind boggles. Do tell.

5:01 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

Srinaadha's was scholarship, not pedantry. Also, it was brilliant poetry. What have you got against him?

But haven't you heard, we may be saddled with our families, but thank goodness we can choose our friends?

5:30 pm  
Blogger hutumthumo said...

and sugar daddies?

4:48 am  
Blogger Nilu said...

I am starting to like this blog. Very much.

8:09 am  
Blogger Rimi said...

I'm, it would appear, guilty of personal sloppiness.

Moving on, however: you're age is a great asset, is it sweetheart? Ahem. Do we not remember a certain Secret Admirer in these waters from a while back? The aged memory, it falters? *arches eyebrows*

1:52 pm  
Blogger Urmea said...

We have all watched a few too many episodes of Sex and the City I see :) But I was pondering, is there a difference between a toy boy and a boy toy? I personally prefer how the second sounds!! But then I looked it up!

11:20 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- That's for me to know and for you to wonder.

Ash- I yield to none when it comes to admiring Sreenaadha, but 'gamikarmeekrita...' is contrived and convoluted, mangling of syntax. It is flaunting his scholarship.

Hutumthumo- What a monicker! A woman who qualifies for a toy boy is sadly too old to merit a sugar daddy.

Nilu- Really?

Rimi- Secret admirers don't count, dahling. It's ones that declare themselves that matter.

Urmi- What is Sex and the City? Boy toys are cars and gadgets, surely?

12:41 pm  
Anonymous priya venkateshan said...

what i find from my somewhat limited experience is that the net is not a place to actually make friends. but i gotta agree it's a great tool to keep in touch with your friends.
and yeah, i went thru the phase wehre my parents disapproved of some friends of mine. but at the end of the day, i realize they were damn right about disapproving of some people.
now that im in a hostel, parents have very little say in my choice of friends, but friends and home dont remain separate anymore, maybe coz i live with friends, and when parents come visiting, they end up staying with the whole bunch of us.

5:03 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- Yes, to keep in touch with family and friends, but also to make new friends. Let's agree to differ. You and Ram both think parental disapproval counts for something. That's nice.

12:48 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

Well ,well, well. Boys will be toys,eh?

11:04 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Raj- Now I am jealous. I should have thought of it. *grins*

5:57 pm  
Blogger Speech is Golden said...

Yes! Priya and me are so samarthu children...we always listen to what our parents say ;)

5:09 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Good as gold, both of you. ;)

9:15 am  

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