BFF – Boosting Friendships over Food

Let’s talk about friends. The days gone and days of today. The laughter that resounded, the craziness that spread, and the maturity of being a grownup that never seems to come.

There are so many ways to look at friendships. And yet, no one way is enough! Different moods and memories invoke a different understanding of what true friendship really entails. Without getting into the deeper meaning of it all, of the philosophy of bonds and connections I thought of keeping it simple. Whenever I think of friends, I do think about a whole bunch of things. One of them being – BFF – Best Foods Forever!

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Friendship Gifts

The circle of life

My fondest memories with my friends are forming a semi-circle around the ‘puchka’ man, aka pani puri wale bhaiyya. One of the most reasonable food snacks, these were served in small round leaf plates placed swiftly in our hands. The puchka man dipped the ball in the water and landed it with precision on our plates. He would do it one at a time for each of us. Not that he had much choice as we surrounded or rather trapped him enclosed within our circle. One by one the crunch bite from each would make its way to the other. Something like the game of Chinese whispers. Only here the decibel levels of chit chatter and laughter were far from whispering.

We spoke of the latest handsome guy on TV, of peculiarities of professors, or of how tectonic plates made no sense to our current lives. We talked loudly, shrill voices rising one over the other and giggles that hushed the horns of passing cars. After the five rounds of puchkas were over, we demanded a ‘sukha’. A last dry puchka which the poor bhaiyya was inclined to give us free of cost. After much teasing and cajoling, we would all get one before we sauntered towards our homes.

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Friendship Lasts Forever

The art of sharing

Buying a single glass of beverage and taking a sip each (not to be imagined in pandemic times!). Passing the cup around and waiting for our individual turns patiently as we cooled off in the underground metro station. The tangy smell of the potato dish aka aloo chaat, a standard outside so many schools still has me salivating at its thought. Or the little roadside stall that we all hounded for knick-knacks of sweet and sour packets.

Each of these invokes memories in equal measure, for my gut and heart. I want to somehow go back and guzzle on all these as much as I want to do it with my gang of friends. Take only the sip of the beverage and not the whole. Share the whiff of the potato with my rickshaw partner. Escape narrowing eyes as I buy unhealthy junk. Much the same way, as I would with my friends. Who praised me when I needed to hear it, slapped and clapped for me at the same time. They made my fears seem like petty jokes and made me think that I was as good as anyone else.

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Gift Set for Friends

What money cannot buy?

Some of the most memorable times with friends were when we all were broke. I mean no one ever had enough money to afford sitting in plush AC restaurants and enjoy the cool quiet conversations. Instead, we hunted and found the most local places. And made sure we divided the total bill to the last penny. Kolkata streets are filled with roadside stalls that sell some of the most sumptuous and delicious delicacies. From snacks to full lunches all are available in varying sizes and shapes. Noodles, fried rice and momo stalls were our favorites. Standing on pavements and enjoying the company of friends. Cheap food mixed with the taste of the dust and digested with sweat pouring down our faces are moments that are truly irreplaceable.

And by some miracle of nature, we sometimes did happen to have money (pocket money saved over years). We would indulge once in a blue moon to actually visit a decent hotel! I can almost vouch here that students on strict budgets should be taken to restaurants. It helps them understand and appreciate the finer nuances of mathematics.

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As we would scan the menu, there was always a mental calculator ticking in our brains, trying very hard to sum the total of all the dishes. And once the meals were over, the same calculators were at work again, trying this time to divide equally. Coins clattered over the tabletop that had its share of leftovers and empty plates. Yes, we were at work as some of the smarter friends did the math. The rest of us just happily conceded to whatever they said.

Organik Cotton Friendship day Tees

Let’s talk over candle-lights or clatter

And as I look back today, I have to admit that the conversations over lunch and snacks were so different. With blaring traffic around, dust, shuffling of feet we made ourselves heard about politics, relations, and life in general. We spoke about doing great things, about our dreams, about our nightmares and about changing our worlds and destiny.

Today, sometimes even in the quiet of grand restaurants and soft lights, with aromatic exotic cuisine around, the conversations around the table are not the same. Sometimes, we do miss the days of youth. The days when we were willing to open our mouths the widest to push the largest size puchka available. Not caring about passing people, because all that really mattered was to be a part of the richness and friendship. We cared little, ate loads and yet had appetite for more. Today we care way too much, eat close to nothing and have no appetite for more.

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Sling Bag for Friendship day

The present is a gift

So yes, old friends, college life and conversations over coffee, juice and snacks are hard to replace. But friends are not static, neither antiques. I, like many others, moved cities, grew up (alas!) and made new friends. New friends in a new city, in a new home.

And once again we came together over the common denominator called food! Whether it were those office lunches or dinner get-togethers, we spoke once again about our aspirations, goals which boiled down to probably our weekend plans.

And then as one by one responsibilities started crowning on our heads, we began to ‘settle’ in life. Now with homes, kids and chores, we welcomed the bright possibility of making yet again a new set of friends. From meeting every day, now the gatherings lessened. (Unless you are Kareena Kapoor and her gang of gals who I assume meet at the gym every day.)

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Bracelet for Friendship’s Day

The gang

In fact, our gang of girls try to meet once a month with immense difficulty. We really wish to meet up, but we also do so to eat, be served and unwind. By meeting over in turns at everyone’s houses we make sure that we prepare mouth-watering, back-breaking meals for each other. We search online for days ahead for new recipes and have sleepless nights praying that we get it right. We sweat, slog and spend to ensure that we have enough good food to help us gulp the gossip.

And then after a few years, when we just get tired of all things. We decide to be kind to ourselves and hang up our boots. Let down our hair and be thankful to Swiggy and the many other wonderful home cooks.

Yesterday or today, friends and friendships become closer, interesting and spicier just as the food we devour while maintaining them.

Whoever said that a way to a man’s heart is his stomach, kind of forgot to add something there. The way to opinions, imagination, creativity, laughter and jokes too is the stomach. All of this is what friendship entails and yet, so much more.

To all friends, with whom we share a meal, we also share our smiles, laughter, frustrations and a binge-watch list.

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Happy Friendship’s Day to you all!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi tas, I precisely remember how we went for an icecream after catching a movie, not realising how broke we were that we actually had to pay till our last penny and then walk back home.
    Another memory is definitely your madras cafe for South Indian food that we could afford with our limited sources.

  2. A walk down memory lane … Beautifully written ….love love loved it !!

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