It all began with an email.
“Hello Sandeep, you probably don’t know me but I just joined Chennai Speakers Forum Toastmasters Club. I’ve been paired with you, we are co-editors and have to create a 75th meeting special newsletter. Btw, I’m ABC from so and so.”
I reverted “Hey, nice to hear from you. Can you write a few lines about yourself so that it breaks the ice. I’ll be back to Chennai next week and we can start working on it.“
After these first set of mails, a few more work related mails were exchanged and we met for the first time at Mast Kalandar (MK) Veg hotel in Ashok Nagar. We had a corner table and could see the traffic downstairs through the glass panel. It was quite a colorful restaurant decked in bright colors and our first meeting was a great ice-breaker. We took a few tissue papers and laid the foundation for newsletter design and split the work amongst us.
As the work progressed, we were joined by Goutham, then a budding Toastmaster taking baby steps and now a veteran TM studying at IIM-Lucknow. The three of us would return together in 17D bus. It helped that we 3 stayed pretty near each other. We would meet at restaurants and brainstorm over the design and contents of Newsletter. We kept coming up with new designs only to throw it away the next day. We planned a teaser and met in Cafe Coffee Day and shot one. We next met at my flat and shot another teaser but we never released it. Meeting together, talking together, eating together, learning together – it was sheer fun working on the newsletter. We finished the newletter just minutes before the deadline working whole night at Goutham’s home without a wink of sleep courtesy the tea by Goutham’s mom.
From emails, we moved to whatsapp and then to a whatsapp group titled – Fun Zoners. Goutham and I would tease her till our stomachs hurt of laughing and she being she, would always laugh and let us taunt her. That was when Goutham coined the nickname for her – “Bunny”. And soon she became “Brainy Bunny”, “Funny Bunny”, “Honey Bunny”, “Silly Bunny”, “Naughty Bunny”, “Fussy Bunny” and “Kiddy Combo Bunny” coz she would always eat the Kiddy Combo in MK.
As the bond with Bunny grew, there came a time when, if I addressed her by her original name, it would mean something is wrong, someone is angry or upset. Same way, she would always address me Sandy and if she addressed me as Sandeep, then something somewhere was definitely wrong!
I’m infamous for my horrible time-management (No wonder that I finished the newsletter just minutes before the deadline!). In fact, if I have to catch a 10 pm train, I make sure to reach at 10.59.55 just in time to push the engine of the train. And Bunny, poor Bunny, she was the biggest victim of my time-management even though I never intended to make her wait. Every single time I’ve met her, I’ve been late – sometimes the work held me up, at other times, I didn’t get bus. Bunny always waited and never complained. Dear Bunny, I know, no number of sorrys will compensate for all the times I’ve made you wait. I’m truly truly sorry!
With Bunny, my teasing took innovative turns every now and then. Once it went like this:
Me: Bunny, I don’t know what to say
B: Why Sandy, what happened?
Me: Something truly horrible has happened.
B: Tell me Sandy
Me: Well, my manager… he has read all our whatsapp chats 😐
B: What…??? How could you let this happen, Sandy?
B: This is really horrible
Me: I’m so sorry…
B (after few mins): Sandy, don’t worry. It’s alright. We have nothing so personal in our chats. But how in the world did he read it?
Me: I use company wi-fi and it goes through company server. Managers have rights to access the server. That’s where he saw all our chats.
B: What? This is serious privacy violation. I don’t believe you! You aren’t playing a trick on me?
Me: Ours is a security company and so it grants certain privileges if managers suspect. There was a lot of whatsapp traffic from my ip address (coz you and Goutham kept texting the whole of yesterday in group) and that might have made my manager investigate. If you don’t believe me and think of this as a joke, I’ve nothing more to say. Bye.
Me (thinking): Time to play the silent card. Let me not reply for few mins.
B: Sandy, please say something.
B: Sandy, Am sorry. Don’t be angry.
B: Ok sandy, I do do trust you and I do BELIEVE you. I am gonna curse your manager.
Me (thinking): The plot worked. Yay!!!
Over the next few days, poor Bunny repeatedly kept asking if my manager was prying. Finally, when we met and I revealed the truth to Bunny, I had the loudest laugh of my life and also got the harshest beating on my back!
Time flew. Bunny entered my life and filled it with colors of laughter, happiness and above all loads of fun.
More time flew. The funny thing was all the restaurants and cafes where we met began closing. The cream center in Ashok Nagar where we would hangout and play word-builder games, scrabble on tissues and notebooks over vanilla ice-creams got closed. F4 where we had yummy sandwiches got closed. The Madras coffee house where we had great talks closed. And lastly, MK closed too 😦
Bunny’s favorite god was Lord Hanuman. As such, we would often go to the beautiful Hanuman Temple located in Ashok Nagar where there’s a 12-foot statue of the God whose face radiates sublime divinity. And I gave her the nickname, Baal-Hanumanji 🙂
Bunny was hoping that I’d give her a farewell, but as it turned out, I left Chennai for Pune even before her and so she was the one giving me a farewell.
Friendship – I think it begins as a small bowl of water, slowly grows into a pond and finally metamorphoses into a flowing river if nourished well.
Dear Bunny, as you sit in the flight bidding adieu to Chennai in an hour with a zillion mix of emotions, I’m hoping that this post reminds you of all the beautiful times we have shared, the laughter, the fun, the joy, the prayers in temple, the last meeting at Hanuman Temple, the bus rides, the beautiful painted pots you gifted me…the river will flow endlessly!
You’ll be terribly missed, Bunny!