Stranger Friends

Ever wondered what a friend really means? I have always had few people whom I have called friends, maybe 4 or 5 friends in a total of two and a half decades! But as I grew up, the definition of friends evolved. The 4-5 people in my life whom I called friends qualified to be called as best friends which gave room for few more people to be called as friends :) So, this gave me a diplomatic excuse from not calling everyone as friend. Every classmate then became friend while few important personalities in my life enjoyed the privilege to be in my best friends list. No one cared by the way...Lol! But, yes, I have always had a small circle. Remember, I mentioned about introversion in my previous post? Friends from personal life and friends on virtual Facebook life were same or less. But, somehow, IIT and the time changed me. My circle of friends became bigger while the circle of best friends accommodated a few (2-3) more friends. It's the game of hierarchy actually, Stranger > Acquaintance > Friend > Best Friend...and on top it's Like A Second Family! hehehe

I have been pretty reserved always and I still am but in the past few years there has been a strange behaviour that I'm showing. I have become little more open! Don't know how and why. I am talking to strangers, smiling to unknown people on the way, on bus, metro, shops and what not! Shit! A totally opposite behaviour of what defines Chetan and this is not digestible at all.

Let's start with Neighbourhood, although for most of the year, I stayed at IIT hostel, the Mother Dairy vendor near my home in Dwarka become friendly enough that we would discuss serious topics of international politics apart from regular Hi-Hello. "Good Morning sir," with smile to each other had become regular.
The society's shopkeeper-Sharma uncle had become so friendly that he would not leave me before chatting about my college, career and again some serious debatable topics. The funny part is, few years back, we would not even say Namaste to each other!

In college, I'd regularly (almost everyday) go to the IIT Staff Canteen to buy Monaco biscuit & bread-pakoda for my sweet pet Chilly (she is the dog of my dept & I call her my girlfriend). My visits slowly made me and the shopkeeper smile at each other. Later, the smiles were exchanged along with "Hello Bhaiya!" And after sometime, we reached to the level of handshake :) So, handshake, hello Bhaiya and smile became part of my life...Even when I'd not buy anything, I'd simply go and shake hands with him. A totally weird Chetan I had converted into!

Then, my another regular visit was to the juice center in our college canteen. When it comes to food, I'm extremely specific. And anyone who knows me is aware of that. But I never thought, it would make me a stranger friend even with the vendors :)
"Plain Mausambi Juice: Without Sugar-Without Masala-Without Ice," I'd order everyday.
Perhaps no one was so specific about juices :p So, I'd go regularly to him and give my order. Somehow, smiling at unknown people had become part of my habit. Like previously, we started exchanging smiles, then it was "hello sir," and later it was a combination of all-smiles, hello sir and a handshake. By this time, I'd not order my juice anymore...I'd go there, smile, wish "hello sir" and shake hands while giving him token...And he would simply make juice of my specification without having me to specify :) And when he would be busy, he would tell his subordinate, "Sir ke liye Mausambi Juice-Without Sugar-Without Masala-Without Ice!" And you know what, he was not sarcastic at all. It was just a positive and friendly gesture.

During 4th semester, I started staying at home more than at hostel resulting in lesser visits to the shopkeeper and the juice vendor. And surprisingly, their gesture remained same even when we met after three months!
"Arre sir bahut dino baad?" juice vendor asked while shaking hands.
"Aur sir kaise ho? Mai aajkal hostel me nahi rehta zyada, college khatm ho gaya hai," I replied and handed him the token. Now, I was expecting him to remember my choice of juice...I didn't specify and waited for him to either take action or ask.
"Without Sugar-Masala-Ice?" He asked.
"Ji," I said smilingly. He also smiled back...
Then I went downstairs at Staff Canteen, of course to buy Monaco and Bread Pakoda for Chilly. I looked at the shopkeeper and smiled. He also replied back with a smile. I went to him and asked,
"Hello bhaiya :) kaise ho?" while handing him the money.
He smiled and asked me, "Aap kaise ho bhaiya, bahut dino baad?"
I was content. What did I do in the past two years? I thought. And I smiled again.
"Mai ghar shift ho gaya, padhai khatm ho gayi," I replied back.
I smiled and left for the studio.

And months have passed since then. Now, my place has changed to Infosys Bangalore, but I have not. There are few more stranger friends that have entered in my life. Somehow, some incidents happen with me that brings me out of the crowd :)
At the Gate 1, the guard would stand to check the IDs of employees and everyday I'd wear my ID inside my jacket. Everyday, he would stop me to ask for my ID and everyday, I'd take my ID out of my jacket before entering. This repeated for almost a week. My forgetfulness about ID brought me in his sight.
"Ssshh! Bhool Gaya!" I said to him one day while taking out ID myself without him having to ask. I smiled and he also smiled back. And this smile was the initiator.
Now everyday onward, I'd wear my ID over the jacket. I'd pass from his side, point to my ID and smile. And he would smile back :)
These days, I don't point to my ID, I simply smile and wish him, "Good Morning sir!"
He also smiles and replies, "Good Morning sir!"

Then, another incident used to happen everyday during the the first two weeks. My fingerprints were not properly mapped to my ID. Everyday, I'd try scanning my fingerprints to enter but in vain. So, for two weeks, the guard (another one) would make me pass through the side gate without the fingerprint scan. As it repeated, I started exchanging smiles with him. And later, "Good Morning sir!" with smile :) Now, my ID functions fine but I make sure to wish him, "Good Morning!" everyday with a smile.

There's another story of Infosys. As I mentioned above about I being specific to food. I'd go to Kamat Food Court everyday for lunch and order a "Ghee Roast" (one of the varieties of dosas available here and I never saw it in Delhi). This was the only option for me because it did not have onions.
As my turn came in the queue, I'd scan the entire menu on TV, and tell the lady at desk, "Ghee Roast!"
She would give the token and take money.
Everyday, I'd do the same. Glance at the menu when my turn came and order the same dish, "Ghee Roast!"
She would give the token and take money.
Sooner, I stopped looking at menu. I'd directly order, "Ghee Roast!" with a smile :) Yes, I had started smiling :p
She also would smile and hand over the token to me.
But what happened later surprised me. One day, I went to her to order. And even before I ordered, she asked, "Ghee Roast?" and smiled.
I started laughing instead of smiling. Lol, Damn! I was so specific that even in a crowd of thousands she now knows my order already. Haha
"Yes, Ghee Roast!" I said, still laughing :D
Now, it has become obvious enough that I'd go there, smile and order.
One day, I was just passing through the Kamat, I looked at her and by chance she was also looking at my side. She smiled first and in return, I bowed down a little (to show respect) and smiled back. Wow! People have started knowing me, I thought.

But list doesn't end here :) There's another incident that happened at the Steam Cart (one of the vendor shops at Food Court 1) of Infosys. In Food Court 1, Idli is one of the few items that I can have with ease, the only non onion item! :D
So if we would not go to Kamat, we would go to the FC1 (otherwise known as Golkonda). My buddies would everyday order something new and everyday I'd take the Idli.
The Steam Cart serves Idlis with a varieties of chutneys and throughout my life I have not eaten any chutney apart from the Coconut Chutney :( Plus, I hate trying out new things to eat.
So, I'd go to the vendor, order and tell him, "Only Sambhar and Nariyal Chutney!"
This also had become  regular. I had started smiling here as well.
One day, before I could say anything, the vendor said, "Only Sambhar and Nariyal Chutney!" smilingly.
"Hahaha!" I started laughing and said, "Yes!" I smiled again before I left.

The number of stranger friends in my life is increasing. And I know none of them by name. It's just the act of smile and good morning wishes that make us acquaintances. Man! Chetan has changed. He talks more, tries to be friendly more...But he is sometime not able to digest this behaviour of himself. Lol.

Anyway, I may not feel comfortable sometimes doing such acts but I feel content. I feel happy that I'm able to add one or two smiles in the above persons' life everyday.

PS- I learnt to acknowledge unknown people as 'Sir' from the movie 'Sirf Tum' in which Sanjay Kapoor acknowledges the auto driver - Jackie Shroff as 'Sir'. It gives them little respect :) And I might have started to smile little more but I'm still a serious kind of a person I have always been.

P PS- Lately, I have become open towards food with onions. For the past 26 years, I never ate onions but now I have started to ignore the little pieces. See! Another change in Chetan.


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