It’s been a few months since this happened. I was in the Metro, Indiranagar station had passed, and I’d started moving towards the favoured exit that’d get me ahead of the crowds and quickly to the exit. As I hung around that exit, waiting for SVR so that I could move into pole position for the last stop, I saw someone who looked familiar. I was more or less convinced who that was, a classmate from PU. But I just could not go up and talk to him. Instead I tried noting things to ascertain if that was really him. His bag was of a premier institute in Bangalore, his ID card was also of a well-known company. Thankfully, he hadn’t noticed me, or even if he had, was probably wondering along the same lines as me. Running into someone after just a few years can raise enough doubts, and this was a guy I was seeing after more than a decade!
I got to work, and promptly checked him out on LinkedIn, as am no longer on FB. He was on my 1st network, the institute and the company matched. It was him. He was a very good friend in PU, but I had just held back. More importantly, this wasn’t the first time I was doing this. When ORRCA gave me a month’s free pass to try that service, the first thing I saw was a classmate from school who used to live within shouting distance of my house in Chamarajpet. We were pretty close to the point where he used to come down to play cricket and hand tennis during weekends and summer holidays. It was a fairly close friendship in school. Our paths had diverged right after school, him choosing a diploma, and me taking the usual PU route. I had added him on Orkut (those days!) and knew that he lived closed to my current house! And thus we were on the same ORRCA bus. I sat right behind him in the bus. He got off one stop before mine. I went through this charade the whole month that the ORRCA pass was valid for, and promptly ditched it for the normal Volvo pass. I have since realised that having a fixed entry and exit time, which is the norm with such gentrified transport services, doesn’t work so well for me. Public transport, especially the metro gives me the freedom to pick and choose my timing, to a much larger extent that is. I still fret over specific buses and train timings, but that’s also me.
Anyway, unlike in the former case, I had a good one month to talk to him. But I desisted. Once when I ran into a former colleague in the metro there was none of this hesitation. Maybe ex-colleagues are in a different league than friends from what feels like a different planet! Your life feels like a continuation from when you started working, so running into colleagues at different points feels a lot more “natural” than school mates.
I wonder if, more importantly, when you meet ex-colleagues you connect at a more professional level, and your personal life isn’t brought into the equation. The conversation naturally flows towards your jobs and other former colleagues that you both knew. It’s easy. With school or college friends, it gets a lot weirder. You invariably end up with an accounting of the rest of your life after school. Your marriages (or the lack of it, or in almost all cases, the one of it), your kids, your parents, your siblings. Your professional life is given the place that it holds in your life – one part of it. This was probably what made me hold back.
Even as I write this, am reminded of the time I moved back to India. I walked the corridors at my new job, and came across one name which sounded familiar. This was a friend I knew from school, who went to a different college, but our paths crossed again the day he landed his first job (for some reason, his college was asked to send interested students to my college for the placement interviews). Our paths diverged again, eventually ending up in the same company. The day I saw his name, he was away in the US. When he got back I went up to him and struck up a conversation. The flow was straight towards jobs, the different paths we took to end up in the same place, and then towards school friends and school teachers.
But that was a good seven years back. I had just moved back to India, and I was still looking at what lay in front of me. Over time, this forward view has been gradually including things that have gone by, and more importantly things that could’ve been. Over time, I guess it’s only natural I’ll be looking more backwards than forward, but hopefully a lot less of what could’ve been. But that’s life, I guess.
Trouble is, this account taking does not put me in the same path as everyone else. No matter how much your paths diverge, they stay parallel in the milestones we add up as we go along. And I might be holding back fearing the questions that follow, and hating having to give explanations. But that’s me projecting my fears into things. For all I know things would’ve just been alright, and it would’ve been nice to catch up with an old friend.
Maybe next time, it’d be worth saying hi and letting what happens be what happens.