Standing at a busy intersection of a Manhattan street, while I was wondering which way would lead to the grandson of the son of my chacha’s nephew with whom I was living during my internship in New York, a man in his 40s caught my fancy. He was wearing a blue and white worn out striped shirt with a pair of jeans and a similar striped hat on his head. Before I could approach him to ask about the address I was looking for, a finely dressed man reached to him and they both exchanged smiles. The second man handed the hat man a dollar. Then immediately he started speaking to him like if he knew him for ages. Now, this scene was getting interesting for me. Suddenly a bus started honking at me like if it was literally yelling at me saying, “Get aside from the middle of the road you moron and let US citizens have a share on the road too!”
The honking part was nothing disturbing for me as you know we Indians are habitual of all this. We think, rather believe that we have a birthright on every government property which we can use as per our convenience. And what you thought why on earth only Govinda would sing a song like “Mein chaahe yeh karoon mein chaahe woh karoo, meri marzi…”
We believe in Hakbhoomi, rather than Karambhoomi.
And so, without moving my eyes from both the men, I started walking towards them. I was getting curious as they seemed like good friends but then why did the second man give the hat man money? While keeping a safe distance, I started listening to their talk. After all, I was on an internship. Who knew I could expose an ‘International Gang of Bluffers’ who ran their plans on one-dollar notes?
I opened my ears a little more while planning at the same time to present a report on this scandal to my editor and how in return he would award me with a full-time job in his newspaper. But the conversation between the two men broke all my Mungerilal ke haseen sapne. The fairly dressed man was telling the first man how his day had been and how his boss asked him today to stay back again. While cursing his boss he opened up with other challenges of his life too. They were exchanging a very regular chit-chat which made me miss all my friends in India. Ever since I had landed in this foreign land, rarely I had seen a close friendship like this. So were they not a part of any gang? Were they just friends?
But wait! What was it? The man in the hat said, “TIME’S UP” and the finely dressed man waved him goodbye and said, “See you again.”
Perplexed over the whole episode, somehow I reached home. Of course, not mine but of my Nathu Chacha’s distant relative. The relative whom neither I had ever met nor had I heard anything about before coming to NewYork.
After all, I was on an internship. Who knew I could expose an ‘International Gang of Bluffers’ who ran their plans on one-dollar notes?
But you know what…we Punjabis have this extra quality of creating a relative anywhere on this planet. If you don’t believe in this special trait of ours, then you must find a Punjabi and start a conversation with him, which I guarantee will be the easiest thing to do. Then tell the person that you are going to Canada and see what happens next. A Punjabi will not only hand over you a list of all of his relatives living out there but would also immediately give you various things like a jar of pickle, a box of ladoo (round shaped desi ghee pinni, decorated with almonds and other nuts — for the nuts.), Amritsari papad (another round-shaped item but spicy this time, which is generally used along with a meal) and other stuff (but mainly eatables). I am sure the items described above is sufficient enough to forbid you to hit a Wikipedia page to find out their meanings. OK, I know that Canada is the easiest example to give here as we consider it a second Punjab these days. So you may try your luck by telling the Punjabi that you are going to Nigeria and see which list you get then.
Anyway, enough of your world tour. It’s time to come back to my original story now.
So here was I telling the full episode of those two interesting men to my far distant unknown cousin when he burst into loud laughter, saying, “They were not real friends.”
“Not real friends!” I exclaimed with my mouth open. “Then they must be part of a gang which I had assumed at the first place,”I asserted. And he laughed furthermore at my journalistic skills.
While barely controlling his laughter he said the first man must be from ‘rent-a-friend’ company.
What? Now where was that coming from? I never heard about it. What he explained me goes like this.
What he explained me goes like this.
Rent-a-friend or companies like these are for those people who are seeking somebody to have a conversation with, as a fake friend or partner to ease times of loneliness and isolation at any stage of their lives. They hire a friend or a companion for various occasions such as weddings, funerals and parties too. I still could not grasp the concept.
“You mean one can have a genuine listener as a fake friend?” I asked him.
“Yes. You can! You can hire a friend to show you around a new town or for a plain conversation.”
To research further, I opened my laptop and googled more about this service. To my utter disbelief, I found several websites providing this service all over the globe. Tired with all the happenings of the day, I closed my eyes and slept. The whole thing seemed just like a dream in which I was a fairy who is cursing humankind for being so unfit for this role.
Aah! So ultimately you humans have reached to that level where you feel so lonely that you have to hire another human from an agency. You couldn’t even make a single genuine relation which would sustain for your whole life. No real friends survived with you. You never learnt the art of expressing your thoughts to your family, relatives, classmates, colleagues or even to your lover.
Congratulations! You have succeeded in losing the basic feelings of humanity. Now you all are free to play Pokemon Go or else you can pay money to someone so that one can listen to your daily talks.
Yashica Jalhotra was so much involved in Pokemon Go that she cut down all her social engagements, family gatherings and weekly Friends Day. She is now looking to hire an ‘Ossan’ — a Japanese middle-aged man — who will lend an ear to her while she will run after more Pokemons.
Reach her at [email protected]