Imagine you are an observer at a wedding. The wedding celebrations have just started – the stage decorated with flowers. The priest, groom and the bride’s father are performing the religious rites. A handful of people can be spotted sitting in the audience. You see an elderly man sitting patiently in the audience.
A few minutes later, another man walks up to the elderly gentleman in the audience with a hopeful smile. He taps him on the shoulder. The man from the chair gets up, and his face lights up with a smile – they shake hands. And they both sit down – chatting eagerly. And as the wedding celebration picks up the pace more and more, such gentlemen walk in. And it’s the same routine — the gentleman who walks in taps somebody on the shoulder with a big grin on his face. The person who is sitting down gets up, and his face glows with pure joy as recognition sets in – they shake hands, move down a chair and make space. The new arrival greets other people. Sometimes he needs help to connect the dots, and other times he knows who he is talking too.
As an observer, you find the entire process fascinating. There are some apparent similarities at first glance. They are all older men retired or getting ready to retire. They are all bank officials (once you have worked for a bank in India, it leaves an indelible stamp on you). They all have grey hairs or balding hair situations. If you look closely, you will notice that they might look old, but they are reliving the memories of yesteryears when they all roomed together, fresh out of college – no wife, family. The carefree young days when they cooked, watched movies and lived together 24 X 7. They are connected by days of working together, matching journal entries, making sure the ledgers are correct. They share the experience of having a not so good manager, being shouted at by an angry client. They do not talk about these things, but it is evident that these gentlemen share a deep bond which goes beyond caste, religion, language.
What you see is a genuine camaraderie with no upmanship. The experiences in the bank have made them very wise in life – they can laugh at themselves, accept whatever life throws at them, and they know there is a right time for everything. If you listen carefully the conversation revolves around – ‘How somebody has changed?’, ‘Where all they moved since the last time they met?’, ‘How their mannerisms are the same?’ It is apparent that they are looking at each other from the lens of old days and the pure happiness radiating from their faces is a testimony to the friendship they have which has withstood years of minimal to no contact.
As one of the gentlemen in the crowd struggles to take a photo, I step in and offer to help. Even though the picture is from the present – you can catch a glimpse of how these young men worked together in Punjab National Bank.
This blog is dedicated to my dad and his friends at Punjab National Bank – and their genuine friendship. I had accompanied my dad to one of his friend’s daughter’s wedding, and in all honesty, it was a reunion for these old friends, which left me with a warm joy in the heart.