(Published on February 6, 2016 in Business Standard)
You know what they say about friends: Lock up the good booze before they come over. Or maybe it’s “Don’t work with them”, but locking up the good booze is not a bad idea either—unless one of your friends is turning a greyish shade of fifty. In that case you pack all the best booze you can muster, and take her out of town for a few days.
But first you start a Whatsapp group conversation three weeks beforehand, to figure out how to mark the occasion. One of five of us was in a different country, and we all had differing budgets, available time, and activity preferences. Whatsapp is really helpful in a situation like that, when you need to cheaply and efficiently communicate old internet jokes, non sequiturs, pictures of lunch, and potty quality updates for nineteen days before someone realises there’s still no holiday plan, at which point there is international panic, and the birthday girl threatens to fly off to freaking Goa or something by her freaking self, since we can’t get our freaking act together for her freaking milestone birthday. A lot of emoticons are necessary. Whatsapp rocks.
Anyway we managed to cobble together a road trip to Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve with—let’s call them—Mooey, birthday girl Fanny, and myself. We were going to leave at 6am, because it’s traditional to be unrealistic about everything. At 5.30am Mooey dropped out with a personal crisis, and since he owned the transport, Fanny and I went back to sleep. At 9am the personal crisis was resolved. At 11.15 we rolled up at Fanny’s, where we all briefly discussed an attractive alternative plan to just unload the car and spend the weekend right there, watching movies in our pyjamas and exchanging Whatsapp emoticons. At 12.02pm we were finally on the road. At 12.32 we were on exactly the same road, in the gridlock just outside her house.
When traffic began to flow, we fondly remembered all the things we had forgotten: sunglasses, the other vodka, the Scrabble board, the binoculars, the hat with a brim. The sun got hotter, the traffic was dense, nobody had slept much. Fanny shouted at Mooey for not letting her bring her coffee press. I shouted at Fanny for not being packed on time. We both shouted at Mooey for having a non-functional car CD player. They both shouted at me for picking up the wrong stack of CDs. I muttered that I had had it with them, given them the best years of my life, and I was taking the children and moving to my mother’s. We all muttered darkly that it was going to be a long four days.
And it was—long and delightful, despite the fact that we all shared one room and one bathroom. Despite Mooey’s traumatic habit of waking like a jack-in-the-box before dawn and yelling tender good mornings in our ears. Despite Fanny keeping up a constant rumble of complaint about the quality of the coffee. Despite my conversation being one hundred per cent about the state of my potty.
But that’s what travelling with friends is all about: loving them despite their compulsive behaviours. It’s exactly like being married, but without the monogamy, children, and joint bank account. There’s the one who rubs one foot against the other all night. The one who picks goop out of her eyes. The neat freak. The one who’s grumpy in the morning; the one who’s grumpy at night. The glutton, the exercise freak, the clotheshorse, the cigarette bummer. The Bollywood music addict.
If you survive travelling with them, it’s true love.