Some Reflections On Friendships

I had a couple of interesting chats last week with different friend groups. The main topic, was regarding the longevity of friendships and how over time people just disappear. Involved in their own world and then moving from chatting constantly to weekly, to monthly and then essentially never. They say that’ll meet up and then, when asked to make plans, disappear on short notice: you know, flakers.

Richard said something that we all need to hear time from time: “Sometimes you got let things die.” There is no need to keep in touch with everyone in life, that the effort is not always going to bring in reward and not everyone is going to be there until end.

Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list.

The reason I decided to talk about friends, was due to going to a funeral. Not just a random funeral, but one of my best friends father died.

Now, I’m no funeral expert, but the speech given by one of the friends was fantastic. It wasn’t a sugar coating, nor was a rip into the man. It was honest and reminded you about the fragility of life; but also how few people you can truly rely on. The friends that stay with you throughout your life are rare and people you need to hold on to.

In this regard, I feel very lucky. My friends are across the globe, I have someone to chat to in most time-zones and catch up with, no matter what time of year. I have my friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, but I’m sure that if I saw them on the street; it would be as though nothing had change and we would pick up wherever we left off. I have my close friends, who I rely on my emotional support on every issues. Finally I have my best friends, the ones that regard as family.

Now how do I know whose who? Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list. Now I know that this may sound weird to you, but I’ve been doing this since I was around 9 years old. Let’s be honest, we all have list of close friends. However, I guess that most people don’t have actual list like I do. People go up and down the list, some jump right to the top, some never drop below a certain number. It doesn’t matter, as long as you want to talk to them. I have decided over the last few weeks to start making new friends, which I luckily have never struggled to do so. Why? I have my best friends and they’re not going anywhere soon [on the list]. Essentially, some people will come and go; but we gain lessons from people. The more people you know, the more you can learn from their success and mistakes. Plus, I feel as though I lack friends from my own Gujarati community. It’s always good to know people who have similar experiences to talk to… well… let’s say: have similar cultural issues to complain about! Plus, they’ll understand certain things straight away.

“Sometimes you got let things die.”

Richard Osho

How do you make new friends? The simplest answer, is be interesting. What does that actually mean? No-one, that includes you, likes to chat to a person who is boring. You want to make friends, you need to go out into the world and do something. Start playing online games that require cooperation, head into pub and start talking, join a book club…whatever. You’ve got to go and do something that you enjoy, just with other people. Enjoying yourself should be the number priority, because we all want to chat to the person with a massive smile on their face: even the biggest twats.

Now, the new friends I’ve made, will they be by my death bed in the future? I don’t know. I’m sure that my best friends will be there, potentially a family and my close family. Don’t need anything else. However, we don’t progress with just focusing on needs, it’s our desires that push us to do more. I wanted more Gujarati friends, so what did I do? I joined a society and next week I’ll be submitting a dish into the cooking competition. Have I already made some friends? Yes. Will I make more? Of course, because I want more friends.

Poem 5

Friendship

What do we call those blissful days,
When everything we recall is just a haze,
Where every gaff is met with a laugh,
Even if it was daft, there’s no faff.

The mates you join at the pub,
Even if it’s to grabs some grub,
The ones who can jest with zest,
No matter how much rest, it’s always a fest.

Make no mistake,
There’s no limit to intake,
You just have to say hello to a fellow,
And who knows, you might have a mellow bellow.

Life is full of randomness,
That’s why we need those with candidness,
Rather than than those fake snakes,
I have a life with those who partake and keep me awake.

Let me be frank, I do rank.
I might know a ton, but you’ll always be my number one.

My trip to India

The preamble

Yeah, my MUN days lead to the sub-heading….onto the show

Well, I guess I should wish everyone a happy new year first. Or should I wait for Chinese New Year? By the way Erik (yes, just to Erik), when’s Taiwanese New Year? Jokes aside, I literally stayed up for around ten minutes for the initial fireworks and then called it a night.

So, after my flyby trip to London, I returned to Dubai for a week of work and then off to India. I’ll start off by explaining my reasoning for going back to India, then I’ll move onto my daily life in Mumbai for the next week, then my week in Gujrat and then my final week in Mumbai. I’m going to write it as three separate blog posts (one for each week). Let’s get started!

Having tea that is hallucinogenic, let’s just say me and Alex got wavy
Saw Yasmin giving a speech to the current MUN-ers at Essex (forgot who is on the right 🤷‍♂️)

Back to choosing India

I chose to go to India, rather than join the rest of the family for a few reasons. Firstly, I missed India, which is odd considering that I don’t have that much affinity to the sub-continent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth. I am practicing Hindu, a full vegetarian (if the Gujrati did not make it obvious) who eats Indian food almost every day. I’m addicted to chai. I’ll happily go to a Hindi film or run to see the latest Rajnikanth film. I have one grandmother from the country, let alone my infinite number of Masis and Kakas in the country. But, I only consider myself Indian in certain aspects. I’m pretty sure that this has to do with me being a third-culture kid, as I chose what part of cultures I like. I prefer to say that I’m African over Indian, because my childhood was on the continent and my parents and the rest of my grandparents are from East Africa. Sometimes I like to say I’m British, because I’m obsessed with tea (see what I did there). Also, because London is my home as well, as well as being the greatest city on Earth (no bias whatsoever). This doesn’t really answer why I was missing India, not really sure what I’ve pointed out other than me being me, but I was missing India… I don’t know what else to say about that.

I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth


Secondly, I wanted to go to the Jalaram Mandhir in Virpur. So, this has been on my bucket list for years. Essentially Jalaram Bapa is my favourite saint and his mandhir in Virpur doesn’t take any donation, yet continues to feed people every day! Last year, we (as the nuclear family) made it to the outside walls, but there were so many people we had to choose between praying or catching our flight. Well, we picked the flight…I guess I had unfinished business!

Thirdly, I wanted to see my family. I’m not going to lie, my niece Raaisha was the number #1 person I wanted to meet. I had already flown to couple of countries to see her and she was never there! I also wanted to spend some time with my family in Porbander, meet some of my Kakas and Faibas for the first time in Ahmedabad. Plus there were plenty of Masis in Mumbai to catch up with; while not being married off! 😅

Fourthly, I wanted to see the Unity Statue. Mainly because most of my friends hate Modi, so I thought the best way to mock them would be to go see the statue and dab with it in the background! Spoiler alert! There weren’t any tickets available! Seriously, who is trying to see this bloody statue. Guess I’ll have to head back to see it.

Fifthly, I wanted to eat some proper Indian food

Finally; I wanted to buy some Indo-western clothes. I just had no intentions of paying Western prices.

A dumb mug shot

Here’s a dumb photo I took the day I got a haircut before I left. Why? Why the hell not, I’m sure there’s meme out there

Pomegranates

My Trip to Baku

Straight to work

When I first started writing this piece, I was on my way back to Dubai, after a whirlwind trip to Baku and all I can think about is when shall I go back.

Coming into Dubai

The city is full of amazing restaurants, great bars and has a rich history. That’s before you even meet anyone. There’s that saying that it’s not what you say,but how you make them feel, well the Azeri people make you feel like home royalty.

Personally,the best thing was catching up with one of my best friends and seeing his family. I cannot express in words how amazing it was to see Adil!

Adil having a candid photo

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. When I first landed in Baku, I had issues at the border control when the immigration officer looked at my passport and then me. She asked where I was born, and I responded with London. This was not a great idea, as it actual says [the actual place, I’m not dumb enough to put my passport info online] and how that is in London. Breezed through everything else and was standing in arrivals looking for my ride (Adil had organised me a cab). Well this guy didn’t think I’ll be out then, and I had to go looking for him. After eventually finding him (and his terrible MR HANIK sign) got into the car and headed into the city! Now things didn’t look great when I looked at the wing mirror and saw a cracked wing mirror, which said that things were distorted due to the mirror. But on the drive in, let me say that new Bravo supermarket looks great! Bravo is where Adil works, in case you were wondering why I gave the shout out.

…the first thing I had to do was give my friend a hug!

Seeing one’s friend

Got to Port Baku Mall, which I can only describe as a high-end mall, which is definitely out of reach of most people, let alone those in Baku. However, this was where I first saw Adil (after heading into the Mall to grab some cash to pay the cabdriver). He looked at me, with those “what an idiot” eyes, saying that cabbie told me to wait (in Azeri); though in my defence he kept saying money in English! However, the first thing I had to do was give my friend a hug! Now Adil and I haven’t seen each other since my master’s at UCL and boy that was a long time ago! We have been in touch via the group’s [only for those in the know] WhatsApp chat and a call here and there. So, we are aware of the general status’s one’s life. However,there’s something special when I meet an old friend, especially those from the boarding house, it’s as though nothing has changed; we could have been mucking about in the grounds and the conversation just flowed as though we had been chatting every day for the last few weeks.

Everything was fresh…

After Adil finished work, we headed into the country side to go to Adil’s family home and to have dinner with his Dad and uncles in a restaurant. Now this was the first real challenge, food. As a vegetarian, Adil was concerned with what I could eat, as almost everything local had meat in it. I had already tried a green qutab at Baku Café (it’s amazing, got to learn how to make it). Adil’s Dad produces meat, so obviously we had a bit of banter with me just stopping being a vegetarian for a few days. What he ordered me was something else. Let me just start by saying that there is something special in only eating seasonal food. Everything is fresh! None of this rubbish of all year-round fruit and vegetables. The cucumbers, tarragon, aubergines… everything was amazing! The pilaf I had was essentially a pilau with fresh aubergines with a different spice mixture! It was great! The cheeses, the breads, salad were all great! We washed it down with a local fruit juice concoction, which honestly tasted like Vimto, and a few…okay several shots of vodka! Headed to the family home for tea and a freshly baked cake from Adil’s grandmother! A top-class lemon meringue. It’s true no matter where you are, grandmothers are always make the best food. After a night tour of the home, headed in for the night.

The Family Yard

Adil and I both overslept, but it was good night’s rest which we would need given on what we had planned for the day. What followed was breakfast of pancakes, fresh bread, cheeses, jam, honey, more qutabs and copious amounts of black tea. Sidenote here, but apparently it’s the national drink of Azerbaijan.

The Temple Site

After saying my thanks to the family, we headed off to a temple. Now, I know what you are thinking; temples in Azerbaijan? But yes and even more shockingly it was used by Hindu’s on the silk route, due to the continuous gas fires there! The site is about 2000 years old, which was originally a Farsi site. Definitely worth checking out! Unfortunately, but obviously, the French had ruined the temple when it was buried several centuries later when looking for oil. Putains! So,lots of the materials are now lost, but thankfully the government is slowly restoring the site and trying to uncover the past.

The Eternal Fire
Me and Adil!

We then headed into old town and to go see the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Meydan Tower. Loads to see and what’s wonderful is the juxtaposition of being in this ancient part of the city and seeing the modern architecture all around you in the distance. Even though the tower’s purpose is still in debate, it lies in the heart of this amazing city. If you are looking for your next profile picture, with a bit of planning, I’m sure that you’ll have a new hit here!

After, we walked along the promenade and just caught up. Seeing the outside of all the museums that I’ll have to come back and visit on my next trip. Before nightfell, we went to the war memorial to pay our dues and take in the view over the city.

The Flame Towers lit up in the national flag

Later on,after going home and dropping our stuff off, into the city for the French Bistro to meet Adil’s mate and grab a quick bite before going out. Food was good, but not that many options for a vegetarian. But what I did eat was good! We then headed to The Room for a night of drinking and chilling. The Azeri wine I started with was a lovely red, but as the night when on we moved onto shots and beers! That’s all you are going to get out of me, but I must say that people Adil spends time with are great. All kind hearted and definitely know how to have a good time!

[Adil’s friends are] All kind hearted and definitely know how to have a good time!


An Azeri Breakfast before a mad dash to the airport

The next was just breakfast and a rush to the airport (via the shops for a gift from Adil’s family). It was unreal how quickly time has passed by, from the time I left Dubai and arrived back was a blink of an eye! The land of fire definitely left a fire in my heart to return!