By Vivek Hande
He introduced himself as, “Sam , an investment banker with a multinational bank”. He was based in Mumbai for the past five years. We met at the departure lounge of the Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport. Our respective flights being delayed, we had a long wait of nearly three hours ahead.
We struck up an instantaneous friendship. One just gets along famously with some people. We discovered several common passions and had lots of common ground to talk about. We agreed that Deepika Padukone was a fine actress ; we shared our unhappiness about Vishwanathan Anand being displaced from being the World chess champion ; we discussed the Indian cricket team in the post Tendulkar- Dravid era. Simon & Garfunkel , Jethro Tull and Carpenters were common favorites. We expressed our dismay about Mumbai’s pot- holed roads which became worse during the rains. We lamented about corruption , price rise, inflation and generally cursed politicians . Consensus was reached that vegetarianism was healthier. We spoke about the recent plays watched in NCPA and the best watering hole in town.
We were warming up over several cups of coffee and the talk was getting more animated. Conversation drifted to our neighbours . His perspective as a financial expert was about the terrible course the Pakistani economy was taking and plunging the country into an irreversible downward spiral. I reminded him that the Indian economy was reeling too. He spoke about the expenditure on the Defense budget of Pakistan. I was more concerned about our troops indefinitely deployed on the borders away from their families in hostile conditions. I expressed my angst about a proxy war being carried on from across the borders. He seemed unusually defensive and seemed more perturbed about where Pakistan was headed rather than India.
A trifle surprised, I asked him his reasons for this unexpected bend towards our neighbor; I was taken aback when he clarified that he was Sameer(Sam , for short) Haider from Pakistan and was heading home on leave for Karachi.
Suddenly, the blossoming friendship didn’t look so wonderful after all. The bonhomie seemed to chill and the air seemed a little frosty. We had spent three hours being friends; we had enjoyed each others’ company; we could think similarly; we talked on the same wavelength and we had common interests and passions, but somehow friendship seemed distant and remote.
I suddenly needed to make an urgent phone call and Sameer Haider remembered an unavoidable errand and friendship was tossed out of the air-conditioned lounge. I wonder who was to blame- Sameer, me or the times…