a cheap man that i am …

A friendship for keeps:
by Riffat Murtaza

Weather has changed. Sun is still warm and pricks the skin but it fills my heart with a sense of renewal! Sun is hot but shadows are soft and holding a promise.

M.N sahib, as usual keeps sending important / interesting / some times funny links my way. How long have we known each other? Oh a long time! He is my dearest, dearest friend. Anything that I have difficulty to know or understand, I run back to him. He always has an answer to satisfy my quest.

I had just arrived in Florida from across the ocean. I do not like having too many people around me and rather prefer peace and quiet and be alone. But still the place I had left behind was a busy and lively place. Though not being directly involved I was always aware of life’s goings on around me. Here I was suddenly alone and lonely. A friend introduced him and slowly my world started to look brighter. I can do away with anything but not without books, papers, pens, reading and sharing ideas. And he was always there for all this and more. There are a whole lot more of such people out there and some times you like them and want to have them in your life like a precious find – a link to hold you close, but along the way you become aware that the connection has a fault line. Its not going to grow. Agendas, misunderstandings, other people with other interests come in and the connection snaps and you are left wondering where what went wrong. You mope around for sometime, even feel depressed, cry some too, but slowly things get back to normal and soon you become aware that .. but no, sometimes letting go is the best decision made.

This man is – let me call him a rock. Solid. Authentic. One of a kind. Knows how to enjoy a good joke. Read a bad she’r to him and you are in for trouble. “quote a one bad couplet and he is ready for a fight. he once said exactly that. I laughed but didn’t dare do any such thing. Pretended to be brave and spoke airily about my likes and dislikes, good tastes and bad tastes. Once I called him a grumpy old man. He shot back “what do you think? I was a grumpy young man too ”

My first Muharram in Orlando was lonely and too sad. A very small
community – the first generation – trying to get some foothold in a newly adopted home. I would spend most afternoons reading Mir Anees. That same month he recited one of Mir Anees Marsiya “kis sher ki aamad he keh ran kaanp rha he” at one of his shia friend’s house and sent the audio to me to listen to it. He emailed ..

“ I am sending you an audio tape. A cheap man that I am, I am sending it by ordinary mail and if you have some good deeds in your namah-e- aamal, it will reach you safely.” He had recited the marsia with such feeling that it brought tears to my eyes. I emailed him and told him that. His answer arrived immediately “ I am glad I made you cry”

In all these years we had one fight. A real serious fight … but that is okay because now when I think, I feel that was not a fight, not even an argument. It was just drifting apart for a while. It was a test . An evaluation. It was like a tide that recedes – pulled back in the ocean only to come back in and stay close to the shore. Even the closest friendships have boundaries and need to be acknowledged and respected.

This is a friendship for keeps. I love him. I am not talking about some romantic love. Certainly not. He is a very dear friend and I love him the way you would love a dear friend who happens to be a man of letters, learned, well informed. A scholar, a critic. Straight forward with no hang ups of any kind.

Long live the friendships that pass the test of time !

8/19/2016
Orlando.

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