It is surreal as well as magical how we meet some people by chance, soon that meeting turns to acquaintance and friendship and before we even realise, they become family to us, our family by choice. I feel blessed and grateful to have such a diverse family that’s been expanding over the years.
This boy I met, way back in 2009, while I was at an ayurvedic retreat for a few weeks. I was there to address some of my health challenges, nothing serious, but it did turn out to be a huge turning point in my life afterwards. He was this 17-year-old boy, a bystander helping his uncle, who was recovering from a stroke. His uncle could barely walk, he had trouble speaking, and was learning to communicate all over again.
I welcomed the opportunity to get to know other patients since there was a pretty good mix of people from in and around the country and abroad. Shabeeb was cheerful, friendly and was eager to connect. He would walk into my room now and then, and we would have long conversations on anything that was on the table. He had an endless curiosity, childlike wonder and an air of quiet confidence around him. Our conversations topics would range from my work, photography, his family, his dreams, perspectives about life, my children, his siblings, music, about the books I was reading, and much more. He would accompany me on my photography walks, sometimes oblige by being my subject.
When my boys came to visit, I introduced them to him. He was about four years older than my oldest son.
When we parted ways after our stay at the retreat, we stayed in touch on and off. He would email me, sharing stories about his college life, and friends as years went by. At the time, I lived in Dubai while he lived in India. When he visited Dubai two years later, he called on me again, eagerly introduced me to his immediate and extended family. I admit, it felt a little awkward, being introduced as his friend, especially since I was twice his age. But he didn’t seem to care. To him, I was a very dear friend and was excited that I met his family.
Our communication continued via chat and email over the years, but fewer and far between. Even when we were connected, it was because he made an effort. We also lost touch for a year or two in between, but he tracked me down. Every time we reconnected, I felt more and warmer and affectionate towards him.
When he came to visit me about two years ago, he was no longer the boy I had the mental visual of. It took me a while to readjust the present Shabeeb. He was a grown man now, taller, bigger, but still had the wonder in his eyes, that very same innocent and captivating smile and aliveness in his being. I was now in India and him in Dubai. I am living in a city he lived and worked for a few years ago. Since the place was new to me then, he gave me a quick tour and took me to lunch. It was heartwarming to reconnect and reminisce on our history. We have barely met four or five times in our lives yet had a deep human connection that couldn’t be described in words.
When he called again a few months ago, sharing that he had met this girl, and was looking forward to beginning a new chapter of his life, I was excited and happy for him. I felt grateful and honoured about witnessing him on his journey.
He called me again last week, letting me know that he was going to be in India for a week and that he was getting married the next day. It was a beautiful surprise, and I noticed it was not an invitation to the wedding, but he was calling me for my blessings. When I called on it, he said it was just going to be a Nikah now, a mostly men-only event, and that the wedding reception would be a few months later, where he would bring his bride home. He said that is the event I shouldn’t miss. When I playfully complained that I wouldn’t get to meet his bride, he laughed and commented that we were both on the same boat, since he would be flying out in a few days. He promised to visit me before he flew out.
He called me again a few days ago, to let me know me that he was coming into town for a few hours and wanted to pay a quick visit. My son Aman hadn’t met him until now, so when I told him about this friend’s expected visit that evening, he wanted to know more about him. I gave him a five min account of our story leading up to the present, including his wedding. When I was done with my storytelling, Aman quite sweetly told me, ‘ You mustn’t miss his reception, I will join you too, let’s go.”
A few mins later, the doorbell rang, and when I opened to door, I found him there, standing with his new bride, gleaming with excitement as this was a surprise he had planned. I wasn’t expecting to see her at all. As far as their families we concerned they were out on a drive around town for a few hours after which he would drop her back to her sister’s place. But they drove, two hours and came to meet me instead. He introduced me to her as his ‘oldest’ friend and shared some of our stories from the past.
His bride, Arshii, a third-year student of Dentistry, turned out to be as sweet, warm and open-hearted as him. Since I wasn’t expecting to meet her, and I didn’t want her to leave without a wedding gift, I gifted her with something that I loved. I showed her my bangle collection and asked her to pick anything she liked. I love how she so readily received without any hesitation.
They shared sweet stories about how they first met, the impact on each other, their first impressions of each other, their first conversations, her dreams, his dreams, their combined dreams and more. My son was an eager participant in these sharings. It was amusing to watch him. I love how my son welcomed these new people into his life, without any hesitation and how and Arshii did the same with such an open heart, just based the stories we shared with them.
It was an evening that ended too soon, and we soon parted ways but not without filling each of our hearts with love, laughter and warmth.
‘The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart’, Helen Keller
Life & Relationship Coach (CPCC)