Jaya and I were classmates during undergraduate days, and the friendship continued during our graduate studies. We explored the city together, we went to parties and we spent endless hours in theatres and restaurants.
We went to see a movie one afternoon and, on the way out, she told me she had to meet a friend in a coffee house nearby. I took her there and, since the friend was still to arrive, ordered a latté. A half-hour later the friend, Sanku, sauntered in. He was a spare man, with light hair brushed back, an aquiline nose and dark horn-rimmed glasses. He had a professor’s look, serious, almost severe, but a singer’s voice, gentle, almost musical. When he spoke, always in a low key, you wanted to hear and paid attention.
I was instantly charmed. He seemed to bring magic to any discussion, a keen point of view, softly voiced and gently urged. He sounded light-hearted and his bright smile added to an air of playfulness, but you could see he meant what he said. There was often a touch of cynicism, yet you heard the ring of sincerity and wanted to agree with him. I liked him and clearly showed it.
When I rose, and said I would leave them alone, to have their time together, he vigorously demurred. He said he had nothing private to discuss with Jaya, and if he had he would happily keep it for another occasion. He added that the three of us could continue the lively chat we were having.
Continue it did, and, since it was a weekend, a very long time. When we parted at a late hour, it was with the agreement to meet again two days later.
When we met, it was again a quick, unbelievable alchemy. Jaya had met Sanku because he had had a fling with her sister. Instead of it creating a rift, she had begun to see him as a friend and grown fond of him.
He might have resented my presence, but he clearly welcomed it. I just liked him too much to entertain the idea of him as a bar to my close relationship with Jaya.
Then it became routine. We three were always together. All our spare hours we spent together, and it never occurred to us to exclude one. We not only liked one other, we felt the three-way relationship was perfect. It was the most agreeable for us all. If one couldn’t join a planned event, we stretched to accommodate the one: we changed the plan so the missing person could be with us.
People got used to seeing us together. Friends, at first curious about the nature of the triad, began slowly to accept the three-way relationship.
When I look back on that period, my most vivid recollection is of the fun we had together, the pleasure we derived from being with the other two. Occasionally I would rib Sanku that, had it not been for his obtrusive presence, I could be happily be with Jaya. He too would jocularly complain that he could not have a private moment with Jaya because of my recurrent appearance. But Jaya knew – we all knew – that these moans were scarcely meant and never believed.
It was a curious conjunction of
relationships that never again occurred in my life. I don’t even understand how it could have functioned. But it did, and did so seamlessly and without an effort. We were delighted to be with one another and we were unspeakably happy.
Such a halcyon period of course seldom endures. Sanku left to be a professor in a Canadian university. Jaya left for Germany for higher studies. I took a job that took me out of town and later out of the country. Our contacts became at best intermittent.
But the memory remains: of what we meant to one another, the joy it brought us and the curious way friendship can add an unexpected dimension to our life.
The writer is a Washington-based international development advisor and had worked with the World Bank. He can be reached at [email protected]