Vedashree Khambete Sharma
My People – 32cats
The first time I saw him, I felt sorry for him.
I had gone for an interview for a summer internship with the youth supplement of a leading magazine. It was a sign of things to come that this interview was taking place in the canteen. My boss-to-be was a large woman, who was sitting across my friend and me, carelessly smoking a cigarette and intimidating us with no extra effort. At one point she turned around and yelled “You motherfucker! Where is everyone else?” The person she was yelling at was a tall, lanky, fair boy who looked about 16 and used to this kind of easy affection. Apart from the age, not much has changed since.
Truth be told, I became friends with him for two simple reasons – we used to take the same bus home from the office and he happened to be dating my best friend at the time. We stayed friends for a whole lot of other reasons, including a shared love for coffee and cats (at one point he and his cat-crazy family had 32, hence the moniker) and a shared hate for many things I won’t mention on such a public forum. Oh, also, for once I was in the company of someone whose name is hands-down, no-arguments weirder than mine…
He’s a year younger than me, which is why it does wonders for my self-esteem that while my designation has the phrase ‘supervisor’, his has the term ‘vice president’. And while I schlep to work in a local train, he travels in a chauffeur-driven car. (Of course, I do go to bed a little happy in the knowledge that despite all this, as Bombay goes, I live in the South and he lives in the New parts…)
But all that’s just details. All said and done, I owe 32cats a large part of my sanity. He was the most frequently dialed number on my phone when the shit hit the fan in fair Poona. At various points, he was my bitching buddy, my designated shoulder for crying and the one person I could and still can be unashamedly mean with. And when I say mean, I mean mean (wasn’t that a fun line? Moving on…) And the biggest thing of all – he was the person who introduced me to Terry Pratchett… AND gave me the entire Discworld series in ebook format. I can never thank him enough for that.
But don’t let all this sweetness fool you one bit. 32cats is not all sugar and candyfloss. He reads some five newspapers every day and if that doesn’t make him a freak I don’t know what does. He once offered to make the boy I liked look like a terrorist on the internet so that he wouldn’t be able to leave the country. He and I also once jointly wrote a piece called “How To Spread Plague in 10 Easy Steps”, step one being to get a rat, step two being to call him Moe. Oh, and his spastic child imitation can churn the stomach of any passing advocates of political correctness (his extremely Parsi looks only aid the illusion, believe me). But then as political correctness goes, this is a man who when shown a random woman said to his then-girlfriend, “No, she’s definitely uglier than you…”
Be it his long and illustrious love-life, his unsurprisingly impressive career or his love for bad puns, this is a boy I’ve known and been alternately surprised and entertained by for the past 10 years. He’s sharp and smart, has an abysmal sense of humour and an enviable knowledge of most things computer-related or otherwise. We don’t meet nearly as often as I’d like, but when we do it’s all very warm and Hallmark card-like with him disparaging my profession and me telling him what a dumbass he is.
32cats, my friend, I’ll end this piece by saying something I can never say enough: Let’s meet so you can give me that damn Pratchett book you’ve been promising me, you retard.