Three Friends

August 16, Sunday. A night out at Karnataka State Cricket Association Club in Bangalore:

Three colleagemates, in their early 40s now, order brandy on a wet weekend. We have been friends for nearly 25 years. Our conversations are mostly nostalgic  — great films of yesteryears, college revelry in balmy Chennai and girlfriends we lost or never had.

But we are on unchartered waters this night. We spoke about rising communal feelings, about religiosity becoming the counterculture. All three, originally from Kerala, a state with remarkable social cohesion, couldn’t believe it’s falling apart there too.

Cold night reveals vulnerabilities. One of us said, “why would our kids stay in this country?” A few generations would drift with the social polarization, I said, influenced by Turkey and Orhan Pamuk. The idea of majoritarianism (of any kind) left ordinary men and women helpless.

A career business journalist, I have been swamped by talk of development imperatives in a country held back only by its timidity. The irony of emerging markets economic euphoria at the cost of basic freedoms (or choices) never had my vote.

A Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian have been friends for long. We, three imperfect men, never romanticized our togetherness. We were free. Tonight we’re brooding in a buzzing club.

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