Our couch was as big as theirs. But our apartment definitely not as posh. The year was 2004, the sitcom Friends was in its last season, after an unbelievably successful run for 10 long years. The show not only catapulted its cast (actors Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Mathew Perry) to instant stardom, it also taught a whole generation of Americans, and of course Indians too, a new meaning of living together as friends.
It’s been 25 years since the show took off and it continues to appeal to our imagination. Friends had given us relationship goals that we were determined to follow, so what if we didn’t have shiny blonde hair, hour-glass waists and bulging muscles. Our takeaway was the humour, the fun and the romance that we were determined to live. So a la Friends there we were, 5 of us – 3 girls and 2 guys – sitting on a cushy couch watching Friends and wondering if our real lives would pan out like the super popular TV show.
We gave ourselves Friends goals
We were all in our early 20s from different parts of India with different cultural and academic backgrounds with a common goal of earning some quick money through a well-paying call centre job in Bangalore. We had all landed jobs in one of the IT giants in the city, became friends in the office cafeteria and decided to rent a three-bedroom apartment instead of staying in PGs and losing all the freedom.
We wanted our own sitting room, own kitchen and own bedroom – ah well some of us shared except for…will come to that later.
We actually started thinking ourselves to be Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross of the Friends show and were looking forward to some entertaining time on our common couch, when reality took over.
The kitchen became a battleground
We had absolutely forgotten that tossing up something for the Friends gang meant a salad and a sandwich and elaborate cooking meant a steak. They had common preferences and no cultural culinary differences.
With us, some wanted dal chawal, some upma dosa and one of us couldn’t do without the daily dose of fish. Some of us hated the smell of fish in the kitchen and others balked at the sight of idli sambhar.
We were Indians wanting to be like them – the Friends – but at the same time, we wanted nothing but ghar ka khana. And that meant only “apna” ghar ka khana, no compromise there, mind it.
The nightmare of parents’ visit
Needless to say that none of us told at home that we were a group of boys and girls living together. It was totally “unacceptable” so what if we were trying to be new-age millennials. When it came to parents we were terrified of spilling the beans. So when the parents came to visit us we had to make some adjustments. What were those? Let me tell you.
If a boy’s parents came the girls had to move out and vice versa. At the end of each month, we realised we were living out more often – uncomfortably holing up with random friends – than we were living in.
And needless to say the constant interference of the parents about how we lived, how we cooked, what the others wore, where we hung our lingerie…Gosh! It was unbearable. As if one’s own parents were not enough, the girls had to deal with three sets of parents. The boys were luckier since they were just two.
But as I mentioned the aspect of sharing rooms earlier. When they came each one had a tidy room to herself/himself.
Sharing! What sharing?
When they were around we hadn’t heard the word. Ever!
The landline became the bone of contention
The mobile phone revolution hadn’t happened in 2004. So we just had one landline to bank on for romance, fixing dates, for talking to people at home and for taking important calls. The phone rang incessantly disturbing our sleep, our life. So it stayed more off the hook than on it.
But it was not uncommon when three people had to call the love of their lives at the same time, more time was wasted fighting over who would call first than finally talking.
It wasn’t really romantic
Naah! It wasn’t falling in and out of love with the same people as in Friends, neither were there lusty one-night stands. We saw each other at such close quarters, fought so much about small things and knew so much about each other’s ghastly habits, that falling in love was difficult.
But it did happen with two of us. They even shifted into a room together for a few days but the jibes, the stares and the questions that they had to deal with from us made them quickly go back to the old sleeping arrangement of only boys, only girls that we so vehemently followed as sanskari Indian children.
We did hang out on the couch often with beer and popcorn. We did listen to music and have our late-night gossip sessions. We also had friends over for late-night parties and sometimes our landlord joined us who, like us, believed he was being a non-conformist by renting us our home. But our real-life desi Friends life only lasted a year because we were eventually unable to deal with the hassle of living like friends.