Sometimes, in this journey called life, one meets people who are there with you for only a short while, almost as if they were on a specific purpose—that of making a positive difference to your life. I met one such person in the very first week of a year-long stay in London—Mohand.
But before I tell you more about Mohand, a little background information…
The year in London is, perhaps, the most memorable year of my life, in more ways than one. And one of them was searching for affordable, vegetarian food that I could manage within my limited scholarship allowance. I could have cooked in the communal kitchen in the place where I stayed, but I could not stomach the sight and smell of meat, chicken, fish, etc.
Rajshri, a friend & colleague from work, was already in London on a short-term visit when I arrived. A vegetarian herself, she had done quite a bit of research on vegetarian food joints in Central London and introduced me to some of them. The Cafe le Midi, on 23 Warren Street, was one such place, and we would meet up for lunch on Saturdays there. Rajshri soon returned to India, but I continued going to the Cafe every Saturday for lunch.
Looking back, I cannot remember when it became a habit to lunch at the Cafe. But I can definitely remember why it became a habit—it was because of Mohand.
What made Mohand so special? Was it because he was willing to customise sandwiches to my exact specifications? Or was it because he sensed the severe homesickness that I was going through and tried cheer me up? Or was it because he had a special place in his heart for Indians and all things India and called me “Sister”? Or was it because he served excellent coffee? Or was it because he was that silent, unobtrusive friend who would not ask or talk unnecessarily and would understand if I was feeling low?
An Algerian immigrant to the United Kingdom, Mohand was my first friend in London. I can never forget his innate kindness or how he made me feel welcome in a strange city. He would talk about his childhood in Algeria, his wild youth in gay Paris, and how he had become boring and respectable in the UK. He would often talk about his family and the aspirations he had for his children. He loved Hindi films and would ask me all sorts of questions about them, questions that I could not always answer.
It is Friendship Day tomorrow and I can’t think of a more appropriate day to acknowledge a special and different kind of friend.
Happy Friendship Day, Mohand. 🙂