Keeping in touch... over the years

KATHMANDU: This is a story of a friendship that has survived a little over three decades based solely on Christmas cards and dedication of two women who knew what was precious to them.

As far as I can remember Mavis’ cards have always been a part of our Christmas. Hers was usually the first card that we received.

Mavis is my mum’s friend, and their friendship goes back over 30 years to the early 70’s when my mother took up her post, far away from home (in those days), at the McRoberts hospital in Kanpur. In the years that she was there, my mum made friends with all her colleagues in the hospital. Her talks of Kanpur are always full of her friends Mavis (of course), Anne, Eileen, Nora, Sharad, Dr Hamid…

However, my mum returned from Kanpur, took up a job at our local hospital, married

my father and got busy with everything that a working mum is busy doing. Gradually she lost touch with her Kanpur friends except Mavis, who made it a point to send a card every Christmas.

We got to know that she had shifted to New Delhi, got her new address, that her daughter was married, that her son was not.

Their friendship remained alive all these years with just this once-a-year card.

I remember the time my mum received an out of time letter from Mavis. It brought bad news — that Mavis had lost her husband. I also remember my mum toiling over the letter that she wrote her friend, lending her a shoulder to cry on across the miles.

We grew up, left home, went to college, came home for holidays, changed hairstyles, but one thing remained constant — Mavis’ Christmas cards.

Four years ago, my mother retired, and as my sister and I were both in Delhi, she came there with her elder sister (our aunt) for a well-deserved rest. Yet there was another reason for her visit — she could meet Mavis after more than 30 years.

Before leaving for Delhi, she contacted Mavis (yes, the old way — letter; no email or phone call) and made plans to meet.

However, a number of hiccups were in store — when mum and aunt arrived, Mavis had to go somewhere. They couldn’t meet. So, the two sisters went to Nainital to meet other friends (address courtesy Mavis), and to Mumbai to meet other relatives. It was another month before these two old friends could finally meet.

The evening we were to meet Mavis arrived, and there was a suppressed excitement. My mum went out to receive her. This diminutive woman in a pink salwar-kameez was Mavis Marazzi. Finally, I was able to put a face, a voice, a life to that name that was a part of our Christmas. And the jolly man helping his mum climb the steps was her son Steve.

The evening was fun. But all too soon, it was time for them to leave, but not without a promise to meet again. And meet we did — again the following week. In no time at all it was time for my mum and aunt to return home. Some evenings before their departure, Mavis and Steve came to meet them.

And as they said their goodbyes, my mum and her friend knew that in all likelihood it was probably the last time that they were saying their goodbyes to each other. Both kind of acknowledged that there would not be another 30 years before they could meet again. This could be the last time they would ever see each other.

I’ve lost contact with even my university friends, nothing to say anything about school friends. However, looking at how my mum’s and Mavis’ friendship has survived, I guess it only takes a card, five minutes of one’s time, and little (30 years in this case) dedication to keep a friendship alive.

And, of course, Mavis’ Christmas card is among the first that mum receives even today.