Remembering an unusual friendship blossomed in Kerala(In the story, the gift-item is 'nettipattam' (elephant caparison), an exquisite gift item of Kerala which is generally hung on the wall. The common characteristic of the friends in the story is both like traveling and knowing the culture of different people.)
In the early morning of Friendship Day (5th August), opening his Facebook profile, the middle-aged man got the message. The lady from Kerala hasn't forgotten him. While reading the message, the man looked at the hanging nettipattam (elephant caparison) which also reminded him of that unusual friendship. The man closed his eyes on the lazy Sunday morning and started reminiscing.
It was more than 12 years ago. The Air India flight from Delhi reached Kochi very late. The entire team including the middle-aged man reached the guest-house, checked in and went for dinner. The middle-aged man was having his dinner alone. The lady arrived, placed the order in Malayalam and after a little bit of hesitation, sat in front of the man. While having dinner, they started talking. The man noted that the lady was very confident and fluent in English.
During the next day, the team visited Mattancherri Palace, Kochi Fort, Cherai Beach and Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi. The man noticed that the lady was also visiting these places separately. He noted that the lady did not enter the Synagogue.
After completing the tourist spots in Kochi, the team was traveling to Munnar in a Volvo bus arranged by the Guest House. The lady was also traveling on the same bus. During their travel from Kochi to Munnar, the man and the lady from different places became friends. The lady informed the man that she was a lecturer in a college of Palakkad district. Her husband stayed at Gulf and she had been traveling to various parts of Kerala for some research work during her holidays. She also told the man that she belonged to the Syrian Christian community. She proudly informed him that her community was the earliest Christian community settled in Kerala (and India).
In Munnar, during the visit of Tea Museum, Mattupetty Dam and Echo Point, their friendship became strong which continued during their next trip to Alleppey (which the local people pronounce as Alappuzha). The lady informed the man about the backwaters of Kerala and various customs of the people, floating post offices and boat race. The man was deeply impressed by the level of knowledge of the lady. From Alleppey, the team returned to Kochi. The lady also returned.
The next day, the team was preparing for the return to Delhi. The man was packing his bag. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. She entered, pressed his hand and handed over a beautiful and exquisite nettipattam. She left silently holding her tears.
The man returned to his daily life. He only contacts the lady on the Friendship Day via Facebook. But the hanging nettipattam constantly reminds him of the beautiful friendship.
(Competition entry: A Friendship Day contest)