It was Independence Day in Bangladesh on March 26, and I am very far away, travelling from Stockholm to Helsinki. Stockholm is a beautiful city with a personality in its own right; a very special city as far as I am concerned, because in visiting Stockholm, I revisited the happiest parts of my childhood and youth in Bangladesh, thanks to ABBA.
My husband and I spent a few hours at the ABBA Museum immersed in nostalgia, losing ourselves to the music and the lyrics, as we embraced our Dhaka past. We came out of the experience happier, and I came out of it more inspired, and with greater clarity.
I realized that each of my favourite ABBA songs embodies certain special people in my life. What? How? Yes, another compilation of chintas for the readers. Surprise, surprise! Please note, it is not a hierarchical list, therefore it is not in order of significance.
The phone-a-friend, made much more available with mobile technology. Yes, it ought to be my husband, but he actually avoids my calls. In spite of that, I have a Ring Ring who is available 24/7. We live in different continents, but our friendship transcends distance and time zones. I have woken her up from sleep to discuss how the hairdresser has messed up my colour, dragged her out of school meetings to complain that my rice cooker was not coming on, and kept her on tenterhooks till my credit card was reactivated. She is also 24/7 available for me on Facebook. Added bonus.
Take a chance on me:
My husband. The only person I can accuse of loving my daughters more than I do. The dad who has rushed across continents to reassure his daughters that he is there for them; the dad who has never judged the temper tantrums of the mother of his daughters. When I took a chance on him 22 years ago, I was young and impulsive. Now I am older and thoughtful. Probably because he avoids my calls, and that forces me to think. He taught me to confront my insecurities, to be patient, to be resolute, and to finish what I start, and most importantly he gave me the opportunity to be independent, even from him.
The solid dependable mate. Ring Ring may be there 24/7, but my Trooper is never more than a phone call away too. It is just that I never bother him with the little things. Usually I call him for the big things. He is the one who fully empathizes with the severity of an obstacle or limitation or mishap, brings in humour to lighten the load, and offers common-sense advice and practical help. He has been tried and tested many times, but he has never wavered, always the Super Trooper. His presence and caution has honed my self preservation instincts.
The Aunty friend. She does not belong to either my mother’s generation or to mine, she is in between. She is wise, non-judgemental, and uber cool. She deconstructs my anxieties and worries to a practical, surmountable level. She calms me down, she makes me smile, and she ensures I never give up. Not only does she give the best advice, she knows when to not advise. I can go over to her house and have a decent cry whenever I wish. There will be no questions asked, instead I will be served my favourite dal, bhaat, bhorta. Yes, she knows when it is good old-fashioned homesickness.
Does your mother know:
The one friend with impeccable timing. I do not communicate with her very often, but when I do, and when I confide in her, she always knows when it is the appropriate time for me to, “Mum, I really need to speak to you about something.” Well, not only my mother, and not only confidential matters, even British Gas or the laundry lady. She always knows when I should effectively speak up or speak out.
The popular social queen bee. I was gauche, awkward and my wardrobe staple was a pair of black leggings until she came into my life. Yes, yes, alright, my wardrobe staple is still a pair of black leggings, but I do wear bright red lipstick thanks to her. She taught me how to unselfconscious-ize myself, stopped me from wallowing in self pity, and always made sure I was safely home. She was the Dancing Queen, the life of every party, oozing with the self-confidence that I happily imbibed, and that has kept me in good stead.
My staunch ally in battle. In war too. She is fiercely loyal and a formidable force to reckon with. I am glad to always have her on my side. She is quick on her feet too; one of those rare beings that never asks me why or how the battle started, she just sees me fighting and comes to my rescue. And she has an incredible sense of humour. Actually, the fact that I have her as friend, the battle is always already won, and I need never, ever surrender.
Voulez vous (these seven essential ABBA people in your life?) Ahah!? Ahah!? Thank you for the music ABBA! Without a song or a dance, what are we?
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.