Not so long ago laughter – voluminous, throaty, uncontrolled – had not really been an incessant part of my life. Yes, I was happy and did have “32 sparkling teethy peals” but then HahaHeheLol would become one of my greatest friends and treasure in life only in the December of 2003.

Although it may seem fairly recent if one compares it with human lifespan, I know that the events that took place in the winter of 2003 will remain one of the most QTOLish moments of my life. Just to clarify, I was doing my masters at TISS in Bombay which doesn’t have much of a winter – so this had nothing to do with the weather.

But then it had everything to do with the spirit of Christmas. Having spent three years previously in a Catholic College that gave me the joy of being a part of all the fun and festivities, I was feeling sad about missing out on all of that in TISS. Thankfully though, the campus did have Christmas celebrations and most importantly everybody seemed tuned into the Secret Santa game. “Yippie!!”, I thought and smiled to myself. “Some things in the world continue to be sane”.

Masters in Social Work turned out to be much much harder than I had thought. Apart from tons of assignments, academic pressures and blues of being away from home, the atmosphere was extremely tumultuous. The world suddenly seemed a little too upside down for comfort (note: it already was, which is why many of us were there at TISS – ‘to change’). Each day presented a bunch of new realities that we were supposedly being trained to analyse and develop strategies for – from communities living on garbage dumps to facing an eighteen year old lecherous boy as a ‘child with rights’. By the mid of first year the meaning of ‘develop strategies for’ on campus emerged as endless nonsensical debates, generous amounts of ambiguity and extremely polar ideas. TISS at this point was like being in the company of an eclectic group of beings who’d have issues with the fact that something was a ‘non issue’. The most cliched question of the moment was always ‘But who decides?’, indicating the ever lasting ambiguity of individual freedom versus working in the interests of people. In short every single conversation would begin and end in concentric circles. Now if one adds a dollop of hostel woes, ranging from ‘smoky reeking corridors’ to ‘sleeping with bright lights and loud noises’, to this already confusing and tumultuous situation – you’d understand why I was yearning so much for a game of Secret Santa.

So on this lovely December 2003 afternoon, in a rather unpleasant DH (Dining Hall), we all had to pick small chits of paper with names of people who we were to adopt secretly – and send them gifts, goodies and letters, or torture them till Christmas eve. Soon I became a temporary mother. But then there were unfortunate souls whose names had not been picked. An ominous poster declaring their orphanhood was put up, requesting people to adopt. The idea of two children dint appeal to me, so quite frankly I still don’t know why I adopted ‘HahaHeheLol’. It just took a small suggestion from rather cute and diminutive neighbour Chandni and I had a daughter who was going through as much of a cranky bad patch as I was. Perhaps, this is what is called destiny.

Over the next few weeks, I don’t know what got into me, I sent my child loads and loads of handmade gifts with lovely handmade paper in numerous varieties. Even a small silly note would be laboriously made, I spent hours together each night getting my act to make each day special for my child. It was midnight oil burning at its best. No , this wasn’t a competition, and I dint even know ‘HahaheheLol’ – in fact we had not even exchanged pleasantries. But somehow her booming laughter, excited ‘show off of gifts’ in class, her small notes drizzled with a hundred ‘lols’ – these smaller things just made my day. This world of sheer joy, laughter and child like excitement seemed so far away from endless debates and assignments. And yet it was so truly life like and so much ‘human’ in essence.

I even sent her an embroidered handmade paper folder!!!

Neha and I got to know each other pretty well through that game and we’ve shared a lovely friendship ever since. We’re so connected that one would think that perhaps there is a mini device that aligns our wavelength and thoughts together. We go crazy over little things, laugh like raccoons over frivolous stuff, love the quaint and argue like children. The Internet’s biggest boon has been the fact that I have been able to share the same amount of space and time in spite of the distance – over email, IM or this blog. I continue to receive virtual or sms notes splattered with dozens of smileys, hahas, hehes and lols.

Thanks Neha, alias HahaheheLol, for all the laughter and joy you bring into my life.


10 responses

  1. Neha

    DUDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! just had to say this here!!!! that got me in a bout of uncontrollable laughter for sure!!! hahahehelol!!!! yeah man! cheers to all that’s madness!
    and god! arent we sooo glad in the madness of all that was ‘TISS’ destiny still worked for all of us to sail us through by helping us discover each other’s randomness! that def was one of the most fun christmas! biig hug and loads of luv!

    and also way back then perhaps Santa always knew that QTOL had to happen! thank u sweety…love this post! it def made my day!

    August 7, 2007 at 4:04 pm

  2. mandiranagrath

    lol!‘But who decides?’ the question that haunted us for two long yrs! i think the answer to that was”the client”. remember the jazz about self determination? well.. at least that was the answer in some situations! for the others, welllll…. go figure!

    August 8, 2007 at 4:37 am

  3. The game is intended to bring people closer I suppose. Many more would have found and will be finding their best friends, who are near them and still hidden. Definitely this is the work of Santa, who knew you both were born to be friends.

    Anather thought that was running at the back of my mind was , Laxmi is a gifted writer and should definitely focus on this ability. Your writing stands apart and you must realise that. God gives us gifts and we make a meaningful life when we use these talents. You must look beyond the blog.


    August 8, 2007 at 7:14 am

  4. Hardik

    had to post on this one… i have never seen someone use smileys in their text messages and while chatting as often as Neha… lol… she almost uses them like punctuation marks…

    Keep up the good work guys!!!

    August 8, 2007 at 12:12 pm

  5. “punctuation marks” – that’s a good metaphor for neha’s use of lols. 😀

    August 8, 2007 at 12:49 pm

  6. ashwini

    A really well written post! And a pretty accurate description of Neha 😀

    August 8, 2007 at 4:20 pm

  7. Meghana

    Hey Lakshmi, your mom is right……u R a gifted writer…….its a pleasure reading yout QTOL moments!! 🙂 Well dat reminds me, I too formed a special bond with my Chris Child in TISS, who was none other than Divya………..:) tho she always accused me of being a bad mother and not sending her enough gifts, we have formed a special bond…….something like u and neha which u have so beautifully described!! 🙂

    August 9, 2007 at 10:52 am

  8. TBC

    I just read some o what you have written. You write really well.

    August 17, 2007 at 2:52 pm

  9. thanks tbc, im “the budding writer” :D, if i can call myself that.

    August 17, 2007 at 3:08 pm

  10. Divya

    Hey, just got round to reading this, and dude, you have really captured the experience of Neha, its like I am reliving TISS and Neha through this. Christmas time was really fun, and yeah some special bonds did get formed there…… just remembering Bad Mommy Meghana, who made me think I was an orphan, so I got adopted by Navneet 🙂 Munmi, who used to receive scandalous messages from me and half thought she had ended up with a lecherous bas….. for a ‘Daddy’ I am now drowning in Nostalgia.

    September 27, 2007 at 5:56 am

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