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Me & U after Ashoka

Author profile picture Divyansh
Recipient profile picture Riya Behl
19 October
Dear Riya Behl,
I don't know how this works. I do see this is as a space to have a different strand of conversations from our regular ones. The letter format provides a sense of continuity with no pressure to respond. So let me take this opportunity to start something new. It has been over 3 years since we graduated, after 3 years of interacting basically on a daily basis. We have seen each other evolve through those 3 years but the past 3 have flown so fast. We keep each other updated, we have had the chance to meet also but it is our undergraduate selfs that come forward to connect, with more recent layers adding to those. I hope you are following my analogy, maybe you disagree with it. I want to use this letter to introduce you to the Cap that has emerged in the last 3 years. He is more confidence in himself and less sad. He prioritizes his family and health over everything else. When he says family, it includes some other people like yourself, who he holds very close to his heart. (side note: the only tattoo idea he has is of a design with the letters QLF:Que la famille,google to find about it) Cap has also mellowed down, more introspective and reflective than ever, less about partying hardcore. He can handle more alcohol but drinks rarely. He stays even more quiet around people he is not familiar with, and even more chirpy around his friends. He wants to better, mentally and physically, but for the sake of others. The last 3 years gave him a chance to see how he impacts everyone around him, the difference he can make by just being there for people. He wants to be there for them even more now, hoping to be always prepared at the need of the hour. Maybe this is how you would describe Cap, and I am noticing these bits of myself late. Despite all this, he is still the Cap you are familiar with, and I am sure post-Ashoka Cap and post-Ashoka Riya would have become friends regardless(if they got the chance to meet?)


Author profile picture Divyansh
19 October
Dear Divyansh ,

Thank you for writing to me. I've written long, life-update emails to a few friends of mine in the last year, and just yesterday, I was feeling sad about how no one has made time to write back. Or even if they did, then to keep that thread alive. That's when I found this platform, shared it with you, and wondered why I hadn't written to YOU in the first place. I know the entire point of emails is to avoid expecting instant responses, and maybe I am being impatient with the friends I wrote to, but it will take time to build that patience. I hope they write back one day - but for now I am happy to be writing to you here and now.

I did another therapy session last week after two months. I have been doing therapy once a month for a couple of months now, and I think it has been a useful space to check up on myself. I am going to increase it to twice a month in the next two months, as I think I am seeking this routine check-in a little more during the sabbatical.

I am happy to meet the cap you have become: thoughtful, grounded and kind. Always amazed at your ability to find your people wherever you go, so I'm certain we would've had a meaningful conversation - if not friendship - had our crossed paths in your fictional world.

When I met Sanath recently, I told him I don't know what to talk about to people anymore. Even people like him, who I have known for a long time. He felt the same. We laughed about it. Perhaps when you reach a certain depth in a relationship, small talk about career, and other little things don't matter. I can meet the guy five years from now and the warmth of that dynamic would still exist.

We spent our time talking about ideas, mostly, and thankfully. I read a lot on the internet, Cap. Newsletters, essays, and other lovely stuff. Rarely do I find people to discuss these ideas with. Recently, this [url=]essay[/url] hit home. I have struggled with social media for a while now. You know this. Richa writes,

"Even when I am not posting a picture, when I have ideologically committed to not posting it, I am still producing it in my mind’s eye. This compulsive documentation of my surroundings isn’t for personal use; instead, it is vertically shot and artfully arranged for a grid I can’t seem to escape. It’s what the environmentalist Vandana Shiva terms elsewhere a “colonization of the mind,” which feels, in the digital era, inextricably linked with the logic of productivity.

I feel like I have to post a picture. I need to share my life. I have to do something to feel worthwhile, even when what I’m doing is supposedly nothing at all."

I want to subvert my overwhelming desire to perform and produce online. I still feel this inherent feeling of posting the only most perfect photos on my Insta feed. What felt liberating with zinedabaad was that in a zine, I could have it all: the bad photos, the water-colour painting that got smudged, the words that are too personal perhaps, [i]professionally[/i]. And it would be to produce art but not perform a perfect self; in a community that doesn't make zines 'good' or 'bad'.

I'm trying to not feel too critical of my own writing, so I will send this letter to you without editing it more. Thanks for being my friend Cap.


Riya Behl

Riya Behl
2 November
Dear Riya Behl,

This was a nice read. Not the direction I was expecting but still a welcomed one.

The idea of escaping digital reality is something that even I struggle with. My postings on social media are very limited now. I post on my finsta sometimes now. The real difference has been the motivation behind the postings. When it is about sharing a photo of something I made or did, insta or whatsapp is the way to go. My friends care about all this but not enough to have a long discussion about it. It is just used for minor updates from everyday life, and I think it is a good space for it.

For major and heavier stuff, I do prefer talking to people more, whether it is over video calls or phone calls. There is a depth to that conversation. Which is why I love it when I get a call from you. I definitely wish we could do it more often tho. I don't think there is a justified amount of calls or even face-to-face conversations for a friend like you, it would just never be enough. But I think we should do it more often, organized or unorganized, I don't ever want to be too busy for you.

Talking to people is a weird thing for sure. I reflected a lot on friendships and relationships when I was in Kanpur. When I came out of Kanpur, I stayed somewhat in touch with my Kanpur friends but not enough. Staying there during Covid rekindled my friendship with them. Those friends made me feel the essence of what friendships are about. Every evening around 6, we knew we are hanging out, with no concrete plan, where to meet etc. I would give a call to one of my friends, who would come pick me up and we'll go sit somewhere or play something. As others got free, they'd arrive or call to check where we are.

After the lockdown, I spent so much time just chilling and talking with these guys, I do not remember what I talked about either. There was no alcohol or smoking. I remember being free of stress, laughing and joking. I truly miss that.

I will also let you in on a secret. I could not help but compare them with the friends I made in college, just to see how things differ. Both these circles have got me where I am. Ashoka in particular, the sort of discussion and discourse with brainy and talented people was and helped me in my career. But my Kanpur friends have kept me grounded, and I want to stay that way.

Do you know the biggest difference ? Throughout Ashoka and after, the boys have had a tendency to keep track of expenses and split them according to the individual's spending. It has changed now for smaller amounts since everybody is earning something, which has provided financial flexibility. But in Kanpur, that never happened, in school or even now, even from my friends who were struggling to find a job. These guys also come from less affluent backgrounds, which just adds to the whole thing. It does not mean one friendship is better than another, but this small bit maybe reflects a bit more self-lessness. Nishant bhai said that it is a non-metro city thing, which may be true, and that itself is a whole different aspect of things.

I am glad to hear that you are going to therapy and that is helping you. I think just going itself is a great step forward. I want to go, but I do not want to make that kind of commitment and expense yet. I will go for it at some point for sure.

Also, congrats on finishing the application. It is a stressful thing, and I am very glad that you finished it. The sabbatical was also much needed I think, with the amount and intensity of work you were doing earlier.

I am coming back to India at end of December, 29th I think. Will be there for almost the whole of Jan. Let's see if we can make plans to meet.




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