“The audience’s laughter is so annoying, how do you watch this?” Appa said, as he entered the room. My mother and I shot him scornful looks and went back to watching Joey, Rach, Pheebs, Ross, Mon and Chandler go about their lives, in the tiny purple room that had captured our undivided attention for the past nine seasons.
English movies have been a huge part of my mother’s life, and so, eventually my life as well. After she got married and moved to an unfamiliar little town, thousands of kilometres away from her where she grew up, movies became my mother’s adventurous escapes. For me, my middle school days were filled with days of bunking school to watch mine and mom’s favourite movies – the Jackie Chan film, Who am I (we can quote the entire movie by heart!) or Miss Congeniality and of course, Enemy of the State.
However, when we moved again, all our time went into adjusting to a new, bustling city; gone were the days of movie binges.
High school brought with it a gigantic wave of homework that I struggled to keep up with, while also working to fit into the Fevicol-waale-strong cliques. My mother was still my best friend, but we seemed to be in different orbits, revolving around newly distinct priorities. However, underneath the anger and fights that come with teenaged brutishness and frustration, we were both saddened by this drifting apart.
After a year or two of this, I made new friends, and discovered the brand new universe of English sitcoms. TV shows became the hot lunch break topic, and pen drives of torrented content changed hands under the benches (they were confiscated if found by the teachers). That’s how I came upon Friends. After much persuasion, I succumbed to peer pressure and voila, that infamous theme song made its way into my heart and the back of all my notebooks.
Understandably, my mother was initially very sceptical of this new material, but finally gave in after she heard me cry-laughing at one of the episodes. After some initial criticism (she hates that the characters care about romantic relationships so much) she absolutely fell in love with the show. Listening to her loud laughter as she watches the show makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
To be perfectly honest, at first I was perplexed by how much she liked Friends. But, my mom says it’s because of how amazingly life-like the characters are, with their little nuances and quirks, and how connected she feels to the writing of someone who’s on the other side of the globe. She said it casually, but her take has stuck with me.
When Monica and her mother shared the screen, I’d turn to my mother and smile, the sheer resemblance still makes us both giggle. People say that growing up in India, we never explicitly acknowledge our emotions towards our parents – most of us never say ‘I love you’ out loud etc. But, I think it’s because we never have to. We express love in other ways – a smile, a dish, or in my case, while watching a TV show. The emotion remains the same, the medium differs.
But what really amazes me is how this tiny, insignificant ritual of watching Friends together has played such a pivotal (pun intended) role in my relationship with my mother. I’ve heard people say that life presents us with lessons when we least expect them. I’d never really believed that, until one day, while watching Friends, I had an epiphany – I had spent most of my life looking for friends in new places, searching for familiarity and a sense of ‘home’, but my best friend had been beside me all along; the one constant through a whirlwind 17 years. No matter how old I grow, my mom was and will always be there for me. I was exactly where I needed to be all along. Home.
Shweta Renganathan is a 12th grade humanities student. She posts puns, rants and boomerangs on Instagram at @shweta.renganathan.