United by Distance: Heartwarming COVID-19 Friendship Tales

Once upon a time, when I was just a curious fourth-grader, the world seemed full of wonders waiting to be explored. It was then that I first learned about archaeologists, and the very idea of their adventures fascinated me beyond measure. My young heart was captured by the allure of Egypt, a place where ancient mysteries and the grandeur of the Pyramids awaited. I yearned to stand in their shadow, to feel the sands of Egypt beneath my feet, and to let history’s whispers surround me.

As the years passed and I ventured into eighth grade, I clung steadfastly to my dream of becoming an archaeologist. My classmates, in their playful jests, nicknamed me “Kabariwali – garbage picker,” a moniker that never truly dimmed my spirit. It was the harsh realities of life, the expectations that come with growing up, that momentarily shrouded my dreams. I found myself setting new goals – aspiring to be a teacher and then a professor – and, in the process, my cherished dream of archaeology seemed to slip away.

Then, in the tumultuous year of 2020, as the world teetered on the brink of lockdowns and uncertainty, my journey led me to the enchanting city of Amritsar. It was a stopover that would forever alter the course of my life. In a cozy hostel, amidst the incessant ring of an alarm, fate intervened once more. The owner of the mysterious alarm, a teacher named Rowan from Alexandria, Egypt, shared this space with me. She had journeyed across continents, seeking adventure and new experiences, and had found herself in the same hostel.

Our initial conversation flowed with ease, bridging the gap between two strangers. We swapped tales of our travels and dreams yet unfulfilled. Fate, it seemed, had other plans for us. With just a day’s notice, we were asked to vacate the hostel. In a remarkable act of kindness, they provided us shelter for a few more days before we were compelled to move to a guesthouse where we would spend the next 74 days together.

Those days, oh, those precious days! They became memories etched deep in my heart, each one a precious gem, gleaming with the warmth of newfound friendship. When the time came to say goodbye, we parted with hopeful words: “See you again,” though we had no idea when that would be. In early 2023, a new chapter began when Rowan announced her upcoming wedding. Plans were made, finances were sorted, and office leaves were negotiated. In August 2023, we stood side by side once again, witnessing a reunion that could only be described as magical. We missed our friend Sogol, whose absence was deeply felt. Together, as we had once dreamt in 2020, we marveled at the majesty of the Pyramids and celebrated love at Rowan’s beautiful wedding.

What had started as a chance encounter had blossomed into a profound friendship, a bond that transcended borders and languages. In those moments, no one felt like a stranger, and language was no longer a barrier.

Some friendships are unexpected, yet their worth is immeasurable. No distance is too great, no hardship too challenging when it comes to true friendship. Some friendships are unexpected but truly worth it.

Life, in all its mysterious ways, found a means to make my dreams come true. I’ve made new friends who feel like family, and I can’t help but love each one of them as much as the sands of the desert.

In Egypt, I spent 15 unforgettable days exploring places with friends like Alex, who’s now a farmer in Australia, and Rowan, who’s currently taking a break from her corporate life after getting married. As for me, I’m back in India, penning down these feelings and reminiscing about the incredible journey. I met countless people, made friends, indulged in culinary delights, and shed tears when it was time to say “see you again” to both old and new friends.

I don’t know when our paths will cross again, but I hold on to hope, for it is hope that keeps us alive.



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