An intimate and delightful run through the seemingly ordinary parts of life
My phone buzzed with a notification. "Gotta get groceries, jabi (do you want to come)?"
I look up from my half eaten breakfast plate and type back, "I do have to deposit a cheque at the bank; koitai (what time)?"
The response is immediate, "Tui ekhon free (are you free now)?"
Twenty minutes later, I am skipping down the stairs to my apartment as my friend's car pulls into the driveway. That day's errand hang consisted of me accompanying my friend to the grocery store where she bought her necessaries: tomatoes, lemons, chicken, tea and the likes, while I picked through the health and beauty section, read shampoo labels and threw longing glances at the candy aisle. After that, we went to the bank, where I deposited my cheque while she played Candy Crush on her phone. Since it was almost lunch time and our favourite burger place, American Burger, was just around the corner, we waltzed in and ordered a beef burger each, hers with fries, from which I helped myself without shame. Later we got ice-cream at a nearby place to wash down the hearty lunch and sat there in silence, watching people and zoning out, occasionally taking a bite of our vanilla soft serves. Our errand hang that day had the perfect end with a brief visit to Boi Bichitra for no specific reason, where we read book blurbs of newly stacked books, gazed yearningly at art supplies and bought stationery that we convinced each other that we needed in order to succeed in life.
The errand hang is a term for when friends accompany each other while tending to mundane tasks that come with the daily life: the usual grocery run, picking up an altered shalwar-kameez at dorji-chacha's, a quick run to the dry cleaners to pick up their father's punjabi, buying clothes for someone's toddler son who is quickly outgrowing his current ones, getting assignments printed for someone's MBA classes, hunting for new work shoes, tagging along and waiting during a hairdresser's appointment. This is a rather short list of things I have done in the many errand hangs with friends; I cannot remember them all because the nature of an errand hang comes with the mediocrity of the familiar and the mundane. The errand hang, unlike planned dinner events, movie dates, class reunions and wedding ceremonies, are unremarkable. It cancels the scripts, the preparation and the planning that comes with special events and replaces them with the sweet spontaneity of performing the ordinary with someone whose company you enjoy.
Although my friends and I have been doing this since our university days, I recently realized that the errand hang is but the only way to ensure quality time spent in the company of a good friend; especially once you both achieve peak adulthood. Work, marriage, parenthood, familial obligations come at you like a series of tsunamis soon after you reach your mid-20s. For the average Bangladeshi, creating new relationships through marriage often means leaving a lot of old friendships behind. Sometimes work obligations do not allow you to dig up that extra hour to grab tea at Khokon bhai's Tong with your best friend. Life changes further when you have a baby, and then suddenly you no longer have all the extra hours in the day to binge-watch Rurouni Kenshin episodes with your friend like you used to.
The key to maintaining any relationship is the availability of time. In this expeditious world where life is structured around money-making, fast-paced decision making and methodical routines, most of us spend our days cooped up in front of computers, resulting in zero to little time for relationships other than the familial ones. Ever since covid-19 hit, the world has been swept away by a new productivity obsession. We have packed our lives into little instagrammable bits: from documenting how much weight we can lift or how long we can hold a plank, to photographing the new delicious recipes that we have cooked, the thousands of books we have read, the new home workstation we have set up next to the baby's cot, the unmarked exam scripts piling on the dining table, the many screenshots of Zoom meetings that we have attended while donning a formal top over our sleeping pajamas, lungi or underpants. Somehow with the start of this work-from-home culture, life has become more scheduled, yet busier and messier. And to manage this chaos, we have inadvertently overlooked a very necessary restorative part of our lives: the friendships that keep us grounded, those that help us unwind after a busy week; the friendships that have graciously taken a backseat, but are unbreakable even during long periods of silence.
Be it because of adulthood or the pandemic, it seems the errand hang is the only time I really get to spend quality time with my friends these days. When I am with my errand friends, getting jhalmuri in the middle of the day for no good reason or mindlessly browsing through a book shop, I am my purest, most relaxed self; blissfully weird and happy as a clam.
I would like to dedicate this article to my errand friends, Sumaya Begum and Nusrat Shayla, without whom my errand runs would be too boring and much less eventful.
Sameirah Nasrin Ahsan is a mechanical engineer in Dhaka. She aspires to be an author someday. For now, she is content with reading and sharing the stories that make her think beyond herself. Instagram: @booksnher.