A lot of the qualities we possess and the ideas that we cultivate through our lives are influenced by the people we spend time with. I have been lucky enough to have friends and relatives who are truly extraordinary in their own way and have made life more interesting. I’d like to tell you a little about four such people I know.

(Note: in order to protect the real identity of these people, I have assigned pseudonyms for them and also made a few changes here and there due to which certain details may not be very accurate.)

Acquaintance 1: Tallulah

Tallulah really doesn’t know how to take a compliment. For instance, if she is getting ready to go out somewhere and someone says ‘you look nice’, instead of saying ‘thank you’ or something along those lines, she will flip her hair, look at herself in the mirror and say ‘Yes’.

It’s funny because she isn’t even an egoistic person or anything. In fact, there are days when her self-esteem gets so low that she will open 3 bags of chips all at once and, in between mouthfuls, say ‘I’m a fat pig’. To which I usually respond ‘No, you’re not, you just need to watch what you eat and maybe start exercising a little bit’.

When she hears these words, Tallulah will suddenly be struck by a new steely resolve to achieve the perfect figure. She will say ‘After I finish these delicious Pringles, I will start working out, and I’m going to do it regularly from now on. Then all the boys will want me and they’ll line up to ask for my number.’ (Her low self-esteem moments don’t last very long).

The next three days, she will get up early to go for a run; three days after that, she will switch to yoga, claiming it would be more effective, and then in just a week’s time, she will be back on her couch with her beloved potato chips.

‘I have made significant changes in my lifestyle though’ she states, a tad defensively. ‘I don’t use the remote control anymore, I actually walk to the TV to change channels. Also, I’ve switched from Coke to Diet Coke.’

Tallulah’s quite a smart girl and always used to get top grades in school. That’s not to say she’s ‘all there’ though. I remember once she had this strange expression on her face as though she had just committed a minor crime. ‘I’m about to tell you a secret, but promise you won’t tell anybody’ she says, and I nod. She then points to her cat’s milk bowl and says ‘I just took a few sips from that.’  And with that, she starts to laugh hysterically.

Acquaintance 2: Juggie

For someone who vehemently insists that she doesn’t suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, Juggie sure likes to arrange things in a perfect line. When we are playing a game of poker and the chips are on the table, she always aligns them in neat stacks. Dirty dishes have to be cleaned immediately and she has a proper schedule for everything she does, which includes mealtime, shower-time and of course ‘poop-time’.

Juggie happens to be one of those thin girls who eat like a horse and sleep for hours on end and never get fat. I do admit I hate her for that. Food makes her happy in ways that nothing else could. If you buy her a new pair of shoes, she will at best say ‘oh ok thanks, shoes are essential, I guess’. But if you buy her a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, she’ll have her Oscar speech all ready for you ‘I don’t know what to say, I mean, thank you SO much, this is just..this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever received’, and so on and so forth.

The best thing about being around someone like Juggie is that she’s a total positive influence because she doesn’t dislike anyone and vice versa. Also, she never gets angry. She once told me about how these kids in her neighborhood rang her doorbell early on a Saturday morning (which happens to be the only day she gets to sleep in) only to run away when she opened her door. This happened several times and she eventually stood waiting for those pranksters.

‘I looked through the peephole and I saw them lurking behind the bushes’ she said ‘then, when they came to my door to ring it again, I opened it suddenly and ran after them.’

‘Did you catch them?’ I asked.

‘Of course I did’ she replied, ‘I started out trying to scold them but ended up making breakfast for them instead.’

On top of that, she also gave them money to buy themselves some ice-cream.

Acquaintance 3: Luna

With Luna, it’s quite impossible to keep a straight face, at least for me it isn’t. Even though she doesn’t intend to be funny, she makes everyone around her laugh. She’ll say something completely amusing without even realizing it, like ‘my colleague said something mean about me today and she had the nerve to say she wasn’t making fun OF me! Well, if she wasn’t making fun OF me, what was she, making fun ON me?’ and I have to try not to laugh because she is obviously stung by this incident.

It’s just the way she talks and the words she uses that sets her apart from everyone else. Like she’ll use the word ‘small’ instead of ‘young’. For example, this one time, I was saying how one friend of ours was still half a year away from being the same age as us. ‘I know!’ she replied ‘that’s so small!’ I then proceeded to guffaw like an idiot, and she promptly joined in. Another time, she was talking animatedly about some incident at her work-place. She had kept her arms crossed on the table and suddenly stopped talking and, touching her upper arm went ‘Hey! Where are my muscles?’ Needless to say, laughter ensued.

On the other hand, there are times when I say something completely normal and unremarkable like ‘remind me to buy some bread later’, Luna will burst out laughing like I just narrated the most hilarious joke. And she laughs till her face is tomato red and I don’t even know what exactly is tickling her so. If I ask her, she’ll just say ‘No, it’s just..the way you said it.’ Well, ok.

Acquaintance 4: Dawg

Dawg is one of those ‘tough on the outside, a gooey marshmallow on the inside’ kind of people. Once, he was admiring himself in the mirror for a good half hour, saying incoherent things like ‘Damn, I’m fly’ or ‘whoa whoa whoa ladies! One at a time!’ while fighting off a make-believe group of girls.

After that, he goes to the bathroom and suddenly emerges, running out the bathroom door and screaming. About 5 seconds later, a big butterfly comes fluttering out the same door after him. To this day, we still tease him about the fact that he ran from a butterfly. He has no option but to defend himself by exaggerating more and more the dangerous nature of that particular butterfly. First it was ‘That thing was as big as a crow’, which then evolved to ‘It had sharp fangs and I could’ve sworn it spoke to me in Parseltongue.’

Everyone always speaks of Dawg in the most complimentary way. He’s nice to everyone and he has a lot of friends. He hangs out with all kinds of ‘crowds’ and changes his entire demeanor to match that of the people he is surrounded by.

For instance, if he is with his Indian friends, he’ll say things like ‘ay dood, chal na yaar, when are you gonna treat me yaar?’, with his African friends, he’ll be like ‘Imma just be chillin’ in ma crib these days, you know’ and with any of his foreign fair-skinned friends, you’re likely to hear him say things like ‘Oh Gosh darn, my tea spilled all over my pantaloons, oh what a right plonker I can be sometimes!’