Like millions of others before and after me, I was once a primary school kid. Oh, those days. I have come learnt to treasure those early stages of my life, for that was the foundation for what one was to become in adulthood. I particularly remember two of my teachers with fondness, and let me share something with you about them. They are Mr Cuba aka Sir Mqwathi and Mr Mnqayi. The latter was a much-loved character by his pupils, much so for his whiskers, hence the moniker “Mr Mabhovu” (I hope he’s not reading this for I am not willing to do push-ups on stones). Well, it is only now – many glasses of beer later – that I realise how tricky our beloved teacher’s Mondays must have been. Back then we were not partaking of the juice of the vine and his hangover appearance was fodder for our amusement.Every Monday morning you could not miss the fact that this was a man who had had ‘one for the road’ just hours earlier. He once sent a learner from another class to call for me and, when I got there, he was in the middle of a tirade. He was reading them the riot act. He proceeded to ask them questions in my presence, but so poor was their grasp of the matter at hand that he concluded: “Yini zihlobo zenkosi ukundihlaza phambi ko Lunga Adam(s).” As for Mr Mqwathi, he was our class teacher in Grade 4, and our classroom was situated upstairs. Such was his imposing stature that he would scream from downstairs on his way up: “Kwedini sul’ ibhooooodi.”m, with the desired effect, Caster Semenya speed, because God forbid what Mr Mqwathi would do to us if he walked in and found that we had not adhered to his instruction. The duo possessed a lasting friendship. So close were they that you would not be faulted for drawing comparisons with Popeye and Spinach. Inseparables. When Mr Mnqayi struggled to discipline the big boys in class, he called for his sidekick Mr Mqwathi, who always obliged. The two seemed to gave a lot in common, chief among them being braaied meat and the waters of immortality. Where am I going with this? Friendship. Yeah, that overrated word. Do friends even exist in this day and age? All I see is people getting together whenever the weather permits, having a good time and taking lots of pictures. I’m sure if you were to visit hospitals and speak to the patients, they would tell you that there is no such thing as friends. We desert each other in tough times. We are fair weather pals. I recently “made friends” (funny I should say that) with an old man and we call each other ‘Mhlobam’. Whenever I see him at the drinking hole, he cuts a lonely figure. He has a wife and kids, has been jobless for a while now and in the process has lost friends. He recently spent three months in the Eastern Cape but decided to come back as the prospects there were no better. When he shares his sad tale with me and reminisces about his salad days, my heart sinks. It’s never too late to revisit the true meaning of friendship.