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Friends Forever

'That is quite unbelievable! How is it even possible to feel like you do? After all, fate doesn’t often give you a second chance. Snigdha, you are clearly losing it. You are just too opinionated and judgmental,’’ Kruttika stressed. She was annoyed but said, ``tell me about it from the very beginning. I want to know what went wrong. Only the other day, you seemed elated. And now, that enthusiasm seems to have completely vanished.’’

"I, too, am feeling a bit strange,’’ Snigdha confessed. "We were a group of four girls and three boys who had been chosen from schools across the country to participate in an international quiz competition entitled, "How well do your know your world?’’

We were to go to London for the first phase of the competition and then to New York for the finals. This was just after we had cleared our 12th standard exams. We were obviously very excited about the two week project because for most of us, it was our first trip outside India. We congregated in Delhi for a one-week orientation before departure. It was also going to be the first time that we would meet each other,’’ she said.

"When I reached the camp site in the cantonment area, three girls were already there. They seemed to have bonded very well. One was a tall, delicate-looking girl from Ahmed Nagar named Aranyaa Vasu, who was soft-spoken and nice to talk to. The hyper-active Christine Solaris was from Goa and Iris Gorai, who laughed a lot and cracked many jokes, was from Meghalaya. Iris was also the baby of the group,’’ Snigdha continued.

"Seems like a great gang to have to me,’’ quipped Kruttika. "My God! They were too friendly...Was that your problem? How terrible,’’ she said sarcastically. "No. That was not it. Please listen to me. You know how it is with people. We are quite social sometimes and recluses at other times. There are people who have excellent public speaking skills but who clam up when it comes to talking shop. There are yet others who seem calm and composed on the outside but are actually quite restless and impatient from within. Aren’t we all like this,’’ Snigdha asked, seeking some support from the person sitting in front of her. Kruttika said nothing. "Just finish your piece and let me decide,’’ she retorted rather stiffly.

"Well! Later that day, the boys joined us. We had a group leader who helped us introduce ourselves. I soon found out that Veer Marwar was from Nagpur. He was a seemingly tough guy who was actually quite diffident, and who had to be drawn out and coaxed to talk. He also had an awful temper, and one did not want to rub him on the wrong side. Zaman Bisht, who was from Bhopal, was very talkative and had a tendency to provoke people and then use his wit to get out of tricky situations. He got beaten up quite often. The third boy was the youngest of the lot and quite an angel. He wanted people to bond and tried his best to sort out problems. His name was Tanmay Upaj,’’ said Snigdha.

"Now that we have all our characters in place, just tell me what happened,’’ interrupted Kruttika, growing more and more impatient by the minute and wanting to throttle her friend. ``We had a wonderful trip. We bonded and helped one another. We also taught each other things. Of course, there were some misunderstandings and fights because we were all so competitive and only one of us could participate in the finals. Yet, we learnt a lot about ourselves, and about our strengths and weaknesses. We got enough exposure and acquired a different world view. And, we parted as close friends,’’ Snigdha concluded. Sipping her coffee, she seemed lost in thought.

"That was so long ago. It has been nearly 10 years since we spoke to each other. And when Tanmay called the other day, it was quite unbelievable. I do not know how he had traced me. We spoke for over an hour. He had joined the Air Force and was flying jets. He had married Iris and they were very happy. He gave my contact number to Veer and Zaman, and they called up as well. It was magical. The former was managing a resort in Ooty and the latter had become a mathematician. We had so much to say to each other. It was strange how and why we had lost touch. Believe it not, a few days later, Aranyaa and Christine also called. Aranyaa was in the corporate sector and Christine worked with an NGO. In one week, I had found so many of my friends or shall we say that they had found me. I must confess that I was quite overwhelmed,’’ she conceded.  

"We began making plans to meet. Everyone was calling up everyone else but it was mostly Tanmay who coordinated. I rarely called anyone. I did not want to impose. Then, one day, Tanmay told me that Iris was coming back from Toronto. She was working in the Indian embassy there. He said that I could call her whenever I wanted to. Now, you know that I am hardly the type to make calls… yet, I decided to do that. After all, it was Iris, I told myself. I made that call. She was really sweet, and we spoke for a while. She had picked up an accent and was very matter-of-fact. The vibes were not as smooth as they had been earlier. I was confused. I had perhaps done the wrong thing by presuming that all would be like it was in the past. I was naïve,’’ said Snigdha, looking quite distressed.

"Don’t you think you are over-reacting? Do stop being so melodramatic! I know that when we grow up, we could become self-focused, rigid in our views and less malleable. Our priorities change and we have different lifestyles and pressures. But these are your friends, Snigdha. Those ties should not be forgotten,’’ she pointed out.

"It has been three months since anyone but Tanmay has called. When I took the initiative with Iris, it did not work out so well. I am now reluctant to meet them or even call them up, lest that is seen as being too eager. I don’t know what to do or how to behave. Should I call or should I let someone else take the first step? What I cannot understand is how we all came together after so many years in one great wave and then lost each other all over again,’’ said Snigdha. She looked genuinely disturbed.

Kruttika looked hard at her friend, and then it struck her in an instant. "You, who claim to be a loner, are actually hungry for companionship. Tell me, aren’t you secretly excited by the prospect of reconnecting with your old friends,’’ she probed. "But you are so caught up in the analysis of what will happen when and if you meet them that you are unable to let even the present be,’’ she stressed. `Don’t be a fool. Let them come back into your life. Call them. And start again with Iris,’’ she insisted. ``Life isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be,’’ she added.
Snigdha picked up her phone reluctantly. She dialed the number. A sweet voice on the other side recognized her voice and shouted out, "Hey! Snug! (Iris always called her that) Guess what? I was just about to call you. We’ve put together a programme for the New Year. We could all meet at Veer’s resort in Ooty for three days. You’ve got to be there. Promise me you’ll come.’’

Contributing Story Teller Sangita P. Menon Malhan, [email protected]  I am a short story writer, located in New Delhi, India. For most of my professional life, I was a journalist with a national newspaper. I am currently a freelance editor and translator. The stories I write are primarily for children and the youth. Their readership, so far, has been Indian, and therefore, the stories have Indian sensibilities.

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