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,’’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.’’
Sangita P. Menon Malhan,
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