Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My Friend

The first thing you would notice about her is her hair. She had long, black, thick hair which would be nicely braided, folded and tied up with ribbons. I don’t remember when we became friends, but I do remember that I noticed her the first day of my class in this new school in Delhi.

I had always dreaded joining a new school. You had to do everything all over again. Take down notes you missed, introduce yourself to everyone, make new friends…But what I dreaded most were the eyes that followed you everywhere in curiosity. Wondering what you were like and whether you would be a competition to them or not. It was the same with this school, too. I was in my 6th grade.

But to help me adjust, I found some friends, and good ones at that. We were a group of 4 girls. We would sit next to each other in class, lunch together, play together…..but among all I liked her the most. She was, more or less like me. Though we used to compete for the best handwriting among ourselves, I always had a soft corner for her.

We used to enjoy being together and then on the last day of our final exams, when we had finished exchanging addresses and promised to write to each other and keep in touch, she climbed onto her bus and waved. I waved back at her. For the last time. I wish I had known then.

My friends continued studying in the same school, whereas I joined another one in the same city, as we had shifted our house. But we used to write to each other. Slowly, as years passed by, I lost touch with everyone, except her. I left Delhi and kept moving from one place to another. She used to be lazy to write to me, but no matter where I went, we always used to keep in touch. She had given me her phone number to contact her and I had even visited Delhi a couple of times later. But I never called due to my hectic schedules. For which I feel guilty till date.

It was when I was in college, when she wrote to me about this inferiority complex she had because of her dark complexion. She suspected no one was friendly with her because of that. She wrote about how she had lost confidence in herself and how she wished she were like me. I wrote back saying she is best the way she is. I asked her not to change. I gave her all the confidence I could. I couldn’t see her so depressed. Really, she was an angel. She used to always send me hand made cards for New Years and for my birthdays. And I used to think that next time when I visit Delhi, I should meet her.

She was a good student in school and she continued that way in college too. After college she had taken up Charted Accountant foundation classes and I joined my post graduate diploma and we both got busy. I got a job soon after and my marriage was also almost fixed. I wrote to her many times, but there was no reply from her side. And I thought it was her usual laziness that kept her away form writing or maybe she had shifted to some other place. Still in desperate attempt to get in touch with her, I e-mailed one of her friends and asked about her whereabouts. I still remember the exact words of the reply. It said, “Hi. I am very sorry to inform you that your friend is no more. Her parents stay at the same place, they have not shifted.”

I read, re-read the mail again and again. I just could not believe the words in front of my eyes. That night, I couldn’t sleep…suddenly I wanted to see her….just one last time…. It is sad, this situation. Yet it is a fact many of us overlook.

Today when I think of her, I tell her how much she means to me. I thank her for being my friend, for giving me those beautiful and unforgettable memories that I shall treasure all my life. And she just smiles back at me. Maybe she says,” I will always remain your friend!”

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