Has it really been that long, Sree, since we first met? 7 years?
Has it been seven years since that day, my first day at college, a month after the rest of you had joined because I had my compartment exam to clear, where I met you and the rest of the gang, and decided immediately that you were too snooty and hyper for my own good? I had looked at you through narrow, skeptical eyes, and then turned around to talk to someone else. This was college, not school. Choose your friends carefully, my parents had advised me.
But of course, it must’ve been Fate. Why else would I get the only seat remaining, which was right in front of yours? I had to endure one full day of your constant chatter from behind, with Neethu, Arun and Arjun contributing to it. I had figured out by now that you were THE Gang. By the end of the day, I had decided to sit somewhere else the next day. But the next day, all seats were taken and I had no choice but to go and sit in one corner of the side bench, with the other end occupied by Arun and Arjun. Remember how Shirley Ma’m then rearranged the seats, and somehow, you, me and Neethu ended up next to each other on the ‘side bench’? Who knew, that would be the beginning of one of the most special relationships of my life.
Has it really been that long since you welcomed me into the ‘gang’ wholeheartedly, and the squabbles that followed? Remember that day, we fought with those two and I took my bag and walked out of class? You and Neethu consoled me while I sat crying in the Ladies' restroom. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that you and I were of the same type pretty much. We both liked to roam around the campus rather than sit in class during free periods. We both shared the same interest in the wonderful pastime called ‘vaayanokkal’. Remember how we used to call good-looking guys as ‘chaakara’? :) I can never look at fish again without bursting out laughing at that. Remember how we used to doze off during Yohanan Sir’s Hindi class? Of course, was it our fault that they kept it right after lunch break? I still remember the look on Sir’s face when he handed out our half-yearly exam answer sheets and saw that we had scored above 70. The girls who paid the least attention in his class had scored such decent marks! I hope your students don’t fall asleep like that in your class. :) I wish I could go back one more time and sit with you in the chapel- so peaceful, so calm. The perfect place to hide when we wanted to bunk classes. And we used to promptly go and break the tranquility by our giggly whispers.
Remember how we used to bug Neethu in YG’s class, making her sit in between the two of us and pulling at her bra strap? :D God, if it had been anyone else, they would’ve given up on us long back. I wonder how our sweet little Annama put up with us. And how you put up with me- your cranky, temperamental best friend who was confused about a lot of things and had a penchant for messing up not only her own, but others’ lives too.
But you did not judge me. You did not give up on me. Yes, you laughed with me, consoled me when I cried. But when you saw me going down the wrong path, you also reprimanded me. And you stood up for me when I had failed to do it for myself. You were like a lioness guarding her cub, lashing back at anyone who spoke against me. When I had got lost somewhere in between, you brought me back. And our excursion, remember? That was the first time you ever got upset with me and ignored me. Till then, I had not realized how much you meant to me. But I could not bear the thought that you could be angry with me over something, even though the fault was entirely mine. Why did you punish me, Sree? Why did you make me cry? Maybe because you understood that it was the only way to make me see things for what they were. And you were right, whatever be the method you chose. I don’t know what I would have done without you.
You know what I want to do the most right now? Go to Minus 24 with you, order one Slush each, Orange for you and Mango for me, and sit there for hours together, gossiping, laughing, checking out the scarce pasture, and basically being carefree. Remember how you used to accompany me on those special meetings? Then we would go to Style Plus and shop for absolutely nothing. And to the CCD in Kowdiar. Sit on that corner couch and waste away three-four hours, ordering the Cool Blue that looked so much like Harpic and was so cold that it froze our tongues, turning it blue, and gave us a headache.
I don’t talk so much on the phone these days. I don’t like to, I get bored after 5-10 minutes. But I miss talking to you twice a day, minimum half an hour each, during the study holidays, discussing anything but studies. Remember how we used to strike a deal? “One call you make, the next time, I’ll call.” I pestered mom and dad to get me an Airtel connection saying that call rates to other Airtel numbers would be less, so I won’t use the landline to call you. I used to end up messaging you, calling you from the cell, and then again call you from the landline to check whether you got my message or not and why you missed my call. What a pain I was, no? And I still remember calling you at midnight, petrified, scared out of my wits and emotionally drained. But you heard me out. You consoled me and told me to go to sleep, more so because you yourself wanted to sleep. :) I really missed you in the last two years, when, you know, all that crap happened.
You know how I like to correct others’ grammar, don’t you? But it doesn’t give me as much pleasure as it used to when I pulled your ear and you yelped out “Ok ok!! HAVE to, not WANT to. Got it!!!”, muttering abuses at me under your breath. Do you do that to your students now? :) Every time I get into a bus, I remember how we used to sit on the side seat in a bus and create a ruckus, so much that by the time we got down, the rest of the passengers heaved a rather audible sigh of relief.
Has it really been that long? Today, when my phone pinged the arrival of your husband’s message “Sreedevi and me blessed with a baby boy”, my eyes filled up. I could not contain my joy. My dear Sree, who only I have the license to call ‘Shree’, had become a mother. You, who used to roam around the city with me, checking out guys and eating mutton cutlet and French fries at Oasis in Saphalyam Complex, had become a mother. At an age where I still can’t handle the idea of marriage, you had actually gone through labour pains and brought a tiny little person into the world. My love and respect for you has just multiplied. I know we have grown a little apart from each other over time, what with being in different states and jobs and, in your case, a husband and all, but each time I call you, it’s as though we just spoke last night about catching a movie the next day or complaining about the stupid essayists who’re ruining our sleep.
Congrats, brand-new mommy. You have a lot on your hands now. You have a new person to look after. Just don’t forget that this friend of yours loves you a lot, and still wishes to go back in time and relive those carefree days, when we never ran out of topics to talk about and missed each other even on weekends. I hope your little bundle of joy brings as much happiness into your life as you brought into mine.
God bless you, my dear. My dear Shree…