On that foggy morning, as I waited for S to pick me up, I wondered what I would feel. I was meeting S after 12 long years. Many things had changed for both of us in this period. She had done her postgraduation and settled into a job, got married and she was now a mother of three. I was still unsettled in every sense, but my life had been a story of metamorphosis on its own terms. Over the texts and phone calls, she had sounded warm and receptive. But I wasn’t sure if we could bridge this gap of 12 years. We had moved too far away from the people we used to be.
My first thought as I saw her walk towards me was- ‘Wow! She looks just the same!’ As if reading my thoughts, she said to me, “You look the same!” I wondered if she could see beneath my external facade the scars from life. As I sat beside her in the car, I went momentarily back in time. We had been very good friends in the first year of medical college. We had somehow drifted apart thereafter, but I couldn’t exactly recollect how. What I do remember is that we were different in many ways. I was impish, unstable, fun-loving and immature. I was not one to take life seriously. She was stable, composed and far more mature than most girls in our batch. I don’t remember what brought us together. What I do remember is that I felt secure in her company. Her independence, composure and maturity shielded me from the anxiety I felt in my first year of college. There was a certain silence about her persona that spoke of some void in her life, but she never really talked much about it. My instability in those days was as attractive as it was detrimental. But I was unaware of both these facets. From a distance, the instability projected me as a person complete by myself, for I seemed to move on effortlessly. But that was far from the truth. The truth was that I had never introspected on my personality or emotions and ignorance is sometimes bliss. When I moved on to a new circle of friends who were as impish as me, I never really thought much about its impact on S. But today, I feel it might have hurt her. I looked at her driving and talking, and I wanted to ask her if I had hurt her. But the question seemed obsolete now.
Her apartment came into view and put an end to my memory trail. She took me in and my focus shifted to the new people I was being introduced to. I have always felt that kids ease the process of adapting to a new environment, and I was delighted to see 3 kids. The older ones left for school and I entertained myself with the little one. There is no man-made perfume that can supercede the natural fragrance of a baby….nothing that can substitute the softness and warmth of a baby. To hold the little one and carry him around reminded me of my baby cousins whom I would refuse to part with.
The next bout of nostalgia set in when we were at Miller’s Road. I remembered the times we went out together. She had invited me to her house several times and we had spent a laid-back time, munching on titbits, petting and taunting her dog, talking about everything and nothing, listening to music and relaxing in the balcony. I still remember her house- it was beautiful and set back from all the traffic and noise. In Bangalore, it was a luxury by all means. Then the visits to Commercial Street where I would watch her run through Western outfits and salwar fabric and make choices. I would try to understand how she made these choices, for she had a lovely collection of clothes. I remember pillion-riding with her on her bike and floating merrily into some imaginary world free of the burden of academics. I remember wishing my parents were as cool as hers, in terms of the freedom she had. There was nothing I loved as much as riding around the city in the late hours of the evening, feeling the breeze on my face, wiping off the assaults of a long day. The nights I loved the most, for the city gleamed with lights and I found myself merging into its happiness and beauty.
Time flew in the company of the kids. As always, I felt at home with their ignorance of the norms of the ‘adult world’. They gave me their old toy planes and suggested that I could give them to my sons. When they discovered I had no sons, they asked me if I had a husband. That was no again. What about marriage? No again. They had a solution. They would find for me a boyfriend from mom’s/dad’s friends so that I could marry and have sons and gift them the toy cars. So I could keep the toy cars for now. They were relieved now that they had found a solution and I was most amused.
It was like a movie. I kept switching between the past and present. S taking care of her children. S and me in college, sitting next to each other in class. S juggling between chores. S and me relaxing on the balcony in her house. Present and past. Maybe that is how the mind bridges the gap…12 long years.
And what S helped me realize was that despite all the changes that life brings in us, there is that fundamental core that remains. With her, I still felt naive, dependent and immature. But I was comfortable because I knew I had her. I knew I could entrust myself to her care. I felt pampered and cared for. Without being asked for anything in return. I hadn’t been pampered in a long long time. My layers of defense acquired over the years melted and on the day we parted, I sobbed like a child. So did she. But it was like having rediscovered my raw self.
In the rick, all I could do was thank God for reminding me of all that friendship used to be…for having given me a dream I had abandoned. And today, I can see myself reexperiencing all that was most precious to me once upon a time. It keeps me going. Sometimes, all we need is to recreate old memories…do things we did…go to places that were part of our lives then….let our pasts transiently spill into the present. It changes the perception of the present phenomenally. Thank you, S…for everything then and now! A big hug 🙂