The girls I knew long ago
Here in the US, there are just not enough people from my school in my city to have proper reunions. One or two friends, to meet and chat and thats about it. But while I was headed to Kolkata this time, I looked up an old friend I had recently ‘rediscovered’ through a social networking site. Would she be there in March? Turns out she would. And she knew a few others. Who knew a few others who would all be there. And soon it was looking like a mini reunion. With enough critical mass, but without large groups or formality. Now on TV, and movies you see people dreading reunions, tense to meet people whose memories they have swept under the carpet. But I felt nothing of that sort. Even before I went there, I was excited. As if I knew right then it would take me somewhere I had not been for many years.
Now I must say these were friends I studied with till I was 12 or 13. And then I moved away to another city, lost touch as I waded through tumultous teens and the academic pressures of early 20’s. With these friends, I was all curiousity and no competition. I wanted to know how much was same, and what changed and what career and life paths claimed them. But unlike movies, I had no ‘I need to prove I did blah blah, or got married or anything of that sort.
One of the friends had invited all of us over to her house so that we could chat more and eat less. But the doctor had advised me against climbing stairsand her house was up high. So I was faced two days before the reunion with the task of calling up a friend I had not talked to in 20 years who had spent time organizing the reunion and ask her for a venue change. I did it. And her response was the most disarming and the sweetest. She pooh poohed my apologies and suggestions I dont come, and asked me to call back in a day for a new venue. Already there was a cutting of a string, a opening of the giftwrap. I knew I was on to something.
Well, it so turned out that we were meeting outside a card shop in Gariahat and heading somewhere to eat. I had seen a couple of pictures, again thanks to soc networking, but was unsure. What if I didnt recognize someone. Anyway, so I headed there quite punctually hoping that there would be no other women in their early 30s hanging around the card shop till I met someone I knew. I called the organizer. She was going to be a bit late. I thought I will sufficiently shied myself with some roadside shop awnings while I figured out names and faces. But it was in vain. I could only see the ponytailed back of one lady, and when she turned, she might have still been waiting for the school bus at Beleghata bus stop. She was the same, and it appeared she recognized me. And then the others trickled in. Some the same, some the same at second glance, some glamorous and some like myself noticeably plumper after childbirth. One had abandoned her stern plaits for a stylish bob and smoky eyes. One had the same laugh and smile and excitement in her voice. And all I wanted to still befriend and explore. Some of us had been through the same experiences. There was a strange combination of connectedness and gap that was enticing.
As we trooped over to a chinese restaurant and tucked into spring rolls and manchurians, there was a flurry of photographs. Everyone except me it seemed had got their cameras (and knowing me, thats quite expected). And no one wanted to miss anything. So for the first 1 minutes cameras were passsed around, laughs traded and smiles plastered on. It turned out my beleghata neighbour still had her sense of humor. And that many of my friends remembered things from my youth that I had totally forgotten. Apparently I have quietened down. When I thought about it, I felt I had.
But as I looked at the faces around me, I saw my friends, but beyond them I saw myself. Here I was dreading needlework examination (knit 6 inches of a strange design without dropping stitches in three hours, plus answer some needle related queries which made no sense to me). Here I was in a crowded schoolbus jostling for seats. Here I was playing ‘dark room’ in my house lifting someone on top of the cupboard. It seemed they knew more about me that I had ever thought possible.
And maybe I knew more about them. As I rode home after I meeting with these girls I knew long ago I thought of one more I had almost forgotten. Myself at 12, wild dreams and surefire confidence about possibilities (marry Boris Becker, now who said that was impossible?) and energy. Surely she would stay with me now.
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Last 5 posts by Khushi
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