Damini was the friend of a friend, and I met her at his birthday party. A girl as unlike me as possible. Where I was a nerd, always poring over books and worrying about exams, she was carefree and loved playing sports. She was a wonderful sketch artist. I couldn’t draw to save my life!
Yet somehow, despite our differences and our contrasting personalities, we connected. It was like we were friends in some past life, and when we met in this life, our souls remembered each other, even if our memories didn’t. For two years, while I was still in junior college, we remained good friends. We would meet each other during vacations and after school. Her eighteenth birthday was a few months before our final board exams and bang middle during our preliminary exams. I knew that from next year onwards things wouldn’t be the same. We would move to different colleges, make new friends and lose ourselves in new activities. For a few months maybe we would call each other and talk, but too soon awkward silences would develop. When our lives would change the little link of commonality that we still had would snap. All that would remain is a sweet nostalgia for times past…
I wanted to give her something special for her birthday, something that she could look at 50 years from now, and fondly reminiscence about the bygone days.
A teenager is always short of money. We are a perpetually bankrupt species and our meagre pocket money can barely keep pace with our grandiose dreams. So buying something for her was out of the question, but I did have one thing that I could gift her — my words.
I set my pen to paper, and the words flew out weaving a tale of our friendship, of our memories, of us:
Today, as you are on the threshold of a new journey,
Let us take a short walk back down the memory lane,
Let us sniff the fragrance of our sweet friendship,
Laugh at jokes that once we had shared, shake our heads over the quarrels;
Start from our first trip together to Infinity and Inorbit,
There were just too many French fries weren’t there, and you learned I was an inexorable chocoholic,
Then let us move on to all those evenings we spent together –
Board games, friends, gossip and laughter – what more could one want,
Look at Ranbir Kapoor strumming his guitar, and then look a little further,
Six friends dancing on the road together in the twilight, oblivious to the strange gazes,
Hear the tiger’s growl, and the monkeys’ chatter, as we visit the old caves of ancient Buddhist monks,
Our jeans and T-shirts in sharp conflict to the age-old eternal statues with whom we pose,
Again four friends, journeying in history together, and I doubt whether anyone then or since has passed those silent, eternal statues with a sweeter, more carefree friendship than ours,
Picnicking in the meadow, boating in the sun, with the cool air fanning our cheeks, in a bubble of friendship,
Can there be a better summer’s day?
Look over there, can you see me, with ice-cream on my shirt (clumsy, as always),
Then to the vibrant night, with the deep rumbling of drums and loud music,
As we shake a leg on the dance floor, and I finally learn to dance Dandiya,
Two years gone by in a flash, I never heard them passing, did you?
Rude of them to leave without giving us a chance to say goodbye,
But Time has always been known for being inconsiderable to one and all,
Wherever we go in life from now, even if we part ways,
Remember me, and remember these days, as I will –
Forever Cherish These Days,
Thank You, for making them so special, thank you for being my friend,
So, here is me saluting those days, and a toast to you,
May you have a wonderful life, as sweet as ‘us’
And Happiness forever rule your path, I hope.
Since then I did indeed lose touch with her, but a couple of months earlier I met her at a college fest. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes – nothing like our long late night conversations – but just a minute before she was swallowed up by the crowd, she said, “By the way, I still have your letter…”