An open letter to my school best friend: Dear Sai, if you’re reading this (and I hope you are), please forgive me. I’d love to reconnect with you.
It is a lazy afternoon, sun shining in its prime and sky changing the shades of blue. Birds are chirping outside, a conversation that nobody understands and the sound of a pressure cooker whistling from a nearby house. I, on the other hand, have just stopped crying after another breakdown. But it feels a little less heavy inside my heart and I can voice out my feelings clearly now. But something strikes me and I am pulled back into the memory garden of my brain where I have planted less painful memories of my life.
My childhood. It was a completely ordinary childhood, no remarkable breakthroughs, just enough laughter and crying, and the sense of deflating self esteem that I had since I was in the first standard, unable to make any real friends. Friendship at such a young age is a vague concept and I have come to a complete realization of that. But looking at it from the eyes of a depressed adult I have grown into, I wonder if we sow the seeds of our adulthood earlier in life, when we begin to understand what it means to be in a social setting.
I had a friend named Sai, who would bring idli and dosa in her lunch every day. We would share our lunch and as she loved north Indian food specially aloo ka paratha; I loved everything her mother made. We both had dark complexions and were outliers in the sense that people would often call us “kaali”. Her father had died and she and her mother used to live in a small room in Nagwain, at a small distance from Kullu where her mother worked perhaps. We were friends and I liked her a lot but as time passed by, I started meeting her less frequently. I was a child, an ordinary one with misconceptions too. I wanted to be with the girls who were in a group and so I left Sai. Despite that, she continued to meet me sometimes.
Today, I remember how Sai was my first and only friend who shared with me the same feeling of being an outcast and yet we belonged somehow. With each other. This feeling of deja vu has arisen like a wave of nostalgia as I look back at all my friends and remember the need to ‘fit in’ since I was a child. I always wanted to be seen, heard, or maybe I wanted to disappear in the humdrum of my little life. I have often rejected people who wanted to be with me because I wanted the attention of someone else. As I look back, I remember that tall girl with a sweet smile, who would often wave at me the moment she looked at me. I have met a lot of people and never had anyone wave at me by choice. But Sai did. Yet, I ended up being with girls who would ask me to fill their water bottles and carry them as I trudged along in the back. My first ever victim of this losing sense of self was me. And this continued for years to come as I kept chasing people who never loved me, wanted me or befriended me.
At the age of 23, I now have no friends to begin with, and I keep thinking if my life would have turned out to be different, had I chosen her. The clock strikes 2.50 pm and my father calls me for lunch. I deny yet again. This pandemic has made me realize the importance of true friendships, deep conversations and not just the mere hullabaloo of hi’s and hello’s. I keep thinking about her like a widower thinks about his wife, wondering at what moment had he failed to tell her that he loved her. I know my childhood is a memory on its own and so is she – the girl with whom I shared the best lunches of my little life. My father calls me again and this time I comply. Maa has made daal and I smile. This lunch is full of remembrance from the past, and as I eat my first bite, I sigh. I choose you now, I whisper and hope this will make a difference. If not to her, then certainly me.
Bharti is a blahcksheep because she has opinions nobody likes and ideas which aren’t powerful enough to change the world. To put it in another way, she is a poet. Her poems are the only way she knows to rebel. She keeps her thoughts to herself mostly because she doesn’t think people are truly listening. She has no friends. And people in college might have labeled her a “loner”. She stargazes and loves cats.