10 years ago, this very day, she came into my life. Not prancing like a lady. Not bawling like a baby. Not giggling like a school girl. Not batting her eyelashes like a college teen. Just like the way she came in, the same way did she leave. Unknowingly, quietly, without a sound. Without a word. With only a look.
Being the newbie in college I had hoped for a lab partner I knew. But instead of getting one among the 21 people I knew in the lab out of 30, I got her. She came along, stood near our work bench with just a glance at me which plainly said, “Why have the fates put me with you? Who the heck are you?”. Anti-social as I was, I didn’t want to be the one to wait till the ice breaks and then fall in and so, got to work right away hacking at the ice cap. “Hey! Sit down.. no need of so much respect! :P” Again the look. I mean, what did I do that could make her hate me so much so fast? Oh right…… “Err.. sorry. But I am sweating a lot. Just came from a game of badminton.” “Yeah, it’s fine.”, pat, came the reply.
I mean… how difficult was it for a few words to fall from her mouth? Not very. In a few minutes we started chatting away merrily without a care in the world. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Next week onwards, we started completing our lab records together and chatting away. And what did we talk about? Nothing much in general. In fact, anything that caught our fancy. From Whatsapp statuses to gossiping about up-and-coming or tried-and-tested relationships at our college to even about our personal problems. It was anything and everything.
And our lab sessions together. Those were a thing of beauty. In fact, we pride ourselves in coining the term, snaughling (sniggering + laughing) and that’s rightly what we did during those lab sessions all through the semester. And the next year, when the lab got over and we both set off to respective selected professors and classes, did we leave each other in peace? No. Not at all. We made sure we annoyed the other.
We could read each other perfectly. Like…. peeerrrrfecttttly. One could see through the lies the other would tell. We could see when something was troubling the other even if no one else could notice it. One of us could make the other laugh simply by saying a word. It really was the best friendship you or we could ever hope for.
4 years went by. Of course, those 4 years were meant to go by, but all of us, the entire batch graduating with us did feel that it shouldn’t have gone by so quick. But it did. Who are we to command time when we couldn’t command ourselves to wake up in the morning? 😛
And so, in those last few moments of college life, we made a deal. 10 years from the moment we met, that’s 10 years from September 6th 2014, we would meet for a coffee, somewhere. Like anywhere, near a roadside tea seller in Mumbai to a cafe in a remote railway station in the North East of India to the Bullet trains of Japan to maybe, just maybe a Starbucks in Dubai or even Tiffany in New York. But a coffee on September 6th, 2024. And do you remember what was the reminder we kept in our phones that day? “Have a coffee at 10:30, if only you remember who you promised to have it with.”
And now, she is sitting here, at our favorite coffee shop from our college days, sipping her favorite Frostino. Her usually bright eyes are glistening with tears, her usually sharp eye lines, smudged. Her nose, red from sniffing. Her thin fingers, trembling & twisting around as they always did when she was a wreck. Her feet, mashing up each other. She still writes notes to me in her little black diary that she keeps. She has brought it today and now it sits between us on the table, the warm breeze ruffling through the pages, while I sit, simply watching her memories, her rantings, her musings and her small messages to me paging by.
The last time I saw her was at her wedding, a few months back. I attended the function, sat through the entire party & the banquet and left. I didn’t bid her bye, I didn’t shed a tear, because I knew she would be here, in this very coffee shop, because we haven’t broken a promise to each other. Except one. I had promised her that I would meet her today, alive. Mea culpa N, mea culpa……….