So finally I am back, again! And as promised, I’ll start with a roundup of our (now not-so) recent India trip. There’s so much to write though that I thought I’ll do it in episodes, to keep things short and interesting.
So let me start with the highlight of my trip – attending my childhood friend A’s engagement ceremony the very day I landed in Mumbai. Living in the US, I have missed many such weddings and social occasions in the past two years. Add to it the fact that A actually postponed her engagement by a day so I could make it – her boyfriend was keen on Valentine’s day and she had to really push him to agree for the 15th – and I was naturally ecstatic!
A has been my best friend since we were toddlers. We were neighbors and our moms were best friends. So with both our dads working abroad, our families spent almost every evening together. Our home was on the ground floor, A’s on the third. Be it A’s mom, V mavshi, coming home from work or A and her brother coming home from school, a trip to the third floor hardly ever happened without a longish stop on the ground floor!
The two moms went for walks and vegetable shopping in the evening, while A and I played outside or chatted and giggled behind closed doors in our teenage years, struggling to get rid of A’s pesky younger brother as we got older. We watched our evening television together and the night meal was usually shared as well, to the delight of the bai who cooked in both homes!
This cosy semi-family unit was shockingly shattered one day when V mavshi was diagnosed with leukemia and passed away soon after. We were all heartbroken but A took it the worst. Sadly, our friendship too did not survive this loss.
We were both sixteen then and about to enter college. We made new friends in college and got busy with our new lives. Not that it had to, but something changed in our friendship that year. It’s hard to say what and I’ve been struggling with the why for many years now but from ‘best friends’ we turned into ‘good friends’ and later, just occasional acquaintances.
The change was hard for me to accept. I was never a gregarious person – I’ve always had just one or two close friends at any point of time and for many years, A and I were so close that I had no need for anyone else. She was like the sister I never had and people often mistook us for twins when we were out together.
I could see A withdraw into a shell after her mother’s death. In many ways, this was perfectly understandable and I tried my best to support her in those difficult times. But gradually I got the impression she resented my efforts to get close to her again. She had made new friends in college and she very obviously preferred their company to mine. I tried discussing it with her, but her response was always the same bland – no, nothing of that sort, you are imagining things. I had no choice but to let go after a point.
Was I not a good enough friend to A in her time of need? I struggled to answer this question for years. Perhaps not. Or maybe I really was imagining things. Did we simply drift apart? My hunch is this – my mother and I reminded A of those good old times when all of us had so much fun together and she wanted to stay away from those bitter-sweet memories and therefore, us.
I had accepted that I might never get to know the real reason. But I was pleasantly surprised when A got in touch with me last year. She called, wrote a pretty emotional email and generally behaved as if we had never drifted apart! And then the engagement invite. Which was just a day before when I was scheduled to land in Mumbai.
‘I really want to come’, I said. ‘Yes, you should be there’, she insisted. ‘But my tickets are booked, they cannot be changed!’ ‘No problem, we’ll get engaged on the 15th instead!’ ‘Really, can you do that? But isn’t your boyfriend keen on V day?’ ‘I’ll manage him, don’t you worry’, A grinned! Needless to say, I was thrilled!
And that is how I managed to attend my childhood friend A’s engagement on the morning of 15th February, only a few hours after I landed in Mumbai. The ceremony was lovely, A looked radiant, she squealed and ran to me as soon as she spotted me – I couldn’t have been happier. It was a perfect start to my India vacation!