Although, I didn’t spend my childhood with you, we grew up together when ‘growing up’ really mattered. I crossed the threshold from childhood to youth, holding your hand. I met you for the first time in the campus of Jadavpur University – fresh from an all girl’s school, wide-eyed, innocent, naive and sheltered, and with clearly demarcated views of right and wrong.
Our friendship strengthened as our horizon broadened. We learnt to think together, we expanded, we filled our heads with new thoughts, we discussed endless possibilities, we fell in love with the Romantic poets, we cut classes to sell tickets for the drama club, we dragged our feet while leaving the infamous J.U lobby to attend classes we didn’t particularly like. We walked the nooks and crannies of the J.U campus talking, sharing, learning, feeling, drinking life in and growing.
On the eve of your birthday, I was exploring our friendship of 23 years. We were physically together for 5, maybe 6 of those. But the friendship that I share with you transcended time and distance. We stayed in each other’s lives from far away, holding each other up in times of need, sharing our happiness in times of joy. We found our partners around the same time, we became mothers within a year of each other. Our talks changed from Rape of the Lock, Paradise Lost, philology class and tutorials to nap times, diaper rashes, teenage angst, husbands and sometimes ‘Lets go back and walk the campus! I am tired of these responsibilities of motherhood!’
But today, I want to revisit some of my favorite memories with you. Come on this journey with me. Let’s walk!
I met you on the first day of college in Fresher’s welcome. I naturally gravitated towards you because you had the most approachable face in the crowd of new faces. My first thought was ‘I have never seen more beautiful eyes than these’ as you turned to smile at me, a nervous one! We were both terrified.
Since then our friendship deepened. I had so much to share with you, so much to learn from you and about you. And learn, we did. Through endless walks, through trips to the British Council library, through your insistence that I treat you to Luchi, alurdom from Milanda’s canteen, through poetry and prose, through other friends and just by being inseparable.
I remember telling you the first day, in a somewhat 18 year oldish melodramatic way ‘Don’t desert me!’ I wanted you by my side to garner strength to face those frightening seniors. You didn’t leave my side.
I remember our trips to the Kolkata book fair. I remember the torrential downpour, your shoe strap breaking and us trodding in Kolkata mud.
Do you remember the walks to 8B busstand? Our destination always came before all the talk was talked. How could we part then? We had to walk all the way back to Gariahat to get you on another bus. After we reached Gariahat, there was nowhere else to go but home. I had to say goodbye to you and turned towards home, hoping the next day would come soon so we could finish our never-ending discussion of life, college, friends, future, tutorials, examinations, marks, love, crushes…..
What did we talk about? Do you remember? I am just left with the heady feeling of having someone by my side who understood me completely. I don’t remember our conversation.
I fell sick, you came to my house almost everyday sharing class notes and yelling at me to eat fruit and get my strength back. You needed me back at college.
I fell in love during our Master’s and missed classes to be with my boyfriend. You yelled at me again and held me firmly to terra firma by supplying me with class notes while all I wanted to do was live in the rosy world of love and passion. I passed my Masters – thanks to you.
I know I can’t enumerate the special memories that I have made with you since there are way too many. The trip to Mukutmanipur, the Copper Sheen lipstick, the hot summer afternoons spent in the cool of your living room, the numerous trips to BCL, the walks along James Long Sarani, your love for Manna De’s songs, your love for Buddhadeb Guha’s books, your Amaltash, Sangaskriti, the songs we sang sitting at the lobby – “abhi na jao chodke ke dil abhi bhara nahi”, discovering and drowning in the voice of Suman Chatterjee…. Even as I pen these down, several others crowd around in my mind’s eye. How can I put them all down in words? Those are our shared memories. They are and always will have a special place in my heart. College years are special for most. My five years in Jadavpur University were special for many reasons. I spread my winds and learnt to fly there. The line between right and wrong weren’t so clear anymore, I learned to think and I learnt to feel. I found new ideas, discovered new poetry, learnt to love literature. I also found you – my friend for life. My golden years spent at Jadavpur university turned so special because you were so intrinsically part of them.
Our physical presence in each other’s lives ended there. But not our friendship. Never our friendship. Girl friends, special ones like you, are a blessing in my life. You are my soul sister, my confidante, my partner in crime, my endless giggles, my shoulder to cry on, my guidance counselor, my picker upper when I need to be picked up. I share my joy and sorrows with you. You are the person who goes to Tirupati and prays to God to end my unhappiness. And when you are unhappy, I send a prayer to the universe for your happiness. You are my unconditional love – a source of love and friendship that is permanent in this transient world of ours where values, morals, relationships are constantly shifting.
The mindless crimes happening today make me heart-sick from time to time. But friends like you, good souls like you keep the faith alive. Happy birthday, bondhu. Have the happiest time ever. Please know, I am celebrating this special day with you, despite the distance. I will celebrate the birth of my best friend, whose presence and goodness of heart add to the beauty of this world of ours and gives me warmth and energy to keep going in the bleakest of days.
This is the kind of friend you are to me, Reshmi….
“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
― William Shakespeare
And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!