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I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 17th in the list is a letter to ‘Someone from your childhood’

 

Dear Someone From My Childhood,

I wonder where you are now, Farzana. How did I lose touch with you and that too after finding you once again some fifteen years after I left our old school?!

We were in the same class from first grade. You probably saw me bawl my eyes out as a newcomer to the school. I don’t even have any recollections of second grade. I noticed the girl who seemed to be my constant shadow only in third grade. What did you see in shy, quiet and totally uninteresting me to tag along wherever I went? We struck up a friendship that continued throughout that year.

The word that comes to mind when I think of you is ‘loyal’. Not that I have ever thought of it before. It just came to me now, while writing this. The very next year, I was moved to the fifth grade which meant that we would no longer be together. I was miserable in my new class amidst what I felt were intimidating older children. When the bell rang for recess, I sat alone in class, too scared to even get up and walk out. Then I saw you standing next to the huge pillar, waiting for me. Do you remember the smile that broke upon my face on seeing you? I believe you do, because years later it was the same smile that made you recognize me, or so you told me.

We bid farewell to each other when we were both almost eleven year olds. I had to return to Kerala with my family as my father was transferred back. I knew you were really miserable. So was I for that matter. But then, for me there was the excitement of the journey and new places to look forward to. Yet, being the empathetic person I am, I knew instinctively how difficult our parting was for you.

We continued writing to each other during the following years, and in Telugu too! Slowly our letters petered out as is perhaps natural when the present takes over and occupies centre-stage. But, remember we connected again, which was rather amazing! I found your old address and wrote to you, and you replied! I am afraid there was a slightly selfish reason for remembering you and going full steam ahead in digging up your address. I was in final year of college. I wanted to run away from home and asked you if I could find a job as teacher in your area after I was done with my exams. Yeah, I had sense enough to know that I needed a degree in hand before running away. You wrote to say that it could be arranged. But I didn’t carry out my plan and you never asked me about it again.

The very next year I was travelling with my family to Kolkota for a short holiday. The train would pass through Vijayawada. I wrote to you asking if we could meet. I gave you the name of the train, coach number et al. Surprisingly we had not exchanged any photos of each other. Those were not days when photos were easy to come by. So I was a bit apprehensive whether we’d be able to find and recognize each other in the short time available at the railway station through which the train passed..

When the train pulled into Vijayawada station early morning, I was standing at the door of the coach with my father. There weren’t very many people on the platform and I saw this lone slim girl with two long plaits and in blue and black salwar-kameez standing apart, scanning the coaches as the train was slowing down to a stop. It couldn’t be you, right? The last I saw you, you had short mop of hair that reached up to your ears. Come to think of it, even I had a similar hair-cut!

By then you were already walking purposefully over to where I was standing. We laughed and hugged and talked whatever little we could. I was curious to know how you were so sure it was me standing at the door while I had been still debating whether it could be you walking towards me. ‘Your smile hasn’t changed one bit,’ you told me. ‘How could I not recognize you?’ Sigh, there you have it. My smile gives me away to people to this day!

I cannot imagine how we lost touch of each other after that meeting. Being married to an army officer meant that I kept crisscrossing the country. Each time the train stopped at Vijayawada, I wondered where you could be. How could I have lost your address! Such a tragedy. Do you know, years into family life, I found yet another classmate of ours. She was also an army wife like me, and in the course of our conversation the name of our school came up. We stopped and stared open mouthed at each other when it struck us that we had been in the same class in primary school. Though I asked her about you, she did not know your whereabouts.

Well, as they say, the earth is round and we may yet find each other one of these days. I really hope so.

Your friend from childhood.

* * * * *

©Shail Mohan 2014

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