I owe her, every single day

It happened five years ago, on this very night. The 7th of March, 2007. It was a fateful dinner, because both of us had stretched beyond our normal means to meet. It led to a change, which I'd like to refer to, as my rebirth. This is the story of what led to that night.

I remember her from 11 years ago. There's one prominent and vivid memory, from Annual Day at school, December 22 (or 23rd) 1994. The real memory is not something that happened, nor a conversation, it's a picture. A picture clicked with a film camera, and a copy of which had cost a crushing Rs.22 in those days. How this picture became a valued memory, is revealed by the bigger picture of my school environment.

All of high school and above was grouped into 4 "houses", named and identified by colours. There was Red house, Green house, Blue house, and there was Yellow house. I belonged to Yellow house. So did N. Now it's not at all odd that I don't know any or most of my juniors, because I wasn't that much of a people person. I'd rather be holed up in the computer science lab, than be mingling with the crowd. Nerdy, yes, that's what they called people like me. I only noticed N existed when I was in 10th grade. But I really acknowledged her existence to myself in 11th grade, when I became a senior. And by the way, that is when you get to rule the rest of the school (did you hear the far echoes of an evil laughter?).

It was only in 12th grade, final year in school, when I accepted that I had a crush on her, and for some time then. But being the quiet, timid, shy kind of chap, I couldn't muster up enough courage to do anything about it. She was the prettiest girl in school, and the sight of her, with that sweet unassuming smile, cute short curly hair, was mesmerising. And when she was on stage, speaking or singing, you could swear she was a human nightingale. I could pick out her voice when the National Anthem echoed through the school at the end of the day. And I couldn't do anything to save myself.

Well, that annual day, my last in school, Yellow house won the overall championship trophy for 2004-05, and I, was awarded the Best Outgoing Student. It was one big shiny and heavy trophy, and they let me take it home for 2 weeks. There was cheering and there were pictures. Ah, the pictures. The group pictures with the big trophies. I was standing on my knees holding up the super sized trophy with my right hand, and she was standing behind me, a little to my right. If you didn't see my hand, you'd think that it was she who was holding the trophy. From the time I have this picture, and right up to this day, each time I look at that picture, I cannot be honest with myself and say if I am looking at the trophy or looking at her.

On the night of March the 7th, 2007, I was passing by her town. I don't remember how or why I had her cell phone number, and I wasn't even sure if it would be a good idea. With that picture in my eye, I called her. She had to jump over a few hurdles, but we met over dinner. That dinner was left unfinished. Somewhere in between, the story of her life, the courage in her heart, the strength of her voice, and yet, that suppleness in her being, short circuited my delirious stillness into a lucid appetite for life. It bulldozed a tunnel through to the other side, just when darkness was swallowing me whole. I could write a book about it.

She says there's one other time we met. We had watched a movie, Jurasic Park 2, about 9 years ago. I remember vaguely, but I can't find any visuals in my memory bank, neither of me meeting her, nor the movie. I'm absolutely pathetic. There can be no conceivable excuse for forgetting even one of the few times you get to go out with your first crush, your childhood sweetheart, and to life's marvel, your life saver. I cherish and celebrate our friendship, each year.

On International Women’s Day 2012, three cheers to you N, and three cheers to all the women like you.

Mayur Poddar

No comments: