Friday, 12 April 2013
When I was in second grade, we had a lesson in which a girl’s pen-friend from Russia visits her school and they talk about different cultures and have a good time. I found it extremely amazing how two people who had never seen each other or been in the same environment could actually become friends, of course I was a kid and I didn’t know better. But it amazed me none the less. And I decided that day that I would have a pen friend. Time flew by faster than I remember and suddenly we were in the world of computers, of electronic mails and world wide web, pretty much grown up and childhood dreams long forgotten. I was obviously warned by parents about not only not talking to strangers in person but to keep away from strangers online too. Over time I found and lost many friends. And some remained special, some I am still in touch with, some I lost touch with, some broke my heart. But one particular day while surfing the vast ocean of the net I discovered a dream realised , my childhood dream of wanting a pen-friend. And I narrate (with names changed for obvious reasons).
*italics are Zara's though process.
Zara was sprawled on her sofa, with the laptop in front of her, headphones plugged in, rocking her head to the beat of some new song that was obsessing her, going around a forum reading fanfics to curb her reading desire. She herself had written a few modest ones, nothing compared to the talent on the forum, and there was so much talent in there that she felt trapped, unable to allow her reading-obsessed heart to escape. That was when she noticed a new kid on the forum, new stories, new authors - she loved it – it was exciting to be reading a different persons work, new writing styles, new perspectives, new observations to make. She was naturally judgemental, although she hardly allowed it to rule her actions, she liked making observations and checking back on them. Self – proclaimed psychologist. So she followed what was routine to her - check out the new kids personal info –gauge whether the info seems legit, make ran-dumb judgements with the info given, check out the written material, make judgements about the authors mindset based on the write-up, check back with personal info to see if it fits, considering it does - feel like a boss, if not – still feel like a boss and wonder whether the write-up is will-full fantasy, or whether the kid is bluffing about personal info.
Any how she seemed to like the new kid’s work and there weren’t too many comments on her write-up. She decided to comment and please, it’s like trying to be friendly to the new kid at school. You know make her feel at ease, Go easy on her work. Turned out the kid had a blog with a lot of other exceptionally written articles. So Zara decided to comment on her blog to give her a surprise – remember be friendly to the new chick at school. Normal human tendency, right? But technology had other plans in store, somehow her computer didn’t allow her to comment on the blog – she frowned and tried a couple of times. Nope still not working. So she sent a private message asking if there was some particular procedure to comment on her blog, since it wasn’t showing her comment.
And thus began a correspondence, beginning with where exactly do you live (because obviously knowing about a person’s surroundings gives you an insight to the person’s most probable mentality) and going on to more personal discussions about family, occupations, hobbies, likes, dislikes, governments, conspiracies, religions, ‘deforestation’, boys, proceeding ever so cautiously toward friendship - Until very subtle declarations of friendship were made in the most acute of words. If they were together in flesh and blood, the words would have been whispers in the wind- barely heard. A gradual change of writing style took place in their letters (as termed by her brother due to the time she took in writing those replies) , from being cordial to jestfull leg-pulling, to debating, to daily happenings- discussions of life. They even started their correspondences with discussions about the weather in their respective parts of the world. – something that seemed so sweet to her, it was like wishing the other was with you in person. A friendship was forged in two hearts, a sisterhood that was shadowed by blind faith which arises with the choice to trust another person without knowing them. Even when they couldn't keep in touch for a while when they caught up later it was like they had never lost contact - effortless to pick-up where they had left off.
Zara, the dramatic one & Diana, the good girl.
Zara, the hijabi & Diana, the modern.
Zara, the elder mature one and Diana, the kid sis.
So different and yet so same.
As the friendship grew stronger, Diana suggested they meet up. Of course given their ages and places, now was not a good time, and now was going to last for quite a while. So they wove an image into the future when they would meet.
Zara was sitting in the uptown café/restaurant. As usual she was earlier than the given time. Out of habbit more than boredom, she was drinking water and waiting for a dear friend. Looking around she spotted a young couple – they are not going to make it. He is clearly a player, he will dump her before she knows it. Maybe if she hits the ladies room , I could go in and warn her – but I’d look psycho.
A young girl and an elder woman , probably mother and daughter by the looks if it – obvious physical similarities, but the girl is hiding something from her mother, probably lying this very minute, her body is shifting too much and she seems to be very distracted by someone on her phone. Lying about where & with whom questions, maybe. Poor mother seems distressed.
A bunch of scantily dressed loud girls – expensive dressing, too much make-up which means they have the time to do that much make up hence jobless, expensive accessories, expensive attitude meaning rich spoilt brats, daddy’s darlings. Backstabbing friends, not one of them looks genuinely interested in what the other is saying. Yet they are cooing Looking at photos on the phone, probably her boyfriend and her, she swells with show-off. Far too much drama in the club.
Another couple – she’s pregnant and terribly upset, he’s apologising , worried about what went wrong. Maybe he hurt her by some dumb thing he said and she’s upset about it , or maybe the hormones are ruling the institution – maybe he does not want the kid, her hand shifts much too protectively and a little too frequently to her swelled up belly. Fear of losing the child. He seems genuinely concerned – he will handle it well, whatever it is. The way he looks at her, shes a lucky girl.
Zara’s eyes constantly shift to the door. There’s a saying in Arabic that comes to her mind.
Al intezar ashadd al maut – the wait is even more intense than death itself.
But she would rather be the one waiting than to have someone else waiting for her, a trait she inherited from her dad – to never let others wait for you.
A girl of about 20 comes in. Her eyes scan the room resting on the abaya clad Zara for just a fraction of a second before wandering around looking for a vacant seat. She walks in coolly and takes a seat at the table opposite Zara's pretending to be a regular. Dressed in a cute pair of shorts and a vintage t-shirt that showed her well toned back she looked younger than her age and affordably chic. Zara smiled, Not that anyone could notice through her face cover - I'd wear Something revealing for fun and probably bring you Something quite revealing to wear under your abaya, Diana had joked once.
Has to be her, I am quite sure It's her. Yup she has the northern beauty, looks like a college chic. She looks so much younger in person. But why take another table - She's surely not expecting this place to fill up with abaya draped girls. Maybe she wants me to go ask her. I'll wait and see what she does.
Although Zara meet her gaze more that once, She didn't show any acknowledgement at all. Times up - she's already in town and I fly in the morning and still I'm early and she wants to play around. Of course she would not waste an opportunity like this. I'll leave and see what she does.
Zara walked briskly past the table with the girl she thought was Diana, wondering what the girl's Reaction would be.
She walked out of the hotel and decided she would wait in the car for a while and see If the girl followed her out. Maybe She wasn't Diana at all. How come she didn't even look all That surprised when I asked for the bill. Either Diana is a very talented actress or she isn't Diana.
That was When Zara Saw her - A girl of about 20 Getting off the back of a bike, Running a quick hand through her Cascading hair, dressed in a denim Capri with a sleeveless hoodie - A very casually sporty Chic. She wore a necklace which made Zara smile. Of course smart move Diana - that's one sure fire way for me to recognise you. I should have guessed you would wear it. She glanced at her watch and was about to move towards the entrance, When the boy she had arrived with took her hand and turned her around, his face frowning and speaking rapidly while she seemed to be answering him in quite a rush. Hm good gene pool In the family - clearly her brother. Does he have a problem with his sister meeting someone she doesn't know by face. Looks protective - Very protective.
Zara got out of her car laughing at herself for the wrong girl she assumed was Diana, and walked across the parking lot, towards her and said excuse me. Diana? She turned around and Zara saw her own excitement mirrored in Diana's eyes as she almost squeaked Zara??
The girls squealed like fan girls as they hugged and Diana's brother looked relieved. he was probably expecting that she was going to meet some guy& get into trouble, because there really is no reason to be so worried about a consenting adult. "Don't worry sir, I'll bring your sister home safely " Zara said jestfully to the over concerned bro as Diana rolled her well defined eyes "Please I'm not exactly a child " He smiled a smile that showed he was her brother as he ruffled his little sister's hair earning a playful frown and a soft punch in the arm and said "Of course not you are just a bundle of wild trouble - infact ma'am I must warn you " They laughed and he left. Shall we? Asked Zara and Diana nodded. They walked back in to find the waiter surprised at the return of the girl who had been sitting at a table for about twenty minutes replenishing the Hotel's water supply and then unexpectedly leaving And now returning.
They ordered little food and more of deserts - both deciding that inspite of being figure conscious this was a moment to celebrate. Zara was an expert at eating under the face veil, while Diana was amused beyond speech to know that someone could eat comfortably under layers of clothing.
After they talked about everything under the sun and finally finished their lunch, Zara suggested they go shopping cuz chics got to shop together - By default. They were the most unlikely two out there - one completely conservative clad in black the other a little too modern. After 'some' absolutely unnecessary shopping they took a cab back to Zara's place. Diana informed her brother she would be staying over at Zara's for the weekend, since taking permission would not have been useful they had decided to let him know last minute. Of course it took a lot of convincing on Zara's part and hell loads of pleading on Diana's.
They stayed up long after the stars were out planning lunches and dinners and spas and malls and cafes and bookstores and parlours and boutiques and all the fun they could have in a span of two days. Bangalore was quite a large place and they had to spend more time together. They would not get a good chance to do this again - not in the near future. Soon it would be back to I'm-sorry-for-the-late-reply-to-your-mails and trying to fix a Skype date and sharing virtual cups of tea. While Diana had just gotten to Bangalore a week ago to join in for her masters and would be staying with her bro in his apartment with her sis-in-law, Zara had flown down the very morning from Mumbai where she actually lived with her hubby-boy and in-laws for just the weekend. So instead of staying at Diana's place they were staying at Zara's place. They ordered in pizza for dinner and watched chic flicks, cried together and talked 'some' more. The excitement was more than obvious by the fact that neither could actually feel fatigue or slumber. So they talked until the moon tired away and waited out the sunrise from Zara's balcony. Pasts were revealed, secrets were brought out from their sealed hearts, futures were travelled, wine was tried (first time for Diana), & all in the matter of a few hours they had turned from friends to soul sisters- almost family. The element of mystery had finally been solved - the curtain raised, after the many years of knowing a person virtually to meet them in reality, to receive and give the hugs, to actually lol, to witness the imagined smiles and laughter - it was simply exciting.
After a weekend well spent mostly going around in Zara's favourite rental - the Chevy impala 67, wheels hot, music loud, windows rolled down, singing along the radio, stopping only to check out different places and coming home long after the moon was up, Zara returned to Mumbai to her hubby-boy with recent discovery of her pregnancy and Diana joined college with hopes higher than the clouds and better knowledge of the city's hotspots. As Diana was unpacking the 'small' bag she had packed for the stay over she found a small package well-wrapped alongside an origami lily - she smiled as she pulled the flower apart to find a message from the only non-fictional person she knew who did that. And loved to surprise others.
There's more than one kind of family you know and I think we just found it. May you find blessings and joy and hope and guidance and friendship and love in this journey of yours.
May angels watch over you.