Let me tell you a story of an old school rivalry which turned friends into foes. It’s my story. It’s a story of how a simple misunderstanding led to ghastly misinterpretations even before each of us got a chance to correct ourselves and realize our mistakes. It’s the story of me and my best friend Varsha.
No one in school knew Varsha as well as I did. She was a complex person to understand and she did look different with those heavy eyes which spoke of inaction. Only Lakshmi Bharadwaj knew how those eyes which seemed so dull could acquire that cold, hard glacial glint when Varsha was bent upon something. Only I understood her deepest fears, and Varsha confided only in me. We were thick friends—so thick that the English teacher had called us ‘Chip n’ Dale’. In the last year of my school life someone suggested that I move up front in Chemistry classes. I hated the backbench where I was seated next to Varsha, because I felt uncomfortable there but she loved it. So, I asked weather we could move up front together. She said she couldn’t. Maybe I was being harsh, stupid….I simply got up, moved front without saying anything as simple as a ‘See ya later’ or offering any sort of explanation. This rude action of mine, Varsha suddenly interpreted that I hated her. She felt ignored. She asked me to say sorry.
I couldn’t accept my mistake. I pretended I did not do anything wrong, and I did not like saying ‘sorry’ for everything. Imagine, such a very small trivial matter culminated in a bitter chasm. We argued relentlessly, aggressively—it was a battle of words. And Varsha was clear in expressing herself, and she gave me a glare and said, “You’re not my friend anymore until you say sorry, and learn to accept mistakes!” I inflated, I was angry. I was a fool who didn’t see a point in her words. I thought I could manage without her. I could find better friends….I could get more popular then. 17th of June 2005, it was, I still remember the date. I went home thinking Varsha would somehow forget everything, and the next day would be perfect.
Conrtrary to my happy belief, our relationship crumbled, and every school day became a visit to nightmareville. From that day, we stopped talking and from then…the backbench turned silent. The cascade of laughter, the giggles and chortles under the teacher;s nose were missing….the fun had evaporated, and the surroundings had turned grimly silent. The truth was, each of us felt very hollow inside, (Varsha’s eyes betrayed all her feelings) and both of us felt like compromising. But none of us did it. I was adamantly stubborn. I did not like being called a ‘betrayer!, and I chose to remain mute.
It was only when I joined college, and Varsha went somewhere else, I felt that overwhelming emptiness and accepted that this was all due to my mistake. I knew a glorious relationship which was blooming had died, and I also realized it was too late for me to do anything. Varsha had chosen to move along a different path, and I had chosen mine. We had moved away….far away from each other, and my conscience pricked me and said, “You should have said sorry!” The anger which was so strong in the beginning of the year had waned, and I felt like going back to her, hold her hand and say “I’m really sorry buddy, I shouldn’t have ignored you!”….but the sorry never came.
Wednesday, when I was attending a cousin’s musical audition, I felt that I heard Varsha’s voice. Even after two long years, that voice was not forgotten…I instinctively sensed she was there, and she was! She was sitting just a row behind me. My heart raced, I turned Magenta, and I felt a weight of a stone in my stomach. I could have said it. I could have screamed out the words. But I was stuttering horribly, I was shaking all over. I wanted a precise confession, I complete understanding of my accumulated guilt. Guess what I did? I wrote a five page ‘sorry’. It’s the biggest letter I have written to anyone. Writing, I believe is the best form of expression, better than talking anyway, I’m horribly bad speaker. My heart stopped as she read it,…but then, she smiled!
She did something unexpected. She wrote back too. She wrote something like this;
“ Lakshmi, I’m not as good as a writer as you are, so I staunchly apologize if this letter conveys any wrong message to you. I don’t intend to say anything wrong, because we’ve always been FRIENDS, right? I believe a lot in friendship….this letter is to tell you that I don’t hate you, and how glad I am to see you. But ultimately, I thank you for not having broken the relationship of 10 years….and I don’t really know what to say.”
We could have simply talked. But then, talking wouldn’t have helped me. I knew I would have stammered, stuttered, and jumbled up words in the excitement, and a confession would look like a mutter of some gibberish which Varsha could not have comprehended. My letter spoke for me. Before the audition could end, and I could shake Varsha’s hand and express how grateful I was—before the golden moment of saying, ‘Thanks, mate!’, Varsha had disappeared. I knew her well, and she was always a quick-spirited person. She had suddenly disappeared, like a shadow, out of the line of my vision. She had disappeared as abruptly and silently as she had come. But I had her letter, I had her reply, and the written words consoled me.
I plan to call up Varsha sometime after I find her number in an old diary. We both were great friends, and I’m happy that our friendship has revived. When I turn the pages of my mental album, I can clearly see the picture of two young girls sitting near a construction site, legs and buckled shoes dangling, nibbling on Alphabet yummies, waiting for our mothers and whispering together, “We’re the greatest friends the earth has ever seen!” And one of those girls still says we are!