Thursday, August 6, 2009

Entwined Journeys...

It was 1986 and I had a new red BSA SLR. Those days we lived in Baroda, Gujarat. School was a half an hour ride from home and cycling to school was the most common thing. Half way to school on my bike that first day, I saw a class mate of mine riding a few meters ahead of me, looking for company, I pedaled faster and drew up to her.

Me : "Hi, do you cycle to school everyday?"

She : "Hi! yes its almost a year now. Haven't seen you on this road before, new bike?"

Me: "Yes, new, staring today, earlier it used to be the school bus, where do you live?"

She: "Karelibaug, and you?"

Me: "Me too, well we can do this everyday together then, let's fix up a time and start together, it's a long ride"

She: "Sure, I would love to."

Till then we were just class mates who bumped into each other every now and then. Ever since that day our journeys have entwined for life. We were both 13 that day, and we are on the wrong side of 30 now. The rides to school and back were innocuous compared to the roller coasters life has thrown at us.. but we have stayed abreast and together, side by side through all the ups and downs.

Another morning in the same year(1986):

Me: "Have you noticed the Nepali watchman in the EME complex? He's cute."

She: "He's old Sujata!! What cute?"

Me: "Of course he's old, I mean he looks kind and he seems to be waiting for us to ride by, I have been smiling at him for the past day or two, and he returns it"

She : "I have not noticed that, will see today"

As we near the EME gates, I wave to the watchman, who as usual was waiting for us to pass by, he smiles and waves at us.

Me: "Saw?, isn't he a kind looking fellow?"

She: "Yah looks kind, maybe he has children back home you know, they leave the families and come for work here, maybe we remind him of his daughters.."

Me: "Yah.. maybe..alright lets race to the end of this road okay? who ever loses will pay for the canteen!"

And we raced. Each day we smiled and waved at the watchman and he returned our gestures!

Till the day he came behind us on his bike and it didn't look right at all, The memory of this incident is vague now, but the fear that we both felt at him rushing behind us on a black cycle, waving and making gestures that were not at all cute, cannot be driven away from our conscious even today. Breathless and hovering at the highest speed possible, we kept going, not exactly knowing why? Not even having the time or breath to discuss the sudden incident , we just knew things were not right, and we also knew we had been stupid. What scared us that day, I don't know, it seems silly in hindsight, but we had felt petrified then. He never followed us again.

Journeys are made real by memories and our ride to school each day has innumerable such memories. These long past treasures regale both of us even today.

She lives in New York now, has three kids, a lovely job and a great husband. We start our days with mails to each other, we chat whenever time permits, we sigh, we groan, we still play mischief, we laugh, we joke and we bitch. We can share with each other what we can't with any body else. We carry on biking the bumpy roads together. From sharing chocolates and crushes to sharing the ravages of gravity on our bodies..we have come a long way!

Rupal, this one is for us!