Life is characterized by many phases. Phases in which some things gain importance, some lose their’s and some change their significance. As one’s priority in life changes, so do a lot of things that go with it.
As a kid, I think the priority in my life was to play outside and have as many friends as possible to have fun with. Importance was given to the quantity of friends rather than the quality. The more the merrier kind of thing. As I grew older, I realized (were made to realize rather) that more than anything else your studies should have your complete attention. So making friends took a backseat as I tackled the maze to end up at the front of the class. Yes, friends still mattered but life was not dictated by the number of friends you had, but rather by the number of marks you got in your Math test!
After the frenzy of studying that lasted more than a decade I finally found myself in an Engineering College. It was intimidating to say the least because I was uprooted from one part of the state to another (which by the way have been turned into two separate states now). I was returning to my native city, but it had been such a long time and I was considered a non-local even in my birth place. As I walked into the huge gates of the college and looked up to see the winding road going up towards the place I was going to spend the next 4 years of my life I vowed to make friends. There was not one friend I could claim at that point of time and more than anything else, I looked forward to making new friends and boy, did I make friends!
It was difficult in the beginning, but I have to say my class was blessed with the coolest and nicest girls in the world. Everyone was so friendly and so willing to help, I realized my fears based on some very mean depiction of college girls in Bollywood movies were totally unfounded. I was blessed, truly blessed to have been part of this wonderful group of girls. We did so many things together. We laughed, stayed together and mostly had a grand time. However, as our graduation day from the college drew nearer, our priorities changed once again. Gone were the carefree days where we could play antakshiri till the wee hours of the night. Gone were the days where we could just sit, talk and giggle without even planning for the next day. Instead we were faced with planning our futures. Not fun at all.
The last day of college was a mixed bag. On one hand I could proclaim to be an Engineer, on the other hand I knew that it would be virtually impossible for our group of friends to retain the same closeness. Sure enough within a few months all of us were scattered over different parts the world. Communication was not as easy as it is today and soon we lost contact except for a few of us who stayed in touch because we were in the same foreign country pursuing a higher education. Even that was limited though – a phone call here, an email there, but that was about it. Since all of us were really busy, we did not even miss each other that much. At least not all the time.
Then of course came careers, marriages and children – a time to do so much for everyone but so little for yourself. There was just no time for anything else in life except work, work and more work. Kids needed to be taken care of, careers need to planned, husband’s needed to be attended to, in-law’s needed to be humored and houses needs to be furnished. The only kind of friends I could make were the one’s I made online. It was like friends’ in the physical realm were almost impossible to maintain. But as the children got older and life seemed to be very slowly but surely allowing time to breathe, I thought back to my old friends – one in particular, especially because I had lost touch with her.
She was titled the baby of our group because of her flawlessness. Her innocence was childlike, her simplicity matched my own. Her wit was legendary and she gave the jester of our group a run for his money. I was always in awe of her ‘haazir jawaabi’ and enjoyed every bit of it. When she was around somehow the sun seemed to shine a little bit brighter - at least for me.
I realized that I missed her presence in my life and sought her out. The first time I tried she was in Dubai – too far from where I lived and soon our contact fizzled. The second time I got hold of her she was in Toronto, much, much closer to where I lived. As soon as I found out that she lived close, I pestered my husband to take me there. We visited her and as soon as she opened the door, I could feel tears in my eyes. I had no clue I had missed her so much. The 2 decades of time did not seem to exist (except in the form of our teenage kids!) and we were back to being how we were. She had stayed the same – the quick wit, the funny stories, the simplicity and the grace – they were all there.
From that time onwards I have stayed in constant touch with her. I realize that I laugh a little bit more and harder when I am with her. I feel a lightness in me in her presence. It’s like the warmth of her soul touches mine and adds to it. I just have one regret, I wish I had reconnected earlier. Earlier enough to have met her mother – a woman I have admired all my life. I wish she could have seen that her only daughter had a bevy of girl friends who loved her daughter with all their heart. Aunty, if you could somehow read this please know that your daughter is loved and prized by all of us. Alhumdulillah!
The last vacation we took, I feel like brought us even closer. I was content playing her sidekick, carrying her jokes forward. It is not like we share all fun and games. We talk serious too, but even serious talk is laced with so much humor that it makes even tough situations lighter. That is what I love the most about her and me when we are together. The fact that everything can be laughed at when I am with her, even the most serious of problems.
Zareen Fatima – I want you to know that you are loved and cherished. I love everything about you – from the Michael Kors Purses, the Nike t-shirts(!) to the scarves around your neck, to the style you exude, to the person you are – gorgeous, inside and out! I want you to know that you are the one person who could make me laugh from the bottom of my heart not once or twice but every minute that we are together! I want to thank you for being my friend. I feel sometimes you are my twin (don’t know if that is a good thing or bad) – you think like me, you don’t take yourself too seriously and you can splurge on things ;-) I feel honored that you are in my life – you make it richer, you make it lovelier, you make it more alive, you make it joyous and most of all you fill it with laughter. May Allah always keep you happy so that you can spread that happiness to those around you, especially me, as you already do. :-)