I was twelve when I first had this feeling of a mixed bag of emotions. Happiness and Sadness, both ran together in my heart. This is an interesting chapter from the book of my life. It started when I was 7. We had moved to a new building, a few blocks away from our old one. We had changed from an extended family to a nuclear one, but deep inside we knew it was just some much more needed space. Initially, we used to spend most of our time in our old house. The first inhibition of moving to a new place, surrounding and most important, new neighbours, was strong. I hated to move away from my childhood pals and often found myself back to my old society.
In fact the new building had more children than the old one, and to top it there were five girls of my age. Maybe, five doesn’t sound too big a number. But in a building with 16 flats, five girls of age 6-7 from among 22 odd kids was a good ratio especially from where I came from. Whoa…it was a complete kiddie zone, chaotic and full of excitement; with children of all age group, screaming, giggling, playing, fighting, and studying. We (Me and my siblings) had hit the jackpot, immediately we found friends there!
Time flew by and I found my best friend, Geeta. From the gang of girls, we both bonded fantastically. Even though our schools were different and so were their timings, we managed to spend together every possible time left after school and its work. We did our homework together. We made doll houses. We ruled the playground. We invented new games. We stood for each other against the group. We saved best seats for each other. We danced, painted, laughed, and cried together. We were close to the extent that most of times we ate and slept at each other’s house. We had become inseparable part of each other’s life.
Geeta, was the only daughter of Seth family. She lived with her mother, a High school English teacher, her grandfather and Laxmi, her care taker. Nirmala aunty, Geeta’s mom, was a very capable and doting mother. Aunty would teach us new concepts of culture, festivals, love and life. She would take the gang to parks, museums, boat rides, amusement parks and much more. I call her, The Lady with Golden Heart. We use to have a gala time. For instance on one Christmas Eve, Aunty told us the Christmas Story and to make the concept interesting, she suggested that we could enact the play on it. Soon the celebrations started with Christmas tree, lights, mistletoe, Santa Claus, fairies, gifts, Cake, and snacks. We got other kids to enact the roles of Kings, Sheppard; and the play was directed. We enthusiastically invite all the building members to Geeta’s house in evening. I and Geeta took up the part of fairy and Mother Mary. That was the best Christmas I ever celebrated.
This was one of many such fun-filled times with her. We have had also travelled together to many places in India. At times when Geeta and Aunty went for a trip, they would ask me to join them. Geeta took up a special protecting role for me, on the trips, just to make sure that I didn’t miss my family. We were each other’s strength and weakness. 4-7 day outdoor trips filled with fun, sightseeing, shopping and worship. Aunty believed in several Gods and religions. It is through her that I have learnt about many religions and rituals. She never tried to influence power of any particular religion over other though. We often visited various places of worship; temples, mosques, churches, pilgrim centres. And one common thing among all this was a prayer; we used to wish for, what I call, “The American Dream”.
Geeta’s Dad lived in US of A. He had travelled when she was 3, for better living. Aunty would work and take care of Geeta and her grandfather. Nirmala Aunty and Geeta’s only dream was to be reunited with her father and live in America. I use to hear wonderful stories about the place. “Those kids have 24 x 7 cartoon channels” she revealed to me after talking to her father over phone. I was awed. To confess I was equally fascinated about the idea. And fromthe bottom of my heart, I wished that they could go to USA. This was no secret to anyone who knew them. They had some huge visa issues, was all I knew. And hence they were trying hard to find a way out. With all the innocence, I prayed with her for the fulfilment of their only wish. I was their extended family.I had been to many places of worship with them and after our normal rituals, we all wished for the same. They were days of disappointment and hope. And we felt the need of a miracle.
One fine day, as usual, I returned from school, changed my clothes and ran to her house. There was little chaos in the house. Neighbours had gathered up, some visitors sitting in drawing-room. I did not find anything usual. I rushed inside to see Geeta. She saw me and ran towards me. She took me aside and with all the excitement, said “Miracles do happen! It’s done, we finally got our Visa”. There was a thrill in her voice and we felt a sense of achievement and answer for all our prayers.
But the next moment it seemed like my whole world had collapsed. I could feel the absence of her in my life, in the same moment. I did not utter a single word. I smiled and ran with full speed to my home. I didnot know how to react or control my emotions, that was the best I could have thought at that moment. I was 12; it was mixed bag of emotions: Happiness and Sadness. I went to my bed and tears started flowing. My parents knew exactly what was going in my mind and heart. They tried to console me. I was sure I could not cry in front of Geeta, because it was her happiest moment and she was my best friend. As soon as her guests departed, she ran to my house to see me. We talked for sometime, but we could not laugh or cry. It was time to go to bed, time to leave; she looked into my eyes and neither of us could say ‘Good Bye’. I know she felt the same; Mixed bag of Happiness and Sadness.
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Special Credits to:
Jinen Dedhia, Gayatri Nayak, Friends who took the pain to check the draft version.