Yesterday night I was unable to sleep. Thanks to the hot and humid climate of Kolkata.
As I lay on my bed staring at the white â€śgolok champaâ€ť tree just outside the window across the narrow lane, I noticed a birds nest. My mind raced back to my childhood days when how once in a spring I and Lali had once broken an egg from a sparrows nest, tilting it a bit too much due to. And how guilty we felt when we watched the mother sparrow squeak helplessly when she returned to her nest.
Lali. My first ever friend. We were neighbors. We lived just next to each other. She was a year older than me. She was born on the birthday of â€śLalan Fakir â€ť and hence her grandmother had named her Lali. Though she had an official name, Indira, but for me she was Lali.
My earliest memories with Lali goes up to the time when her elder sisters used to give me a â€śDoodh Bhaatâ€ť which means a Dummy Player in all the games they played and how she helplessly stood by my side failing to convince them.
We used to plan the whole year for the major festivals. We loved staying back at home during the major festivals while all others were planning vacations to far places.
One Day while playing in the winter evening we saw Jaya Didi. I had not seen her since her marriage last year and she looked extremely strange and had a peculiarly swollen tummy. Lali whispered into my ears as they crossed, â€śShe has a baby in itâ€ť. Baby? â€śYes!â€ť. How is it possible? Arenâ€™t sent directly to the hospital by God ? And the women who wanted them just went there and chose the prettiest of them all? Of course Lali was exaggerating.
Then on one fine chill winter morning she came to my house panting. â€śCome out fast, Jaya Didi is back from the hospital with her babyâ€ť. I run as fast as I could with her in wonder and I saw a small tiny baby with tiny hands and legs as big as a doll. It was as red as a rose and we named her Rose.
I grew extremely jealous once when on her 8th birthday, she had invited her school friends for the very first time to her home. I sat quietly on a corner of the sofa as she was busy attending her new friends. Then suddenly one of the girls asked, â€śHey Indira, who is your best friend?â€ť. She hesitated for a second and then she pointed out her finger to me. What a proud moment that was!
Her family was a crazy fan of Indian cinema and so was she . She had seen all the latest releases. I used to wait for the time to meet her during the Monday evenings when she would narrate the latest Bollywood movie she had seen in the weekend. Dialogue by dialogue, Scene by scene. Pardes, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Raja Hindustani, Pyar Kiya to Darna kya, Dushmanâ€¦.. . Sometimes one evening was not enough and she had to continue on the next.
She was my companion in all my childhood adventures from picking raw mangoes and berries on a stormy April afternoon to taking our cycles and exploring new areas of our township. We played all sorts of games together but our favorite was â€śTapan Tapaiâ€ť. A minimum of four people could play this game divided in two groups. Each group had to make the hurdles using their hand and feet and the other team has to leap over it.
After the Class XII board exams, my parents sent me to hostel to complete my studies further and Lali got admission in the nearby college where all her elder sisters went.
Once when I came home for vacations, I went to meet her as usual. She blushed when she saw me and her mother gave me a box of sweets and told me that her marriage was fixed. 11th December. I was shocked. Shit! Arenâ€™t my semesters are supposed to be going on at that time? The most important day of her life and I would not be present?
I took the phone numbers from her mother so that I could contact her after her marriage. Though I was eager to call her each single day, but I hesitated.
That was the last time I spoke to Lali.