She turned back with a confused look on her face...I smiled...she said "Hi", still very confused.
I looked at her, with a grin pasted on my face, but I knew I had made a faux pas, I did not know this girl I just greeted so warmly! Undaunted though, I went ahead and grabbed the empty seat next to her and initiated a conversation.
It was the first day of college, all the first year students were invited for the Orientation program on a rainy afternoon. In spite of carrying an umbrella, I was drenched and was shivering in the cold blast of air-conditioning inside the large auditorium. Adding to my discomfiture was the fact that being new in the city, I felt like an alien the crowd of unknown faces. I was searching desperately for someone I could acquaint myself with, when I spotted her. She was sitting on the aisle seat of a middle row. Her orange dress seemed to exude a certain warmth which soothed my hyper nerves. Something in her mannerism communicated a familiarity which none in this human sea seem to radiate. I felt I knew her, how and from where was a question which could be dealt with later. At that moment the only thing that mattered was - I knew this girl, soon to detect the contrary!
After a few curious exchanges, we discovered that not only we were to join the same class, but also shared the same ailment - the feeling of being an outsider. I had left behind my parents, then posted in Jabalpur and she came from Allahabad. As she would later comment, we both were from the 'cow belt', and felt more belonged there than in Calcutta, which happens to be the abode of our extended families. I could not believe my sheer good luck of meeting her. Through the show we found so much about each other and yet so little. We left college together that day with a silent promise of seeing each other the next day, the first day of our class.
By the next morning, I had completely forgotten her name! I was late for college, and was rushing through the human traffic of Park Street. I raced from the entry gate, through the front courtyard, to the main entrance of the college building. And there, on the stairs, was she, waiting for me - her first friend in college, as she told the others whom she had met by then. She flashed me her endearing smile, and I knew I had found 'my friend'. From that day Soma and me have been inseparable in college and beyond. We shared the same bench for all three years. She was a go getter and I was a little subdued, she was a typical tomboy and I was experimenting on being girly, she was a poetess and I was learning poetry, she wore her identity on her sleeves and I was still confused about who I am. But we stuck through. We had enormous fights and misunderstandings, we hated each other many a times, but we were tied together with this extraordinarily strong bond which would not break however hard it was hit.
After college we headed to fulfill our destinies. Soma became the journalist she always wanted to be, battling social issues and raising voices against all that goes wrong in this country. I joined the corporate bandwagon to live the mechanical experience falsely glorified as a high flying job. I moved to Delhi while she remained in her beloved Calcutta. But that invisible bond remains.
All my life I have never ever initiated conversations with strangers. To an observer I can appear to be a very cold and arrogant human being. This continues to be a characteristic trait of mine. But that fateful day I am glad I broke my own rule. I not only went against my nature to approach Soma but even took the first step for beginning a conversation which smoothened our transition to a connection greater than friendship - we call each other soul sisters. We don't have to be in constant touch to know what's up in other's life. We call each other after ages and easily pick up threads from nowhere to be in tune. We just know.
People say you are lucky to have found a true friend. I say (touch wood) I am luckier than them to have met Soma.