It was a huge classroom with girls crammed in broken desks. The scribbles on the desks by many girls who studied there before us, the fan that made loud noises and the wall paint that was coming off in peels were the only things that guaranteed the fact this was a school. Other than that pretty much nothing school-like happened there. Or especially when it came to the three of us. Rajni, Nina and me. The three musketeers, the naughty squirrels, the bratty snobs. Call us whatever, but if you ask us, we were the life of that class.
We were just thirteen years old, fresh into our teens, fresh experiencing so many mysteries of life, but we behaved like grannies. We gave advice to seemingly gullible girls in the class on how to evade their parents’ and elder brothers’ curfew. How controlled were lives of girls in those days! We climbed the school wall to jump into the garden next door just to get a bite of raw green sour guavas. How much the poor gardener dreaded us! Outside the confines of our restricted home environments, we were free birds, living life on our own terms, chasing our own horizons.
Though I was very close to both Rajni and Nina, it was Rajni who was the closest to my heart. Nina belonged to a relatively open-minded family. She was allowed to go out in the evening with her bhabhi to eat batashas and rasgullas. She could wear suits which had fairly short sleeves and she could even put lipstick at family weddings. Rajni, on the other hand, was from a very orthodox family. Just like me, she was not allowed to take any decision without the consensus of the entire extended family. She had hordes of siblings vying for her parents’ attention and she had elder brothers who seemed to think it was their right to control her.
Rajni and I were partners in crime in the true sense. We were out there to prove that we could have a good life, outside the shadow of our families. We would step out of home in the morning and breathe a huge sigh of relief. We would religiously collect any single paisa or anna that came our way and save it to buy things on the way back from school. We would sit together for hours during free periods to talk our hearts out. How beautiful and mesmerizing were those days! How naive and innocent were those secrets shared, those issues discussed and those memories made.
Memories of my childhood are like tiny pearls,
They may seems tiny, you may ignore them,
They are like songs that can never be forgotten,
They are like mysteries that can never be solved.
They come unannounced at any moment
And touch my heart with their innocent warmth.
Scared inside about the unexpected outside,
Yet very eager to savor the whole world,
Trying to break the boundaries at home
Yearning for the freedom that was never hers.
This was the girl I see in my childhood pictures,
Bundle of contrasts, collector of dreams.
As we went about dolling advice to other girls, showing off to them how cool we were, being a nuisance to our teachers and avoiding any fragment of studying; Rajni and I managed to have a fun-filled childhood. And this was mostly through the hordes of games we managed to invent and keep ourselves busy with, whenever and wherever we found the time. But today as I sit here remembering all those sweet and sour games, what stands out in my mind is the crazy peculiar memory that is associated with each of those games. Let me take you through some of them…
The day Aparna madam cried
Aparna madam was our class teacher. She was a sweet young woman, I am not complaining, but her problem was she cried too easily. I don’t know if this weakness in tear-control was caused by Rajni and me or she was born with it.
So one day, both of us decided that we were too bored with Geography. Anyway we knew the names of all the states and what was the point is learning the names of global states when we were never going there. So we sneaked out of the class before our Geography teacher, Renu madam came in. Quietly we sneaked into the next door garden and dashed towards our favorite guava tree. I climbed up the tree while Rajni kept a watch. Before I could break any guava, we heard the gardener’s lathi. Rajni screamed for me to run and I jumped down the tree.
We were back in the school, hiding behind the staff room in less than 2 minutes. And then suddenly we heard the gardener’s voice scolding somebody. We peeped and saw that the maali was scolding Aparna madam. He was saying, “If this scarf belongs to you then you must be the one in my garden stealing guavas.” Aparna madam was almost begging, “But I don’t know how this scarf reached your garden.” He didn’t care and went on, “Shame on you for stealing. You’re a teacher and this is the example you set for your students? Shame on you madam!”
And the next thing we knew Aparna madam burst into sobs. Seeing this, the gardener felt bad and went back. I looked at Rajni in a confused manner and she smiled. So it turns out that it was her who had picked up Aparna madam’s scarf in the morning and left it there in the garden to mislead the man!
The day our hair looked like a bee hive
A favorite game of ours happened daily on the walk back from school. Nina normally took a rickshaw, but Rajni and I walked home. It was an almost 15-minute walk but we didn’t mind as it was our last time together for the day mostly and we made the most of it every day! We laughed at funny women passing by, made faces at children and ogled at dresses in clothes shop.
But more than anything else, we loved to trick candy vendors. Our typical routine was one of us would distract the vendor while the other who quietly sneak off with a candy. Since we would later feel bad and have major guilt pangs, we would pay him handsomely on a later date when we had the money.
On this particular day, it was my turn to be the evil distracter. So I started chatting up the old guy, “Baba, you know how people can eat fish? It smells so bad!” He looked at me as I was mad. “Yes. No.” I continued, signaling to Rajni to carry on, “Baba, my neighbors are Bengalis, they smell so much.” Maybe he saw a point in what I was saying so he said, “Yes, but fish is like vegetarian to them. They…” Before he could say anything else, Rajni waved to me. She had managed to steal two anardana churan golis and it was time for us to go. So I said, “Ok, good. Bye baba.” “Huh?” He said.
First we walked softly and then we ran for our lives. It didn’t matter if somebody was following us or not, we just ran. Laughing, giggling, on top of the world, like two sparrows just out of the cage, we ran. It was not just the two candies that we possessed that made us ecstatic, it was the feeling of having done something brave, something we could never do at home.
But, just at me turned the bend, our happiness went kaput. A tall man was coming from the other side carrying some kind of sticky juice that we still don’t know the name of. We ran straight into him and one of containers came crashing on both of us. The sticky juice rolled all over us and soon our hair stuck together and stood up like antennae. We looked at each in shock. Probably, we should have known “You reap what you sow!”
The day Punu prayed at 3 AM
Punam was another silly girl from our class. I say another, because according to Rajni and me, most of them were silly and dumb. Punam was crazy about mangoes. Succulent juicy mangoes were her weakness. They were the only reason she could survive summers which she hated. Considering I grew up in Kanpur, which had merciless summers, it was great that Punam had a way of coping with them.
One day when Rajni and I were getting bored because there was nothing interesting that we had done since morning. She had bitched about her bhabhi who made her help in cooking after school, her bhaya who didn’t allow her to join them for a movie last night and her mother who was a mute spectator and never said anything to her or daughter-in-law. Now we were both looking for something to occupy ourselves with.
Punam walked into our net soon enough. “Did you parents buy mangoes yet?” She looked at both of us. Almost instantly though telepathy, Rajni and I knew what we were supposed to do. “Yes, of course.” I said casually. “Really?” “Yes, what’s so surprising in that?” Rajni shrugged. “Mine said good mangoes are still not available in the market!”
“That’s not true. I had the most juicy and sweet ones yesterday only.” I said. “Ooooh, that’s not good.” She looked really heart broken. Rajni added to her misery, “I’m surprised you haven’t tasted any so far. I’m sure you have done the aam-ras pujan? Then mangoes should have come home!”
“Aam-ras pujan? No, I have not done it. What is that?” She looked confused and sad. “Arey, the effective way of impressing the mango Gods. You don’t know about it?” I said. She said, “No, I don’t!! What is it? Tell me!”
“You just have to take a bath at 3 AM, tie your hair in 6 braids…” Rajni started.
“Wear chappal in one foot and shoe in the other, put powder on your face…” I added.
“Stand facing the East and pray for an hour.”
“Say, aam-ras devta prasann ho, aam-ras devta prasann ho, aam-ras devta prasann ho. 100 times.” I concluded smoothly.
“How do you girls know all this?!” She was impressed but almost teary. “We knew it since we were five. That’s why we eat mangoes before anyone else does in the class.” I said. In reality, we probably ate it last because of naughty elder brothers who hid them and never shared with us!
“I have to do it tomorrow itself.” Punu got up with a resolve.
Rajni and I shook hands behind her back. Today’s excitement had just begun.
Today, after all those years
Now Rajni lives with her husband in Shahjahapur in Uttar Pradesh. Her daughter is married and settled in Indore and her unmarried son works in Mumbai. We see each other probably once in two years because we are so busy in our own lives, families and children. But the memories we once shared, bind us like no other bond in the world can. Our friendship is like a cascading pure waterfall whose flow may vary according to season but its water is always fresh and rejuvenating.
Your words may not be fancy,
But your message touched my heart.
Your gifts may not be lavish,
It was your thoughts that kept me warm.
You’re far away from me today,
But you’re in my heart forever.
Moments shared with you were precious,
Each smile was worth a treasure,
Our pranks were like elixir for me,
Our secrets worth more than any riches.
Those adventures and memories I cherish,
Without our friendship and love, I’ll perish.
At this age, sometimes I don’t know what a ‘best friend’ is. But whatever I understand of it, I think Rajni is the one. She was my partner in a lot of silly crimes, we shared a lot of laughter and tears, we made promises to each other that we may or may not have kept but which showed how much we cared for each other. With passing years, sometimes I struggle to remember the little things we did together but my overall memories of her are like a warm cardigan around me that keep giving me tenderness and security every single day.
So, I have a plan now to refresh all the crazy things we did together during childhood. I will visit Rajni’s house as a surprise on the first weekend of January. And then we play the “Dove Guessing Game”! It is a simple game, all you need to do is this:
- Blindfold your friend with whom you plan to play this game
- Wash one side of your face with ordinary soap. Use Dove Beauty Bathing bar on the other side.
- Then ask your friend (who is blindfolded) to guess which side you have used the Dove Beauty Bathing Bar.
I feel that by playing this simple game, we will not only make some new memories to cherish, but also get in touch with our girlie side with a lot of fun and affection! Of course, I’m also eager to play this game because I know that the Dove Beauty Bathing Bar keeps skin wonderfully hydrated and fresh. It moisturizes and restores your skin while it cleans.
And I’m sure that when Rajni and I will take the Dove Face Test to find out for ourselves, we will find excellent results. The soap side will feel tight, rough. And New Dove Beauty Bar with ¼ moisturizing milk will leave our skin softer, smoother, with fine lines visibly reduced. You’re wondering how I know all this to be able to rattle like a seasoned skin expert? 🙂
Well, I read it all at this really helpful and lovely link on the Dove website. There are articles, Q&A as well as videos, all really helpful in a woman’s journey towards pure, radiant and glowing skin!
Rajni, if you’re reading this blog, get ready, I’m coming over and we are going to have a great time!
p.s. Though I hope she isn’t reading this post, because I want it to be a surprise, so shush! Don’t tell her 🙂
And if you want to take the #DoveFaceTest too, then go here immediately. Lots of memorable times with your friends await you, of course along with radiant skin! I wrote this post after I found about this contest here. I read more on their Facebook page and YouTube channel too!