Meri zindagi mein Kanya Rashi abhi tak udit nahi hui hai - This is the pet reply I give whenever any of my friends asks me about the presence of any girl whatsoever in my life.
Leave dates apart. I am 25 and, till now, I have never ever been out with a girl for even a simple and completely harmless dinner. Worse, if I start counting the number of girls with whom I have had any "Substantial Conversation" in my quarter-of-a-century of existence, I am dead sure I will have to stop the exercise far before I reach the smallest 2 digit natural number possible. And “Substantial Conversation” here can very comfortably be defined at say around 50 sentences per month.
Simply put, I am afraid of girls. Very afraid.
It is strange, considering the fact that the first friend that I had in a girl was way back in Prep (or was it Nursery?). Or maybe, it is completely logical. Maybe the reason behind this is those 9 most formative years of my life that I spent in Vidyapith. If we agree not to take into consideration the approximately 150 bovines that we had in our dairy, the only female that we could see for days together was a very old lady, with hair so white they reflected all the sunrays that fell on them. She visited our campus almost daily to cut grass. However, if the enviable improvement that many of my fellow Vidyapith brethren have made in this field is any indication, it would be a gross mistake to put any fault on the part of good, old Vidyapith, instead of considering it more of a personal failure.
However, the purpose of this post is not to crib and be sad, but to celebrate the girl that I just mentioned above in passing.
I don’t even properly remember the class I was in when I met her. Was it Prep or was it still Nursery? Since the image that comes to my mind happens to be of the entrance gate of Pristine Children's School, it in all probability must have been Prep. Does that mean that North Point School, where I had my Nursery education, was devoid of girls? Can't say. In the image, I am clinging hard to my mother. Afraid that she is going to leave me alone in the school, I am crying desperately. And somehow this girl also happens to be standing there. Her parents have already left. And God knows why she is consoling me and telling that it would be fine, that it is the first day of school for her as well.
She is Alka.
I don’t know her surname, and chances are that I never knew it at all. When you are so small, finding out complete names of your friends is certainly the last thing on your mind.
I remember vividly the classroom where we used to have our lessons and the small playground outside, where, during the recess, children used to play and have their tiffins. What I don't remember is what she really looked like. Did she have a circular face? Or a long one? Was she fair? Or dark? Or was it some shade in the middle? I also don’t remember us sharing our tiffin boxes or water bottles, and other stuff like pencils, erasers and sharpeners. But I am sure such exchanges must have happened between us.
Two years down the line, I got admission in Kendriya Vidyalaya. The day we said goodbye to each other, there was no exchange of any gifts, addresses or contact numbers.
The children in those days still behaved like children. Not like grown-ups, as they do now. Those were the days when childhood had still not lost its innocence.
(My Dear) Alka,
(Should I address you as a Miss or as a Mrs., in case you have already found yourself an eligible life-partner and are happily married?)
Yours is the only name that I remember from the first three years of my school. And you are the only girl with the name Alka that I know. Isn't that strange? Especially because your name is so simple it appears to be one of those many Indian female names that should have had been more common?
After I left Pristine Children's School, I went to Kendriya Vidyalaya, from where I shifted to Vidyapith in Class IV. In the April of the year that I passed out from Vidyapith (2002), I decided to hunt down my friends from my previous schools. It had been 9 long years since I had met even a single one of them. So, I picked up my bicycle and followed the trail that my school rickshaw used to take. Surprisingly, I was able to dig out quite a good number of them. Most of them were still living in the same houses as they were 9 years earlier. At that time, I wondered whether I should try locating you down as well?
But then I dropped the idea. I did so because:
a. You being a girl, probably it would not have looked decent enough to hunt you down after a gap of almost 14-15 years.
b. I was not sure whether Pristine Childern's School maintained the records of its old students. I don't think it does. It was just one of the many round-the-corner schools, which simply should not be expected to put in that much extra effort to maintain old records. And that, alas, was the only starting point I had from which I could have started my search.
c. Most important, somewhere down under I had this fear that probably you will not even be able to recall my name. It would then have turned into a very awkward situation. Sometimes I wonder : Is it only the boys who tend to remember so fondly the girls they met in their life? Or does the same apply to the girls as well? Again, you happen to be the first girl to whom I am putting down this question. And I do not intend to get an answer.
Anyways, I am pretty sure you must have grown into a very beautiful and confident young lady by this time and must have carved out a good, satisfying and well-paying career for yourself.
It would be nice if we could meet up some time.
But then, we both know that the chances of such a meeting are next to non-existent. And in case, if I do happen to meet some 'Alka' in my life again, be rest assured I am not going to try finding out whether that 'Alka' is the same as you. In the matter of girls, I have turned up into a completely unconfident and confused young man, you see.
I don’t know what else there is that I can write to you.
I don’t have any photograph of yours and I am completely unable to affix a face to the empty frame. Thankfully, at least I do remember your name. And trust me; this name of yours is going to hang out with me for my whole life.
You remain, after all, the first friend that I ever had in a girl.
Love and Prayers,
Alka - The frame is going to remain empty. For eternity.
(Alka koi kalpana ki udan nahi, ek haqikat hai. Wo thi, aur Insha Allah aj bhi hai. Farq tab aur ab mein bas itna sa hai ki tab wo mere saath thi; aj 700 crore logon ki is bhid mein kahin gum ho gayi hai. Aur lakh koshishon ke bawzud main use dhundh nahi sakta.)