Nariman Point, Mumbai

I looked at my watch for the umpteenth time. 10:50. I had to leave by 12:00. But the session seemed to be going on forever. So much for yoga day! Compulsory attendance is all but useless when half the people are dozing off when they’re supposed to feel all material weight and worries lifting away from their bodies. Or maybe sleep is another form of relaxation. Hard as it is to come by in a business school.

Still, I had something to look forward to: A meeting with an old friend. It had only been 2 weeks since I started college, but it felt like ages.

After the session(and the attendance sham) finally got done with, I packed my bag and left for our meeting point, sending a small heads up to her phone:

‘Getting on the metro. Be there in an hour.’

It’s disconcerting. We used to live together in the same room, not long ago, and now, had to travel an hour to just see each other.

I was the one to arrive first. A quick call later, I stationed myself in front of her arrival platform and started counting down the minutes, keeping time with the giant LED board screaming the details of the next train to arrive. As soon as the train came into view, my phone rang. I cut the call and started looking around. In the Mumbai train arrival rush, a call serves little purpose other than adding to the confusion. After a few minutes, I spotted her among the crowd of people gushing out of the train onto the platform. Inadvertently, the corners of my mouth stretched themselves to form a huge smile and my excitement gave itself away in impatient jumps and elaborate waves — at last, we get to meet.

 — — —

We didn’t talk about old memories or incidents. It hadn’t been that long for us. Instead we clicked new memories and joked about how our other friend will get jealous over them. We talked about things off the top of our heads. We argued over who would give up her precious mobile data to look up a good dine-in nearby. We walked around aimlessly in the drizzle, in a beautiful part of a wonderful city. We complained about getting half wet because the other person was too selfish while holding the umbrella, continuously switching hands to show the right way to accommodate two people under one umbrella. We found it needlessly funny when one of the umbrellas broke while being wrestled open in the sudden strong wind, taking time to understand the mechanics of umbrella opening everytime it started raining from then on. We were horribly tensed up when one of us forgot her cell phone in the cab, and then immensely relieved when the driver picked up one of our relentless calls and came back to return the phone to us, immediately breaking into praises and gratitude for the Mumbai cab drivers. And when it was too late to stay back, we started planning out the next time we would meet.

It was a good day. Nothing extraordinary, but still beautiful. Staying with strangers for the past few weeks and trying to find the right ones (which takes a lot of time for me) somehow made this special, made it feel like home. It was normal, effortless — the same as always. It was the difference between stepping around lightly looking for landmines and running straight ahead with your arms spread out; the difference between molding yourself into a crammed or foreign place and fitting into a predefined place, designed just for you, every nook and cranny formed with you in mind, with a click; the difference between being dumped into preconceived categories and being accepted.

And this difference in immeasurable. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what makes it so special.

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