Happy Birthday, Mariam…

There’s a thrill when you make a major change and land up in an alien environment. You don’t know how things are going to be, you don’t even know if you will deal with them. I was always told that people around you give you the strength to work through that uncertainty. They infuse you with energy, inspiration and no matter how alien or bleak the environment they’ll tell you that there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily enough, I have always had people like that around me. But I left them all behind and landed in UK. From being a confident Mumbai girl, I was the latest export from India, a meek, lost girl in the Queen’s land. I’d spent a week with the Kale family but as I drove down to the uni with my family, I started feeling that knot in my tummy. I was scared. I had never lived on my own, I had never been so far away from my friends and I had never ever been friendless. Well, not since high-school, but let’s not go there.

As the car wove through the University of Sussex campus, I was bright eyed and as we located my residences I was nervous as hell. Making friends from scratch, fending for myself, cooking, cleaning and studying all by myself and in addition to that, homesickness. I wasn’t unprepared. I had been warned by many, but it was happening now. This was real. I took a few deep breaths and told myself I’ll be ok. We pulled up right behind a car. A  girl got out of the car. I had never seen her before and yet there was something very familiar about her face, something very comforting. She smiled looking towards the residences and I saw hope.

I got off the car and continued to stare at her. Will she be a friend? Will she be in my school? Will she be…
‘Hi are you studying here?’ I heard my cousin ask.
She nodded, that smile fixed on her lips and excitement dripping from every corner of her face.
‘My cousin’s doing her MA from here. Meet Shakti,’ he introduced me…
She shook my hand, ‘Hi, I’m Mariam. I’m doing MA in Critical Theory. And you?’
There was warmth in her voice. And I replied that I was doing my MA in creative writing and she could critique my work. In my head, I thought, WTF are you saying? I realised this was going to be awkward, making new friends. But then she laughed at my stupid joke and I felt like all be ok.

Little did I know that this girl, the first person I met on the campus, would end up being such a close friend! Mariam Zia, this bundle of energy, hails from Lahore, Pakistan. She’s one of the people I treasure. At times, a mere ‘hi’ here and there tells her what’s going on in my head. She’s like this elder sister who’ll watch out for me, who’ll patiently listen to me whining and then bring a smile to my face. She is the reason why I loved my novel as much as I did.

At Sussex, I made my own family. They were and are still pillars of strength in my life (I know I never email or keep in touch, but they continue to be my strength) Mariam happens to be one of the closest to me. Mariam and Shefali helped me grow up; they helped me be me as I grew up. Of course, Shef deserves a blogpost of her own but Mariam, this one’s for you.

Our countries can’t see eye to eye and yet we see each other to the depth of our souls. My calls or SMS wouldn’t go through to her, we all know why. She lives in Lahore. On her birthday, I couldn’t hear her voice, I couldn’t tell her how much I loved her, all because our countries are constantly at loggerheads. Our friendship is very special to me on an individual level, yes, but I also know that it is symbolic. It is symbolic of the fact that beyond that border, we share a similar culture, similar values. And if we have enough love in our hearts to give and enough room in our hearts to receive, we can share a lovely relationship. I should be able to take a flight and go see Mariam. She should be able to get on a bus and come see me, but we can’t. I haven’t seen Mariam in 4 years. Last time I saw her, we were freezing at Trafalgar Square, right outside National Gallery and we held each other tight. We promised to see each other soon in our respective home cities. We continue to promise each other that even as relations between our countries have turned more and more hostile. In the end what matters is that our friendship, our love has continued to grow strong. And no matter how many of my SMS or phone calls get blocked or however difficult it gets to see Mariam, I just need to close my eyes and I see her. She is in my heart.

Happy birthday, Mariam Aapa (big sistah!) Tum jeeyo hazaron saal, saal ke din ho pachas hazaar. May all your dreams come true, may all the happiness in the world be yours and may you live a long life. And we will see each other soon, I mean it!

On your birthday, words are all I have… So here’s to you, thank you for being in my life…
P.S: Mariam, do you notice the excess use of ellipses? It’s because words, they’ll never be enough…


We’re Just Good Friends!

‘A man and woman can never be friends!’ Harry tells Sally who staunchly disagrees. They prove the point by sharing an awesome friendship, but the inevitable happens. They fall in love! 

‘I am so lucky! I married my best friend,’ says Naina in Kal Ho Na Ho. Some of us do fall for our best friends and don’t get as lucky as Naina.

Take Reema’s case. She was very close to Varun who shared a lot of common interests with her. Both spent a lot of time together talking about anything and everything. ‘I guess nobody around us could understand that we were just good friends. They kept brainwashing us to realize there was something!’ finally Reema developed feelings for Varun and he wasn’t sure. They took their friendship to a new level but it was a disaster. ‘We were great as friends but our relationship sucked. I knew too much about him and expected too much too. It just ruined our beautiful equation!’ Reema admits sadly.

Sometimes, two individuals connect on a level that takes them beyond their gender differences. In fact, this male female mixture brings a newer and a fresher perspective to the relationship. ‘I love getting serious advice from my best friend. He’s a guy and sees things practically!’ Sandhya always tells me. I adore her relationship with her best friend but quite a few of their friends have tried and nudged them towards ‘the next big step’. They both know that their compatibility is limited to friendship and nothing else. But not everyone can sustain this friendly ‘advice’ business.

Both the friends have to be extremely clear, matured and focused to sustain the societal pressure. ‘People can easily manipulate your thoughts and create unwanted complications,’ says Sameer whose best friend refused to understand that two people loving each other as friends does not translate into being ‘in love’. He believes that we watch too many films and believe what they have to say.

It’s like a huge plan to make sure the friendships across genders do not remain where they are. I used to go to a school where every girl tied a rakhi on her guy friends’ hands. This prevented the teasing, winking and elbowing. I thought getting out of school would change that, but it still exists around me in a mutated form. Labelling your friendship with ‘brother’ tags might be super sad, but at least it shuts the people around you up.

‘It’s a very treacherous situation. If you feel the passion and stuff, sure go ahead and take the plunge. But if you’re just getting together because people suggest it, and there’s nothing better to do, think again!’ says Payal who’s fallen for her best friend and has been enjoying a super fun yet mature relationship for quite some time now.

Everybody’s story is different and you have to let friendship be. To quote Miranda Hobbes from Sex and the City ‘Only the two people in any relationship know what’s really going on and nobody else!’ So, while it’s awesome to be best friends with the love of your life it may not necessarily mean that your best friend is the love of your life! You may still take that step but remember it’s a huge risk. It works for many but if it doesn’t, you stand to ruin your relationship.

Let Harry love his Sally and let Rahul and Anjali live happily ever after. Don’t let films or people around you dictate the course of your relationship.

PS: I’ve changed names to avoid any old stinky sandals flying at me. Also, this is no ‘Dostana’ inspired post. I was working on this for two weeks, and now that I got the weekend to look away from CampusJunkie, I have put it together! Watch out for my own review of Dostana, tomorrow!

Freewriting a dream

The dream keeps coming… And you’re in it. You talk to me and I hear your voice. It sounds familiar but I hear it differently. Taking in the slight modulations, the way you twist certain words around. I look at your face, it looks familiar but I look at you like I’ve never done before. Observing the contours of your cheeks, the softness of your mouth and slightly creased skin next to your eyes. You take me away somewhere, within the dream. I try to tell myself to wake up. I don’t want to hear it, but I can’t resist indulging in your existence in my dream- so clear, so tender… I’ve never looked at you this way before. You talk and you talk and I listen. I finally wake up. All alone, no beach in sight, no you in sight. I wake up alone. I sit a moment and take in the feeling of that dream. Cozy, comforting, warm… And then I realize, I am never going to look at you the same way again. My mind has played the game… You’re right there… You don’t even know you came visiting in my dreams. You don’t even know, you held my hand. You don’t even know, you touched my heart in that one dream. It’s all my imagination, but you, you are real. Or are you?