It was a quiet November afternoon, I sat at the dining table sipping a cup of cold coffee. It was the leftover from the morning. Meenu had already left for school. She had the special class in the afternoon and I was not expecting her till evening. The weather was sunny and sweet, but there was a slight drizzle. The money plant spread itself on the window and its green leaves cast elegant shadows on the walls. I finished my coffee and got up. There was nothing to do in the afternoon. Dinner for Meenu was already cooked and Rai would not return that night, for he had gone to Bombay. I lay on the purple sofa and closed my eyes. The light drizzle had worn off and water droplets shone like pearls on the leaves.

School … I do not know what impulse made me think about it. School! The word rang again in my mind. And almost automatically, I sprang up, grabbed my coat, got out and locked the door. Enjoying the cool fragrance of the towers I walked down the gravel path.

It had been six years since we returned from Delhi. After marriage, Raj and I had to stay in Delhi for about a year. He was the clerk in a local bank and the pay was low. we suffered a lot that miserable days. Unexpectedly, he got the promotion to a higher post and also a transfer. That had brought us to this small hill-station. was here that I had spent my childhood days and the small town brought back many memories. But there was no time for all that, I got a job of a teacher in a play-school, where parents found the haven to deposit their young ones every day. I also had to take care of Meenu, my five-year-old daughter. Ours was a busy schedule and were not even aware of the many beautiful things around us.

As the cool breeze soothed me, I thought what I was never aware of, even though it was quite familiar. Six long years! For six long years, I had thrived in this place and never even once did I think of my past. I had walked through this gravel path at least a thousand times, but did ever see my past, walking or rather trotting school? I had completely forgotten about howl one blue ribbons and carrying colorful bags and played with my friends.

I slowed my pace and sat on a nearby bench What had happened to me? What made me forget all those days? Perhaps I was too busy Or maybe I had concealed everything beneath the thick blanket of darkness. Was not I, even once aware, that all those memories were there in my mind? And suddenly, it dawned on me. No, it was not an attempt without a reason. I had not covered them myself but someone had compelled me to do so. The thought ° that very person filled my mind.

I felt agony, a crushing agony. It overcame my happiness in discovering the cause of my deliberate forgetfulness. The face sailed in the air before me. It smiled at me and I recognized her. Roshni! So it was she. Oh! why do not you leave me alone? I shut my eyes tightly. But I could hear her. I felt absurd. There was not a soul nearby. I opened my eyes and patted my sweater. My eyes looked around. She had gone, Oh! But what were those giggles I heard? “Fooled you” somebody whispered in my ears. I knew… it was Roshni. I shook myself rigidly. I consoled myself by saying it was just the wind. But her memories grew strong in me.

Why was I afraid of her? After all, she was my friend, my soul, and spirit. She was there to console me, to make me laugh, to feel happy and share precious moments with me. She … she was my best friend. Did I feel love and friendship towards her then, why not now? It all started with sorrow, The day she disappeared. The day I went to Delhi with my parents. I couldn’t control my grief then. Each time I thought of her, tears rolled down my cheeks. For days, after she had disappeared, I thought of her and cried. The sorrow was unbearable. I never got another friend like her. I never will. She was so special. Slowly had pushed into a dark corner of my mind. I controlled my thoughts and tried to forget her because feared that the mere mention of her name would make me break down into tears,

And gradually, as the years passed this sorrow was transformed into fear. Perhaps It was due to my repeated attempts to conceal her. I was afraid of each and everything that reminded me of her. And I succeeded in forgetting them. Till now, until this afternoon when an unknown force compelled me to think of her And all the fear and agony returned. Suddenly I felt something warm drop on my cold hand. I was crying! I do not know when I had started to cry, or whether they were tears fear or sorrow But one fact I knew, I was crying. That too, uncontrollably. Each drop which fell on my hand seemed to pierce through. I took my handkerchief and wiped them off. Shivering, I rose. I wanted to go back home. I turned and started walking, but something held me back. The path! I had never been to this old part of the path.

Avoid it But now a strange force was pulling me, I could see two girls, one fairer than the other, walking. The two images seemed to float in my mind. Roshni and I ran, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. “Reetu, Reetu,” I could hear someone call. I did not stop. I ran and ran till I saw the familiar cottage, I called home at a distance. Meenu was already home. It was only then that I realized how much time I had spent thinking of Roshni. After having dinner she went upstairs and played with her dolls,

I slowly put my rocking chair in the garden, sat and closed my eyes. More than fifteen years had passed. yet those days, or in fact, the memories of those days lay vividly in my mind. It was safe there, even though hardly tried recall to recollect it. Those were happy days. I which was located at the end of the gravel path. It has long sineberdeerted, but ther, it was a lovely little school, till Roshni came there. We are already took to each other. We became intimate friends, and she was there in every part ofmy life. We played and studiedtoget rw walked to school together. In fact we existed together. It was something which came from inside our hearts, something spiritual, something indescribable not just something which spelled f r-i-e-n-d-s-p, Something much more. Till the day she disappeared. She had gone to buy some flowers for her mother on her birthday. She told me it was special and to keep it a secret. She told she would make mother happy. She did not. People said she never could again. There were many theories about her disappearance but none were proved.

When still could not accept Roshni’s sudden disappearance, there came another another blow We were moving to Delhi. I left the town, the school and Roshni and the memories of Roshni The stars were shining brightly inthesky, The tall birch trees scattered the cool moonlight. A soft breeze started blowing. It consoled me and made me feel at peace. I walked indoors, shut the door and went upstairs. Meenu had already fallen asleep. Lying fully awake in bed, I became aware of what I had missed in the years gone by, I had entered a family and I gained a Job. But I had lost something more precious. I had thehappinessinsharingsecrets in gossipping, inplaying, in chatting for l ong hours. In rejoicing together, inteasing, I had lost … a friend. Friends have always differed.

You could do almost anything with your family. But doing it with a friend was entirely different. The joy, the feeling and the relationship involved were different. When you have a friend, you never feel lonely. But now, I lead a lonely life. It sounds absurd that even in the presence of my family, my colleagues and my relatives, the absence of just one person stands out so clearly. You feel that you may never even notice it but you really surprise yourself when you do! I curled up in my bed. There was still hope in my heart. I was expecting that sooner or later my friend would show up. The pain in my heart started to decrease. Hope could do wonders. I looked out through the window. A cool breeze was blowing. The moon was still shining brightly in the dark blue sky and the twinkling beautifully.

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