I remember the small cute stickers of different animals and smileys she had given me when we were in the seventh grade. I found them in my wallet a few minutes ago. My table was in a mess. It was overflowing with garbage. My room stinked like anything. I was clearing my wallet and getting rid of all the chits I bad stored in it. I emptied it on my bed and that was when I found those stickers. I couldn't get away with them. They were still so new. The glue on those stickers was so strong that it felt like it had glued our hearts together for our whole lives.
She had the most beautiful legs one could ever have. They gave her a sense of confidence. She was Mary. I used to know her since my first grade. She always used to take part in all sorts of races at school.
Two days ago she had called. Almost centuries had passed in those two days. I was a busy bee. I had so many meetings to attend and projects to work on. It was a pretty tough corporate life. I hated it but I had no way of getting out of it. Mary often used to call from unknown numbers all the time. But she definitely found some way of contacting me. And that was what pinched me everytime she talked to me.I felt chills down my spine when she said something to me that day on the phone. Never did I feel so guilty about anything. I was gulping down my throat the horrible guava flavoured Tropicana juice which tasted like some medicine, when I had got her call.
"Hi Nisha! How are you? I prayed for you today! It is Christmas today. Merry Christmas Nisha! You told me the last time we talked about aunt. I prayed for her too. She will be fine. Don't worry! I miss you Nisha! So, how was your day today? Come on, speak up!"
I was listening to her voice with a lot of solemnity and carefulness. I didn't feel like speaking or replying. She stopped talking on the phone and suddenly asked.
"Hello! Are you there on the line? Hello!"
I kept mum for fifteen minutes like a dumb frog. She didn't deserve to listen to my voice. My voice would have been too shrill for her ears. She deserved someone better. I was not a good friend of hers. I never got in touch with her. I never called her. I soon heard continuous beeps on the phone. Mary had cut the phone. I put my phone on the flight mode. I didn't want her to call me again. I was feeling nauseated. I never hoped to find a soul with a pure heart as she had got. The reality was pulling me into a deep pit.
She was a real friend. A true friend. I loved her.
It was months ago when I had got a call from her. I was in a mood of pampering her. I asked random questions.
"What are your dreams Mary? Be open about it.I would not tell your sisters living there."
Mary lived in the Jeevan Jyoti home, Nizamuddin. It was a Mother Teressa missionary where many disabled children and orphans were taken care of by nuns and sisters. They were usually strict with the children as Mary had told me about them during our schooldays. She was always afraid of them. They used to keep record of what each person was doing in their dormitories.
Mary replied to me on the phone with a lot of enthusiasm.
"I want to travel to new places. I want to buy a deodorant for myself. I love the fresh fragrance of the deodorant. And I want to teach as many people as I can."
She chuckled and giggled. I got lost into a dream for a while.I just wondered that what would it have been like if her parents were with her today? Her dreams would have been fulfilled and she would not have felt lonely. I always thought that she used to call me when she was lonely. I was often sceptical about her being so nice to me.
In our sixth grade, we had a trip to some botanical garden. We were too small to understand the importance of it. We only thought of it as a picnic spot with so many colourful flowers, green grass and endless number of farms of cauliflower, gourd, tomatoes and potatoes. It felt like we were in heaven.
Ashima was helping out Mary to get out of the bus. Her face was red and I could clearly make out that she was angry of not being able to enjoy with others. Her face was enough to express the burden she felt. Ashima was tired of accompanying Mary. Ashima was my close friend but she disliked my company with Mary. We always used to fight over this issue every now and then.
Mary was affected by Polio. Her legs had got paralysed when she was young. I felt maybe that is why her parents abandoned her. I never asked her. Once when I had asked her about her surname she had got very upset about it. So, I preferred to just make her feel happyand not lonely whenever she was with me. Due to the paralysis, she couldn't walk. She used a stick to walk and the leg calipers she wore had to be tightened every few hours.
She was slow. But her heart always used to beat the fastest for her friends.
Ashima left her and ran to my other classmates who were busy taking pictures. I was with Mary. I was kneeling down and tightening her leg calipers. She stood idle at a place and was looking at our other classmates.
Ashima was far away from us. She was so happy with the others. She shouted something that I still remember. She was heartless. Her voice was still echoing in my brain.
"I would obviously not want a picture with you, Mary. I mean just look at you. You are a vegetable."
Mary smiled. She knew that she was worthless and always a nuisance for others. She never cried. She had no self esteem. She looked at me with teary eyes that day. I just didn't want her to cry. She croaked.
"Nisha! If I am disturbing you. You can go. I don't want to be a problem for anybody."
" Are you mad? Why do you think like that? I would never leave you alone. Come with me. We will go to that mini hill there. "
Yasmeen had cone with me. She also wanted to go with us to that mini hill. That day at the botanical garden, I accompanied Mary. We found the grassy slope which was a mini hill for us, near the cauliflower farm. Yasmeen and I had gone mad. I made Mary sit beside. She watched us running down the slope like small kids.
We were rolling down the slope like pebbles. It felt heavenly. We then ran back to the top of the slope and again rolled down.
" Can I also join you people? "
Mary asked hesitantly. She was afraid. She never had an adventure. This time she wanted to have one.
"Why not? Come and join us."
We helped her with her leg calipers. We removed them. And we three were rolling down the slope continuously. The laughter and the madness we had experienced that day was infinite. My class teacher had punished me for moving away from the class gang. The next day I was made to stand on the bench for the whole day. But I didn't feel ashamed. I stood there on the bench and looked at Mary smile at me in the class. I knew that she was happy. A whole day of standing on the bench didn't matter after all. Seema ma'am didn't understand that Mary needed to have fun with us. And that was what I had given her that day. A sense of belonging and comfort. Those were the school days with her.
I was feeling ashamed now.I had forgotten her in my busy life. I never used to call her. She always used to call me. I called her two weeks later. I wanted to talk to her. Flight modes just meant running away from her. I didn't want that to happen. It was the twenty sixth May when I had called her. I was standing outside her home: Jeevan Jyoti home. I was not busy that day. I had got a deodorant for her. The Exuberance. It was my favourite one. I talked to the nun who was sitting inside.
"Can I meet her? Her name is Mary."
"Oh! She is in the Safdarjung hospital now. She has been diagnosed with leukaemia. May I know your name please? We can arrange a cab for you to reach her."
My eardrums were bleeding. I didn't want to hear anything else. The sisters at the orphanage took me to her at the hospital. Ward number 343. I was feeling numb.
I reached her bed. I saw her lying on the bed. She saw me and her eyes gleamed with happiness. Her hair had grown long till her hips. She had grown thin. I tried to fake a smile. I was dead from the inside.
" Happy birthday Mary! I came to give you a surprise. May God bless you my dear!"
But I knew that God never blessed the good people with what they deserved. He snatched them away from us as soon as he could. I gifted her the deodorant. The tickets were still there in my hands. I had booked tickets for us to go on tour to Switzerland. I wanted to make her happy. But God was too greedy. He had won the race.
I felt dizzy. I lost my balance. I didn't remember anything else that day.
Mary was not a Viklaang but a Divyaang.