by Debleena Roy
Dia was worried. In her pink room with the rows of Enid Blyton books in the bookshelf and Hannah Montana stickers along its pink walls, she was sitting alone with a small pink card on which was written 2 words – Best Friends.
Sujata had given her the card before the school had closed for summer holidays. Sujata, her best friend since Nursery who had now shifted away from Bangalore. Dia was worried whether she would still love school as much without Sujata. They had been inseparable for the last 5 years.
Would she ever find a best friend again? She did have other friends but sometimes they said such mean things. She had never understood them as much as she understood Sujata.
“Dia, darling, come dear, we’ll be late” Dia’s mother came into the room.
Seeing her sitting alone with the card, her mother hugged her tightly.
“I too lost a best friend when I was 8 years old. Don’t worry; you’ll make many more friends. Just be yourself. Be strong, even if you have to say something different. Your new best friend will find you very soon. ” Her mother rocked her softly.
Dia got up and kept the card safely in her cupboard. Holding her mother’s hand, she ran down the steps to the gate where her father was waiting impatiently in the car.
Less than 400 miles away, Jhuma was worried. She would be going to school for the first time that day.
She still had to fetch water and make sure the buckets were full of water, cut the vegetables for her mother to prepare lunch and bathe her small sister.
But she was not worried because she had so much work left to be done. She knew she could finish all the work quickly like she did everyday. She was worried because she didn’t know how she would like the new school.
Will I be able to make friends, she thought.
Will they laugh at me?
Her mother looked at her silently from across the room and smiled at her. It was a smile that was sad and hopeful at the same time. Jhuma squared her thin shoulders and started finishing all her morning chores. She had a long 30 minute walk ahead of her to reach the school.
The school gates were open. Cars, parents and kids were rushing in with excited squeals and loud laughs.
When Dia entered the gate and kissed her Mama goodbye, she could already see the usual bunch of friends gathered around the playground – creatively called Jungle Gym.
“Did you hear where Vinita went for the holidays? Singapore”
“That’s nothing; my parents took me to Disneyland this year”
“Wait till you hear this, my brother and I finally coaxed our parents to buy us an Ipad”
The jumbled voices fell over each other in excitement.
“O look at her, she is so black” Dia suddenly heard a girl called Ananya laugh.
“And see her clothes, O my god” Rita added; always ready to second Ananya.
She turned back surprised. Near the jungle gym, at the corner, a girl around their age was standing shyly. Her clothes were clean but they must have been washed so many times that it was hard to say what color they must have been originally.
All the girls around were laughing and sniggering at the new girl.
“Children, this is Jhuma, she will be in your class” one of the teachers introduced her and immediately rushed off in a frenzy of the usual first day activity.
“Jhuma, what kind of name is that?” Dia heard someone else laugh.
Dia looked at Jhuma again. She was trying to look brave with a small, uncertain smile on her thin face. Dia noticed her large, beautiful eyes. They had a frightened and uncertain look in them as if she was trying hard not to run away, not to cry.
Dia couldn’t stop herself. She moved forward and held out her hand to the girl.
“Hi, I am Dia. Your name is so beautiful” Dia held Jhuma’s hand. All the other girls stared at her as if she had gone crazy. Dia smiled again and was glad to see Jhuma slowly smiling back.
Her mother had been right. You just needed to be yourself. Best friends would like you that way.