We were best friends
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Every time I hear the dialogue from the film Maine Pyar Kiya where the villain screams and says that a girl and a boy can never just merely be friends and that it’s just a cover-up for deeper feelings, I smile. He is just so wrong. However, this is not merely a dialogue in the movie, it is a thought that is ingrained within our Indian society. And the pity of it is that this emotion is complete crap. I can say so because I know so. First hand.
Long, long ago – more than 20 years ago – I met a boy. It was at a tutorial we attended to learn how to solve MCQ questions so that we could crack the CAT exam and live our dream of studying in one of the top MBA institutes of the country.
I remember how we had hit it off from the first day. Both having grown sick of being first benchers, in our respective schools, as I had found out later, we had both wanted to secure our places in the very last seat. Unfortunately, all but one had been taken. Unfortunate number two had been the realisation that his reflexes were better. He moved quickly and got what he wanted. What happened next though was a huge surprise – I saw him waving at me, rather signalling me – to come and sit next to him. Somehow he had managed to push the others into creating space.
I dreamt of fairy tales
I was barely 20 then. The teen hormones still raged like wildfire within me. I could not concentrate on anything that was taught that day. My mind kept conjuring stories of why he had made that effort and in which direction ‘our’ story would move to next. Yes, I had turned this boy who was still a nameless entity and myself into a ‘we’.
My fertile imagination might have thought up of stories, which stayed stories – like him giving me a ring in a champagne glass, or writing my name with lighted candles on the beach; but my gut instinct had not been wrong. Somewhere while trying to fathom why a bar chart looked so much like Kit-Kat chocolates, walking amidst honking traffic just so that we could have pani puri before our paths divided and we went back home, cribbing over the way the question paper was becoming tougher over the years, talking of our families, and our dreams of becoming a part of the IIM fraternity, love happened.
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When we became a couple
On the last day of our classes, and a week before the MBA exam, he proposed. We had been eating our pani puri then. “Will you go around with me?” is what he said. Instead of a nod, or a shy smile, especially since my heart had already begun the famous proposal-thud, what I said was “I could, but where is the merry-go-round?” He laughed so hard on hearing this that he choked on the pani puri that was in his mouth at that point in time. Some water and shoulder taps got him back in control. The proposal moment had gone. The mush had flown into the polluted air. But we both knew that we were a couple.
It did not stay that way though. We used to meet and we used to be happy together. But slowly the cracks developed and much as we tried, the rift became more and more prominent. Probably it was because we were totally different personalities. While I preferred family, he wasn’t on great terms with his parents; I loved dates in the open air, he wanted movies; I loved music, he hated listening to anything; while I wanted to do my MBA so that I could have a career, he wanted to do it so that he could get away from the claustrophobic environment of his home; while I had never touched a cigarette in my life, he used to smoke and not even try to give it up. The list was endless.
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Too young to work on differences
In hindsight, some might have been worked upon but maybe we were at an age where we didn’t want to. Maybe we didn’t have that kind of patience. Maybe our priorities had been different. And as I have always believed, and I still do, the one who is meant to be yours will always stay no matter what. If we didn’t stay with each other, we were just not meant to be.
Our love and our breakup is not the story here though. What we did after the breakup is what is important. We refused to let go of our friendship. It did not happen easily. There were fights and tears. Letting go of the past and yet moving ahead together is not easy. But we did it.
Related reading: We broke up 16 years ago. Yet my ex remains my best friend
We stayed in touch
The fact that we both got through to MBA institutes, which were in different cities, might have helped. The distance kept us apart and yet not a day went by when we didn’t chat or talk on the phone. Talking to each other felt natural. We knew everything about each other. We didn’t judge each other. We had the right to advise and to feel hurt. It was a beautiful friendship that we had built. And I knew that this one would always stay, because when he called me a year later to say that he had found a girl he was planning to introduce to his parents, I didn’t feel an iota of jealousy. I was happy for him.
Yes, a man and a woman can be friends. Best friends. Forever.