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I had an unusual friendship with an unknown woman as a child of 7. The affection she showed me meant a lot to me, and even today it makes a difference.
This was when I was still a school girl and most of my afternoons were spent at a friend’s place who was also a neighbor – the brick to brick, boundary wall to boundary wall kinds.
Her mom was a gynecologist who worked from a makeshift clinic which was but an outermost room in the house. So even though Aunty would be in the house, she would hardly get to know what we munchkins were up to.
And this is when it all started. My friend and I would randomly dial numbers from the land-line and disconnect on hearing unpleasant or unfriendly voices at the other end of the receiver.
One day I dialled a few numbers and the phone was picked up by a very warm and endearing voice. I don’t remember what I must have murmured, but I guess the lady understood that we kids were being mischievous behind our parents’ backs. Surprisingly she too started talking to me, asking me my name… I think I gave her a fake one. She told me hers was Shalu.
And thus started my very unusual friendship with a lady who was married and had kids. I would call her few times in a week and chat about my day. Once her husband picked up and I very authoritatively asked if I could speak to Shalu. When she came on line and I could hear a chuckle in her voice. For Shalu was her nickname who only people close to her used. It must have been amusing or even strange for her husband to hear an unknown child address his wife with her pet name!
Anyhow, with time and growing distractions I forgot about her.
A few years back, when I was going through my old stuff, I found her number scribbled in an old pocket diary. But now I didn’t have the audacity to dial it. The thought that perhaps she might have forgotten me as I had forgotten her, somehow stopped me. Also, I was no more a mischievous little girl who was unrestrained and unbound; adult life had unfortunately taught me control.
Moreover what also made it impossible to contact her again was the fact that all landlines number have been changed over the years by the telephone authority. I had to reconcile to the fact that I may never get to speak to her ever again. But sometimes when a person becomes an experience, their memories become lessons. And so was the case with my friend Shalu!
Even now my thoughts go back to her sometimes. I could never know who she was or where exactly she lived. But one thing I know for sure is that she was more than a person to me.
For a little girl of seven or eight years she was a testimony that not all strangers were bad. But the biggest gift that her friendship gave me was a sense of acceptance. In a household where I was the youngest among five siblings and would often find my little voice trail off in the cacophony of adult noise, she gave me the belief of knowing that I was HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD!
I will always be grateful for this special experience in my life, but I am somehow equally disheartened to know that probably my son would never get a chance to befriend a beautiful stranger. He would probably never be able to find friendships in the least expected places. At least not in these times!
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock