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“Remember, I work only to fund my dreams. As for the Amma bit, she doesn’t know and let’s keep it like that for now. I’ll keep you posted of my whereabouts and you know I’ll be back before you know. I’ll always find my way back to you, sweets,” her voice trailed.
Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “I’ll Always Find My Way Back”. The story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is, it should have at least two well crafted, named women characters (we differ here slightly from the classic Bechdel test, in that we require these characters to be named),
The first winner of our November 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Dr Shivani Salil.
Our little girl would occasionally come and show us some hidden treasure in her palm, a twig, a stone, an unclaimed marble, anything that caught her fancy and would then go back to her play. She was our world, such a pleasure to have her in our world. Every time I looked at her, I would fall in love with her all over again. We could just sit there for hours and watch her play. She went around exploring the garden when I tried to stop her from going any further. She confidently waved her hand gesturing me not to worry, “I ain’t going very far, I’ll find my way back.”
I sat back but with those last four words, I caught my breath and looked besides me. She’d heard them too and I could see her eyes go moist. How often we would hear those words…. they were my twin Sharanya’s most abused words.
We were twins but only because we were born on the same day at the same time to the same mother. The similarity began and ended there. I was the academic nerd while she was the wild one. I was into dance and music but for her it was sports and adventure activities. I remember my mother’s sleepless nights when Sharanya had once gone camping at the foothills of Himalayas. “How will you manage there alone, I am not coming with you in that frigid weather,” I had told her. “What if you get lost? What if you are stranded somewhere?”, I just kept inventing reasons to stop her. And every time she would smile and chide me, “Don’t worry I’ll find my way back. I’ll always find my way back. You can’t get rid of me so easily.” “Uff…. You and your dialogues”, I said with my hands up in mock despair as I lost another argument with her.
She had a brilliant mind which helped her stay afloat through school and then she had me and my notes to help her. “Ananya, you never resent sharing your notes with me?”, she’d asked me once, looking at me with those sooty dark eyes, brushing away her lovely Medusa curls. How I loved that rogue of a girl… That olive complexion of hers shone like burnished gold in the fading sunlight. I nodded in negative and answered with a question, “Wouldn’t you bail me out, if I was in trouble?”
“Ye bhi koi poochane ki baat hai?” (Is that even worth asking), she had shrugged it away.
Everyone around us knew, if you messed with one, you got to deal with the other one, a thought not many relished. Was it that back then, evenings were longer or may be because the distractions were less, but conversations like these were many. We revelled in our differences and if anything, it made us a good team.
College separated us as I went ahead to pursue my medical school dream and she took up commerce. “I want a life”, she had flatly told our mother and we knew better than to argue with her and try to convince her into something else. Her college was over soon and an MBA degree after that ensured she got a job which would ‘fund her dreams’, as she liked to put it. I was still a struggling resident when she bought two identical cell phones for both of us, with her first pay. “Now at least I can keep a tab on you,” she’d winked and we laughed. Technology connected us wonderfully and we were back in each other’s lives, even if only virtually.
I remember how once on my off days, I had sleepily answered her phone. “Sharanya its past midnight. What could be so urgent?”, I was irritated and in no mood to hide it.
“Shhh… listen, I want to buy a Harley.” She shushed me and went on with her agenda.
I interrupted, “Harley? Isn’t that a bike? Why do you need it and you don’t even know how to ride it?”
“Ananya, will you hear me first? There is this team of some bikers I met in a club and when I showed interest, they asked me show them my skills. They were quite satisfied with what they saw. The only rider was that I need to have my bike.”, she finished the whole sentence in a breath before I cut her off again.
I let out a sigh, “I have more questions Sharu, when did you learn to ride a bike? Even if you did, why join a group and why something so expensive as a Harley?”
“Anu, I need to be a part of this group because they are planning a cross country expedition. A Harley, because I love it. And oh yes, I learnt to ride a bike in college. Does that answer your questions? Do I now have your blessing?”
“Oh, please I ain’t fooled by your blessing thing. How will you buy the bike and have you told Amma?”
“I have a stash and I can take a loan. Remember, I work only to fund my dreams. As for the Amma bit, she doesn’t know and let’s keep it like that for now. I’ll keep you posted of my whereabouts and you know I’ll be back before you know. I’ll always find my way back to you, sweets,” her voice trailed.
“Oh, no, no. No way am I hiding it from Amma. Don’t even dream of that.”
Who was I kidding? Sharanya had her way. She got her dream bike and went on that expedition after all. With time she finally broke it to Amma also who didn’t like it one bit. “Why do you have to get into these daredevil things? Can’t you choose something safer? Why court danger unnecessarily? Ananya put some sense into her.” Amma would rant but this girl would hug her, blow a kiss and would be out of the door before we knew it.
With time, her group would make its way into one or the other dailies as they would pick up a cause and associate with it to create awareness as they rode. Among her favourites were, organ donation, girl empowerment and safe driving. Amma would read all of it, swell with pride but worry. Not much else was left for her anyway.
“Hey Anu, I’ll be coming over to your hospital sometime next week. We’ll be passing by the city so I thought let’s catch up.”
“OK, give me a heads up on your schedule so I can clear mine. And I’ll come to fetch you. I don’t want you to waste any time in figuring your way out.”
“Chill babe, I’ll find my way. I’ll always find my way back to you. Don’t I always?”
“Sharu one more time you say that…”
“Oh, whatever, bye I have to go now.” She cut me off mid-sentence and off she went…
…Never to come back. Astray bullet made her a statistic overnight. Some goons were troubling a group of girls and when her group intervened a scuffle followed. From nowhere, someone brandished a gun and it fired. She became the headline of a newspaper we read with our morning tea, shudder and hope that it never happens to us, and then move on. Only this time it HAD happened to us. I would wake up in the middle of the night and that last call would reverberate in my ears. “I’ll always find my way back to you. Don’t I always?” How it used to irritate me then and what would I not give just to hear it from her again.
We donated her organs, made some more news. Those goons were caught but it didn’t really matter any longer. Some felicitations poured in but both Amma and I didn’t have the heart to touch that money. So, we donated it to one of the orphanages we knew of. They called us on one of their functions as a gesture to thank us. We weren’t really interested but their insistence couldn’t make us refuse. It was overwhelming to see how much effort the kids and the Trust had put in, to make us feel special. And then a little girl with a mop of curls came on to give us a bunch of flowers. Both Amma and I just couldn’t take our eyes off her. After the ceremony we made enquiries. An interminable wait, tonnes of paperwork and formalities later we finally brought the little girl home.
“Mumma, Nani… Let’s go. It’s getting dark and I still have my project to finish.” That voice broke my reverie. She looked back at us, as she beckoned, with those sooty dark eyes, her olive complexion shone like burnished gold in the fading sunset. As she walked ahead her little head with those lovely Medusa curls bobbed up and down. With renewed affection, my eyes followed her as I assured her, “Coming, baby.” I beckoned Amma, both of us got up, shaking the dust off our clothes a little more vigorously as if it would shake away the memories too.
I looked up and thought to myself, “You rogue of a girl, you did find your way back after all.” And I was almost sure that one of those stars shined a little more brightly or was it a tear forgotten in the corner of my eye…
Dr Shivani Salil wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations!
Image source: CC SA 1.0, Link
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I am a doctor with an MD in Clinical Microbiology, working at KEM Hospital, Mumbai.
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