I was in seventh standard when Aneeta (with a double ‘e’) joined our class around three months after the session started. Her father had recently been transferred to our city. On her first day in school, our class teacher introduced her saying she was a very bright student and had performed impressively well in the admission test.
Aneeta was a frail, short girl with a strangely pale, almost white skin (be reminded of Edward from Twilight series), with stark red lips, that one would mistake to be color from a lipstick.. Her bob-cut hair with fringes to cover her large forehead caught my attention first. However within seconds my mind was stuck to her long skirt (which in no time became the talk of the school). Wearing knee-length skirts was a norm in my school but Aneeta’s skirt was just a few inches above her ankles and her waist was almost non-existent.
Our class teacher asked her to sit beside me because my bench partner was absent that day. Little did I know that what started with helping Aneeta catch up with all the lessons she had missed would pave the way of a friendship I shall cherish all my life. Aneeta had a beautiful handwriting, unlike me who had to rub every second word, she hardly ever used an eraser. Her words were big, bold, with no classic cursive slant yet very pleasant to the eyes.
In hardly a week’s time my hard-working friend was at par with the class in her lessons. That week, when she called me (on phone as mobiles were yet not prevalent) at least twice after school hours to seek help with school work, I got a sneak peek into the soul of a very innocent, brilliantly observant, kind, shy girl whom I just couldn’t help but love.
Hardly a week after she joined college, she expressed her desire to join the school basketball team. Her short height attracted a lot of teasing but our sports teacher decided to give her a chance. On her first day at the basketball court, the coach asked her to shoot ten times and if she managed to score at least 3 baskets, he was ready to coach her to be in our school’s state champion basketball team.
My whole class was ready to ridicule her because they were confident given her short stature, the basketball net was not reachable for her. Aneeta started dribbling and on instruction by the coach shot the ball. The ball went high up and somehow, hit the rim of the net, waited for a long second and finally decided to fall through the net. The crowd immediately went quiet. Though half of them called it a fluke, but everyone was eager to see how she’ll perform in the remaining 9 throws.
Though it comes across as rather fictitious but Aneeta scored 9 baskets out of her 10 attempts. Surprise and appreciation writ clear on the coach’s face as he warmly shook her hand, pat her back and asked her to show up on time for the practice session from the next day itself.
Though Aneeta had silenced the school about her being short and interested in playing basketball, seeing her practice in that long skirt still attracted a variety of spiteful comments and ridicule. But Aneeta stayed put.
Our badminton court, where I used to play, had a clear view of the basketball court. While practicing for my own game, strangely my mind and often the eyes too would be searching Aneeta and I couldn’t help but be inspired her dedication. She had a strong influence on me and I mean that in a positive way. I often picked up fights with the girls (my school was an all girls convent school) who teased Aneeta and all of them questioned my taking her side. I couldn’t help but feel protective about her.
She was the only person till then who failed to evoke jealousy in me when she scored full marks in Science and Maths, something I had earned a reputation for over the years. Time moved on, she graduated from being an extra player in the school basketball team to becoming its key player.
The turning point in our friendship came when one day in a school activity, she was told she couldn’t be my partner in the dance owing to the vast difference in our heights. To my utter dismay, Aneeta broke into tears and an uncontrollable sob forcing our teacher to make her my partner. This incident brought a mixed reaction from my classmates but from that day onward, she was teased for being in love with me. I knew she was my special friend, I cherished the connect we shared beyond words, but this incident left me feeling queasy inside. I was no longer comfortable in her proximity.
I tried my best to not be left alone with her, and my efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Aneeta. She slowly began to stay quiet, aloof and disinterested in the many activities she once loved being a part of. Her grades deteriorated and one fine Friday she called me to say she won’t be attending school from Monday as her father had been transferred to Karnal in Haryana. Though she was rather curt I could feel a strange, strong pang of guilt hit me. I was suddenly alarmed and aware of my strong feelings for her. I pleaded her to meet me once before she left the town, but she refused. That day, my apology had no effect on her broken heart, but being a sweetheart that she was, she promised to stay in touch.
From being inseparable pals in school we now became pen-pals. I used to write multiple letters in response to her one letter that arrived once in town to three months. I could feel her distancing herself from me. A few months later, on my birthday came a gift and a message that has been etched in memory in its vivid detail as if it all happened yesterday.
Aneeta had confessed being in love with me and acknowledgement of the fact that I loved her just as friend. However, she had been terribly hurt when I had not reciprocated her feelings with equal enthusiasm. She said it was her last letter to me and that she shall keep me in heart forever. The birthday gift was an audio cassette with a recording of the song (check the video below) in her voice.
I decided not to give up and wrote to her many times after that day but never heard anything from her. That was an era when mobile phones and Internet were unheard of. After the advent of Orkut and Facebook, I tried searching for her, but till date my efforts haven’t borne fruit.
Memories of the moments I spent with Aneeta often pay me a visit and on all such occasions I wish for her to keep her to be safe and happy wherever in the world she is. Though in my heart, I am not quite sure if given a second chance would I have acted any different that I had at that point of time.
I recently chanced upon the promo of a new TV series ‘Yaaron Ki Baraat‘ on Zee TV and the candid confessions made by Amitabh Bachchan reminded me of my friendship with Aneeta. Don’t miss the show on 8th October at 8pm on Zee TV to learn candid snippets of Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha’s friendship.
The song on my mind: Teri Umeed tera intezaar karte hain ~ Deewana