“And how are you liking it so far?” She asked, trying to keep the conversation alive. I would’ve done the same. It was an hour-long bus ride to the DMV office.
“So far, all the right boxes have been checked. In all the comparisons of my varied lifestyle California has fared well.” I said, promptly.
“So what was England like?” She asked me with the weight of a 7 year old child burdened with curiosity and the hunger for knowledge. It was adorable. She wanted to ask more and I knew she did. But, she didn’t want to intrude. So polite..so adorable.
“England was…brilliant! Some of my happiest, most meaningful memories are from my time in England. It was there that I realized the meaning of friendship and relationships and family. It was quite enlightening.” I shared my perception of England with her and she seemed to understand. She was confused, surprised even.
“So it wasn’t drama and fun and life as it is supposed to be for teens?” She was on edge. I’d got her on the hook and only sharing my experiences and/or beliefs was going to satiate the hunger.
“Sure there was! There was quite a bit of drama around my life events. Always is.” I laughed at my own self and my mind wandered back to all those times I made a fool of myself.
“Sorry. It’s just that I don’t have a stand point to compare life styles in the different cities you’ve lived in.” She said, almost apologetically. I didn’t feel anything wrong with her curiosity.
“If you’re worried about making me uncomfortable, don’t. Sharing my experiences is a good way for me to re-asses life as I have lived and as I live it now. There was drama. Teenage life in England is not so different that US, or any place, for that matter. ” I chuckled. Blonds who wanted attention, athletes who wanted to be named as the cool kids and geeks who got bullied but knew in future years they’d run the lives of so many people working under them. Everything was simple. Or at least it seemed simple.
“I was sort of a geek. I never realized where I fell in, in which category. But I was also very observant. Moving countries at that age, the culture shock, responsibilities…i thought I’d be better off if I was alert all the time and at the best of my game. Did me well too. Got decent enough grades. Made some amazing friends and got to know so many amazing people.” By this point I was looking out the window out of the bus. Bushes and trees passed us in a blur and cars and trucks zoomed along side us and I just sat there and felt so aware…so alert.
I turned to look at her and as I’d guessed she was waiting for me to say something.
“I made some great friends over the years. In London and in Mumbai too. Ever-lasting friends…”
“I can tell that you miss them. Do you talk to your friends often? ” She asked, genuinely worried. I thought that was nice.
“Now and again, yes. Everybody has a smartphone now. We IM, Skype, engaging in virtual social activity, etc. Lorna, a friend in London, Skypes with me on some weekends. My best friends in Mumbai are a notification away. I hope I get to call them soon.” I smiled at her. She smiled back. She hesitated for a bit but she went on and asked me a few more questions and I’m glad she did.
“How different was Mumbai than London?”
“The British ruled over India for a considerable amount of time. So there are striking similarities between the British and Indian systems like Education and Transportation. Other than that, nothing was the same. There were new, different kinds of people I came across. Made friends of varied personalities, some more ambitious and over-achieving than others. The cultural impact was so significant and vivid. Oh! It was amazing to have such an unusual perspective to all the cultural/social/academic events that took place around me. My friends were amazing…are amazing. We all were from different backgrounds. Some came from money while others came from the nerdy group in their respective schools. Some shared a favorite brand of cigarette while others loved to talk about common favorites in food stalls at the beach. It was so…so alive! ” I was staring in to her eyes. I wasn’t lost in a conversation. I had found myself in a conversation after a long time. I was smiling. And I could tell that my smile was amusing to her because I realized long back that I smile like a stoned camel. She was looking at me with wide eyes and lips apart in a perfect ‘o’ and it felt like I could make her imagine what I was saying.
A sudden jerk and we held on to the nearest support and were brought back to reality. There was an unexplained, yet not so awkward, silence between us.
“So you think I should go to Mumbai for my vacations too?” She asked, staring down at her shoes and still holding on the support.
“Of course. You’ve got to give it enough time, though. You won’t be too excited about Mumbai by just staying there a week. Mumbai and London deliver their fascinating life styles in entirely different ways. But, you should visit Mumbai..at least once.” I said with utmost reverence to my beloved home town.
“Thank you for sharing this with me.” She said, now looking right at me and meaning every word of what she spoke.
“You’re welcome. It’s nice talking to someone about this. ” I said and looked outside the window after catching a quick smile on her face.
I asked, curious, “Will I see you again?”
“Depends. I want to go to Mumbai someday and also I’d like to show you around town whenever you get a chance. Mutually interested parties, wouldn’t you agrees?”
“Yes. That’s really sweet of you. Umm… Sorry, I didn’t catch your name..” I looked at her expectantly. Her lips smiled sideways, her brown eyes peering in to mine and the motion of our ride playing along with her jet black hair and causing it to dance on her slender shoulders.
“We don’t need names. You will always find your way to me.” She smiled and the sun suddenly shone on her face. It was really bright and I squinted for just a second but when I’d opened my eyes, I was sitting upright.
I wasn’t in a bus. I wasn’t going anywhere. I had a book in my hand. A book full of words that I have carved over the last year and a half. A book that holds my memories, my soul, my mistakes and efforts for redemption. It was the best and worst experiences of my life yet.
I got up from the chair and decided to call my best friend and talk to her for as long as it was possible. Her brown eyes and jet black hair…I missed that. Who said dreams didn’t have a way of speaking to us?