I got up from the computer table yesterday to find my sister, Sonavee, crouched over a pillow, playing with beads and embroidery threads.
“Look, tai,” she said, “I made friendship bracelets.” She pointed to the three threads laid neatly next to each other. I took one and knotted one end of it. I told her to tie each end so the beads don’t fall out.
“Like this,” I showed her, though I knotted all the bracelets myself. She kept working with the beads as I sat there and watched her completely absorbed in making bracelets for her new friends at her new school. There were only the four of them – the school kept admissions to the minimum so that each student gets the attention s/he deserves.
Sonavee’s not had any long-term friends since we moved here from Nagpur back in 2015. She’d made two best friends there and complained every day since moving that she missed them. She begged to go back to Nagpur. No one in the neighborhood really took her in, and even when they did, she was still the odd one out.
For the last two years, she did not really go along with her classmates – they all had their own friends. She came home crying that she had no friends, and no matter how much I tried to stop thinking about myself for a second and hold her close, she remained inconsolable. I wondered whether my words were any use to a nine year old. I had little to say on the matter, having had the same group of friends for around seven years before it broke up and not long after, had lost all contact with my best friend.
Our friendship began halfway through the third grade. I was new back then too, having moved from here to Nagpur. We went from friends to best friends to best friends forever (an added ‘ever after’ by me). The only thing I remember from those beginning years were the little gifts we occasionally exchanged, because I’d held on to them even after it was all over. I’d thought I should preserve the good times we had together. But then the gifts, all kept safely in a little handbag, started bugging me. Something inside me told me to let them go, but I was reluctant to throw away those innocent little gifts we gave to each other – each one, now that I think about it, quite thoughtful in itself. It was only after talking to our Psychology teacher that I was able to throw them out – she told me there was no point in holding on to them if I’d no connections left with the person who gave them to me.
My best friend became the subject of many of my essays even though I wanted to forget her. But one day I decided I was done and promised never to write about her ever again. Yet here I am, doing it again.
About a month ago, thanks to my sister chatting with her again, because she didn’t really understand that we were no longer friends, I looked up her reply to a message I’d sent her back in January, just two words: “All good?”
I’d forgotten all about it until that day, because I didn’t really expect her to reply. She explained what had gone wrong and I realized neither of us was at fault, but I did not feel like being friends again. It felt like that chapter was over, though I did feel sorry for what had happened and even apologized. She had faded from my memories.
Until when I looked at the bracelets once again. My mother had suggested Sonavee to use what she had at home – handmade stuff had more meaning to it than any fancy bracelet brought from the shop. Sonavee had made one entirely from green beads of different shapes and shades, another with only flower shaped ones, and the third one with beads from a necklace she never wore. They were the ones my best friend had gifted me, strung on ribbons on Friendship Day or sometimes just like that, a handful of beads. I’d given them to Sonavee to use in her crafts. And of all the things, she had to use them to make her own friendship bracelets. Same beads, different threads, different friends.
And then the next day she came home to talk without a single friendship band on her wrist, the only one among the four to have given the promise but not received it in return.
“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley