Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Classmate

Saveri was excited. She had just been added to the Whatsapp group of the school she had studied but for two years in Mumbai.

It had been a rude shock at that time, about 25 years ago... When she was just an 8-year-old... They were living in Delhi before that, and she had grown up ensconced in the warmth of her grandmother's love. Suddenly, after her grandmother's death, Saveri's distraught father had sought a change and gone to Mumbai, his wife and Saveri in tow.

The new place confused her and she preferred to be by herself. Slowly, maybe before the end of the year, with the help of Priyanka, her equally reticent but observant classmate, Saveri had learnt the names of most of them. Before the end of that year, her natural friendliness had reestablished itself and she had become friendly with most. Though over the years the memories had faded, as she met a few of them virtually, some of it came back to her - the nicer bits...

But it didn't matter. Now all had moved on and the current was so much more interesting to discuss...

"Hey Priyanka... Do you remember me?" she asked seeing a Priyanka post a forward.

"I joined only in 8th standard. Were you there then?" Priyanka asked.

"No! I was there in classes 3 and 4... I think I returned to Delhi in class 5... But there was a Priyanka in class - very quiet... Anybody remembers her?"

But her question was buried in a flood of enquiries addressed to this Priyanka...

Saveri tried the Facebook. But with women changing their surnames after marriage, it was hard to find them... Any attempts to revive the topic drew a blank, but not that she was persistent either. Maybe that girl's name was not even Priyanka... And it turned out that at various points, there were at least two by that name!

"Hello Saveri..." she received a message on Facebook one day.

Priyanka Gautam!

Saveri's excitement knew no bounds once she had established the credentials. Yes, it was the same Priyanka. "Your daughter looks just like you did at that age," Priyanka said.

"What about you? Do you have children? Where are the photos?" Saveri asked eagerly.

"I didn't marry... Not found the right guy yet..." Priyanka said, but due to it just being text, Saveri could not make out the emotions.

"Hey, you know what! I was so excited to be part of the school Whatsapp group. Shall I add you?"

"Hmm... Does anyone remember me?" Priyanka asked openly, putting Saveri in a fix.

"Hey, that's no big deal. All are so friendly!"

"Let me think about it... I would love to meet you..."

"My pleasure!" Saveri responded with enthusiasm. "Where are you?"

"In Mumbai... Can you come over?"

"I do travel to Mumbai on work! What do you do?"

"Nothing much... Just odds and ends... Let me know when you come next...!"

Saveri was so excited that she wanted to share this chat with her school friends, but held back. She will post the photo of the two together and add drama to that moment of triumph. The next trip to Mumbai came up soon and probably her excitement made the plane move faster!

She left a message for Priyanka in FB messenger and hoped to get a confirmation for meeting the next evening. Normally Priyanka and she chatted only on days Saveri worked really late, so as she went to bed early for the early morning flight next day, she hoped Priyanka would be checking her messages.

Right enough, as she waited in the airport and scrolled through the messages, she saw that Priyanka had pinged a response, suggesting the school as their venue for meeting.

Wow! That would be nostalgic. But the lateness of hour would make it meaningless, probably. Still, there must be restaurants nearby for them to go to after seeing the school.

Saveri reached the school at 7 sharp and found Priyanka sitting on a stone outside the gate. "I got permission for us to go in... Come," Priyanka led Saveri. Saveri's eyes widened in joy as she took in her alma mater. She remembered several things about the school as she walked through the three classes she had studied in that were now lit up. Priyanka smiled. Saveri felt how time seemed to have stood still for Priyanka. She looked just the same, not even much taller than she would have been at that age...

"You were my only good friend, Saveri..." Priyanka said sadly. "I had some skin disease in class 2, and the children used to keep away. But you would always talk to me and we would play such nice games... I missed you!"

"Oh... I didn't know! Children can be cruel!" Saveri said, feeling warm pity for this petite girl. "But now..."

"I never became close to anyone and don't want to be part of any groups..."

"I understand," Saveri said affectionately. "But let's at least do a selfie!" She took her mobile out and quickly clicked a picture of the two of them... "See?" she showed it to Priyanka, who seemed startled.

"Shall we go somewhere to eat?" Saveri asked and headed for the gate.

"Actually... I am meeting someone else too. It cannot be avoided..." Priyanka seemed very apologetic. So assuring Priyanka that she would be fine, Saveri left, deciding to head back to the hotel she was staying in.

She went straight to the restaurant and ordered the food. She opened the gallery to send the pic to the group and Priyanka. She was baffled to see only herself in the photo. The room had been lit, and yet there seemed to be a shadow that she had not noticed then! Priyanka seemed hidden in that shadow! She sent it to Priyanka with a regret smiley. "We must meet again!"

Of course, there would be no response till midnight.

She forwarded the picture to the group... "I went to school. Priyanka, the girl I keep asking about, seems to have merged in the shadow! I don't know how I could have been so stupid!"

She put the phone back in and finished dinner. As she headed up, her phone buzzed and she took it out from her bag. One of the classmates was calling her. She frowned. He had been added to the group only recently and seemed to be one of the few to have been in the school from start to finish. Why was he calling her now!

"Yes, PK?" she asked hesitantly.

He beat about the bush, making her even more wary. Then finally he asked, "Is this Priyanka the one who used to have rashes all over her body?"

"I think so... She mentioned it..."

"When did she mention it?"


"I don't know if we are talking about the same girl... But, I remember the girl who had that disease died in class 2... I remember it was Priyanka... She used to be my neighbour..."

Saveri froze. There were no more messages from Priyanka.


  1. Wow! I had to read once again to get the twist at the end.

  2. I thought she had become a nun!! The shadow in the selfie let the cat out of the bag.... Great story. Bless you


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