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The noise of firecrackers constantly kept attempting to drown their laughter unsuccessfully. After all what do you expect when a bunch of friends meet after what can easily be called “a long time”. There is lot of catching up to done, loads of gossip to hear and know, most importantly trying to cover up on the lost time in between! Sheena, Raj, Mrinal, Het and Naureen – childhood friends, neighbours, grown up together were today much more than what they all had dreamt of in childhood. They had planned this get together after a lot of battling for time and still Naureen’s absence was copious.
It had been 7 years to their last meeting and one look at them right now hardly felt so. They all had stayed in touch consciously throughout their growing up times, after all everyone needs one such reminder from childhood time and again. These are the friends who will remind you of your stupidest moment in life as a teenager when you are busy nursing a heartache as a full grown up adult. And it is this quality that makes them priceless! Cheers! Their voices filled the room with the music of clinking glasses as the fireworks added the much needed jazz to their reunion.
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Having gulped down 6-7 glasses most of them were far from being somber but then such moments definitely called for you to be tipsy enough. In an attempt to catch with each other’s lives they decided to 2 incidents from their life of last 7 years, one the best and the other the worst. The bottle was spun and the fun began. They all were rooting for each other when the bottle suddenly stopped at Mrinal. Mrinal was beaming like a naughty kid. It was evident from her eyes she was high as hell and the excitement was too much for her to handle.
In a stuttering tone she began talking, “Oddly enough my both moments are with and around Naureen.” There was a hush in the room. It was known that Naureen was closest to Mrinal as they both had stayed in the same city long after the other three had flown away in search of better horizons. But since last 5 years she was MIA (Missing in Action). None of them knew where she was, what was she doing or how could she be reached. All the efforts had been futile, even talking to her parents did not lead anywhere. Finally disgruntled they had left it at labeling it as arrogance. Little did they know that they were in for a surprise!
“Exactly 6 months after you guys left one after the other 7 years back I got married. I had invited you all but you couldn’t attend my wedding. It was a love cum arranged marriage and I was on cloud nine. Naureen was the only one with me who held my hand firmly as I decided to take the plunge. Everything seemed hunky dory till one day. It was almost 4 months to my wedding and there was a death in my in-laws family.
During some random discussion something I said hurt my husband’s ego so much that he got violent with me. He pulled my hair and crashed my face into a nearby mirror. I wasn’t expecting anyone to come and save me as we stayed alone. I had surrendered myself at that moment as the shock was too much to bear. He removed his slippers and was hitting me constantly when someone stepped in between. It was Naureen. I still cannot forget the way she stood by me that night ensuring I was fine. And I asked her to leave that moment as I felt it was a personal matter to involve a stranger like this.”
Het was the first one to react. “Gasp!! It is such a shock to hear this, babes! How come you never told any of us this thing? Does he still hit you?”
Mrinal stared back at her. It was time for Mrinal to be shocked. “What? I thought you all knew for I could sense a bit of aloofness in your behavior and I thought Naureen had told you about this.” Sheena chipped in,” Are you crazy? We weren’t aloof. I believe it so happened that at the same time we all had faced our submissions and internships because of which we went out of touch for almost 6-7 months. I remember our emails were so irregular. Even phone calls, everyone was complaining from Ma, Baba to friends like you!” Mrinal’s face turned red with embarrassment.
Realising something was wrong Het held her hand firmly and asked, “What happened? Are you all right?”
Mrinal burst into sobs.” I did something heinous to Naureen.”
Her tears were uncontrollable. “What did you do to her?” Now it was becoming tenser for everyone in the room.
After a lot of cajoling Mrinal started spilling the beans, “I felt Naureen was responsible for the humiliation I was going through. Everywhere I went I felt people were looking at me with pity filled eyes, because of her. Now I realize it was more of my own guilt than her fault. She had just got engaged and after 2-3 months she got married to the same guy. I don’t know exactly what she went through at his place but all I know is after 4-5 months of her marriage she was back at her parents place. There were lot of stories doing rounds, but she was speechless. I was the lucky one with whom she wanted to talk. She counted me a friend and I saw the opportunity to get even with her.
She shared her problems with me as to how it was a case of mental abuse where she was kept hungry for days together and constantly abused. As I was leaving her home one day I heard a lady whisper to her mom, “Ask her if he was impotent?’ That very moment they saw me and asked if she told me anything. I just whispered a yes to all that they asked. Before I knew the game was over. After that I never saw her, but there was a tiny wave of victory inside me when I left her house. I had even forgotten about this incident till today. It is only when all became fine between us that I tried contacting her and like all of you couldn’t get in touch with her. “
A tiny rocket came from somewhere bursting midair shattering the silence that surrounded them all at this moment. They kept staring at each other mutely unable to decide whether the firecrackers louder than the chaos that was drumming within their hearts.