It hurt. It hurt because she and Surya had never been apart. Aashi had moved into Surya’s neighbourhood in Agra when she was just three-year old. They had started schooling together, built their make-believe worlds together, learnt to plan mischiefs together, played together, rebelled together and grown wiser together. Friends and boyfriends had come and left, but their friendship had only grown thicker.
Anyone who knew them also knew that they were inseparable. Inseparable, but not alike: Aashi was athletic and active in sports. Surya was the teacher’s pet and a topper in class. She wanted to work at NASA. Her parents loved the idea and encouraged her at every step.
Aashi wanted to be a cricketer.
If she’d wanted to be a swimmer or a tennis player, her folks may have been a little supportive. But everyone knew the scope for women’s cricket in India.
So she made peace with her destiny. She was to complete graduation in management from whichever college she could get through and take up a job in any company willing to offer her one.
What she couldn’t make peace with was the fact that she was going to be separated from her soul sister very soon. Surya was aiming for the IITs and would move out of their hometown very soon. After graduation, she planned to go to Massachusetts to pursue Aeronautics, and then finally settle in Houston.
Aashi would be left alone here… and that hurt. The fact that Surya would talk about her future without a single mention of Aashi hurt her more than her own limitations to plan the future of her choice.
How can she… Aashi would think when she was alone. How can Surya simply overlook all the years we’ve spent together? How can she plan an entire lifetime without me, when it’s impossible for me to plan even a single day without her?
Up till now, nothing they ever planned had been exclusive to just one of them. Even when they had imagined their wedding day as young girls, they had pictured it to be a single day, when they’d be wearing similar lehengas. Of course, as they grew older, they realised that they may not stay together forever, but being completely weeded out of her best friend’s life, was not something Aashi could bear.
The day JEE results were to be announced, Surya was visiting her grandparents in their native village, so she could meet them before she got busy with her higher education. The village had no access to the Internet, so Aashi – back in Agra- was to look up her rank and give her the good news. Whatever pain of separation she felt in her heart did not stop her from wishing for the best for her best friend.
As Aashi logged into her computer, her phone rang with an unknown number.
Distracted, she took the call.
She heard a sugarcoated female voice from the other side: Hello, am I speaking to Ms. Aashi ?
Aashi: Yes, you are.
Female: Congratulations Ms. Aashi, you have been accepted in our international management programme at GIIM, Gurugram.
Aashi: I don’t remember applying to…
Female: We carefully select students from every corner of the country, and offer them best experiential learning and global exposure from international faculties. The institute’s aim is to catalyse overall development of students, and is very active in sports and extra-curricular activities.
Aashi: Did you say sports?
Female: Yes, Ms. Aashi, we do know your interest in Cricket and your name has been recommended by our panel to spearhead the GIIM Women’s Cricket Team, which will be formed this year.
Aashi: Wow! How old is GIIM?
Female: We have a legacy of shaping young, distinctive minds for over two years now!
Female: So would you like me to reserve your seat at IMP 20-20?
Aashi: IMP what?
Female: International Management Programme, Batch of 2020
Aashi: I guess.
Female: Looking at your exceptional academic performance, we are also offering you a 20% scholarship!
Female: The scholarship is open for limited period only. If you wish to accept it, please report at the institute by 13 June.
Aashi: That's… that’s the day after!
Female: Welcome to GIIM, Ms. Aashi. Your enrollment number - G 2674891 – will be sent to you vial email along with scholarship details. Please produce this number at the time of reporting. Wish you a very bright future ahead.
Aashi: Well… thank you!
Aashi left for Gurugram the next morning. She didn’t have time to wait for Surya to return or to give her a call. She had to shop, pack, plan for her stay and for the life that awaited her in the new city… there was so much to do!
So, she dropped her a text to say ‘goodbye’.
And just like that, Aashi no longer had a place for Surya in her future plans.