"Riya, where the f**k are you all this while? No reply to my calls, text and WhatsApp messages!”, I asked.
“Didn’t you do the same thing Meher when you were holidaying in Pondi last week? And that too with Chris whom I had already warned you about!”, replied Riya.
“I presume Shannon must have told you about my vacation!”
“Yes she did, but that hardly matters! I still believe you’re going around with a wrong person, who’s been a Casanova all his life, but you don’t seem to care about it. Go ahead then.”
“Oh come on Riya, that’s so childish of you! I don’t see anything ‘wrong’ in him and I want you to respect my personal life. Let’s meet in the evening at our regular spot and close this discussion!”
“Well I’d rather leave you with your personal life as I can’t stand your new guy. You’re too stubborn to let him go and I’m done explaining you the possible consequences already. So, let’s close this discussion here instead and hope that you go well with him. Goodbye!”, said Riya before she disconnected the call on my face.
I was left scratching my hair and twiddling my thumbs after the conversation and clueless on how to get my best friend back in my life. That friend whom I had met in college as one of my batch mates way back in 2009.
It was the month of July that year when I joined an all-girls SNDT college in Mumbai as a Mass Media student. Having seen a decent number of good-looking girls around in the campus gave me a huge complex and I walked in the BMM classroom with shaky knees, braces on my teeth, hair too long for my tiny Meerkat-like face and a body that'll put even the slimmest of smartphones to shame!
I quietly grabbed a seat in one of the benches and looked around the chaotic classroom. That’s when I saw this tall and fat girl with a short top and a 3/4th pant flaunting her elephant-like calves. No sooner I saw her than I turned my head and kept hoping she doesn’t sit next to me. And bingo! She came and sat right next to me and gave me a wide smile that showed the gap between her teeth.
“Hey Slim Shady! I’m Riya”, she said in her manly voice looking at my thin body.
“Hi, I’m Meher”, I replied in a soft voice as we shook hands.
“And, I’m Shannon!”, said this girl sitting behind us quietly keeping an ear on our conversation. Nonetheless, I greeted her back as a courtesy.
Like Riya, Shannon too was plump but tad shorter in height. She was obsessed with her curly hair and kept adjusting it all the time and loved showing off her long and designed nails.
As the day went on, I came to know that me and Riya stay only a few lanes away in Thane though I had never seen her in my life before. No wonder, she became my travel companion to the college next day onwards.
Riya wasn’t that bad of a girl as I had anticipated at first and we started hitting it off slowly and steadily with each passing day. Within a few months into the college, I had found my girl-in-arm, a best friend and an absolute jerk in the form of Riya. Our camaraderie became a topic of discussion in the classroom and the other girls started envying us.
Shannon, however, was one such girl who wasn’t exactly jealous of our friendship but wanted to be a part of us. She started feeling more like a third wheel in our journey, although it wasn’t intentional from our side as we were too obsessed with each other to care about anyone else.
Days, months and a year passed with our friendship going from strength to strength. Although, we had so many catfights, we always kissed and patched up. Post our first year exams, we along with Shannon and another girl, Diksha went for a vacation in Goa. Since we couldn’t afford flights back then, we all traveled in the nightmarish second-class compartment of the Goa-bound train in dire conditions. By the time we reached our hotel room, we all had terrible body aches and opted to stay indoors that night to indulge in some girls’ talk over a boozing session.
“Here, have your tonic Meher!”, said Riya as she offered me a glass full of Vodka.
“Oh sorry, I’m a teetotaller!”, I replied with a shrug.
“You were until now sweetie. But we aren’t here to have tea and play Ludo! Look at her, smoking joints already b**ch! She’s perhaps tried every f**k**g drink on this planet and now she’s into this! Pretty fast, you see....”, she said referring to Diksha.
Diksha was indeed pretty fast in giving it back to Riya with a standing ovation of her middle finger.
“So you want me join her in the league Riya?”, I asked.
“Oh come on! I won’t let you have that yet! But have this drink without any inhibitions babes! Redeem yourself and get rid of your 'behenji' image for your own sake!”, she said with a stern voice.
I did booze that night and fairly enjoyed my first-ever drinking experience. Riya was slowly transforming me into one of those badass chicks I had only hated thus far!
Shannon, on the other hand was busy sipping her red wine. She stared feeling sidelined by us and kept vying for my attention. Had it been a practical solution, she’d have perhaps even blindfolded Riya to lock her in a room forever and make herself my top priority.
The real fun, however was the next day when we were done seeing a few hotspots in South Goa and decided to hop into a club that night.
Riya let her hair down and started dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Me and the other girls were happy playing second fiddle to Riya, as she kept herself busy with back-to-back tequila shots. Suddenly, she came close to me and said something in my ear which raised my eyebrows.
“Meher, I like that bartender! Go get his number, my love!”, she said in a totally drunk state.
“Oh spare me in doing that! You better keep dancing instead....”, I replied bluntly.
“F**k you b**ch! I’ll do that myself....”, she said before she started walking towards the bar and sat in one of the chairs in front of the bartender.
“Hey you! I want your number!”, she said daringly.
“Excuse me?”, he asked after being taken aback by her demand.
“I said, I want your number! Give it to me NOW!”, she replied at the top of her voice banging her hands on the bar counter that turned a few heads.
Before anyone of us could realize the blunder, she was being carried towards the Exit door by the bouncer with me and the other girls chasing them. Naturally, we weren’t allowed to re-enter the club.
“Oh heroine! Come back to senses!”, I said as I held Riya by her shoulders.
“See I told you Meher, she gets out of control in no time!”, said Shannon clearly unimpressed after being kicked out.
“Oh just shut up yaar! Let’s go back to the hotel”, I said.
Riya was somehow managing to stand before she stumbled upon a couple of guys who were entering the club.
“Oye, what you staring at?”, she asked one of them arrogantly.
“Who’d even want to look at you 'Bewdi'? Get lost!”, he replied.
Realizing that the argument could turn into a brawl, we girls dragged Riya back in our rented Jeep and zoomed off to our hotel. All this while though, she continued her verbal volleys on us before she slowed down and gave me a tight hug.
“I love you loads Meher!”, she said with a peck on my cheeks. I could only smile back at her.
The vacation ended on a fabulous note and we all got back to our usual college life. Just when all the fun was sinking in, Riya got the shock of her life when her friend, Diksha told her a secret. Riya used to share a lot of her personal problems with Diksha like how her parents got divorced which affected her and her siblings, and how she was bullied in school for years. Diksha being a student of Psychology used all these things to study Riya as a mere subject. And she did this act of backstabbing after 5 years of good friendship between them.
“How could she do that Riya? I want to talk to her right now!”, I said in utter disgust when I got to know about this.
“There’s no point doing that Meher! I’ve set her free and cut all ties with her”, she replied before she plucked out a photo frame from one of the walls of her living room and banged it on the floor. Tears rolled her eyes as it was a picture of her with Diksha during their happy times.
I kept consoling Riya and stood by her to help her come out of the tragedy. Our bond only grew stronger as we found solace in each other whenever life got tough for either of us. She reinstated my faith in our friendship after being with me all the way during my mom’s unexpected hospitalization due to a paralytic stroke.
Recalling all those days in current times, it was gut-wrenching to see Riya drift away from my life because I chose not to listen to her advice. She did tell me quite a few times about the bad past of my guy, Chris but I didn’t pay any heed to her. As luck would have it, Chris dumped me a few months later leaving me totally dejected.
It was Shannon who stood by me like a pillar and helped me get over the troubled waters. She tried to break the ice between me and Riya, but gave up when it didn’t work, as Riya was too adamant to listen to anyone. She then tried to spice up the situation to break our strong bond.
“So what happened after all those hugs and kisses Meher? You’re sitting here sulking about the loss and she’s roaming around the town with a new guy”, she said rubbing salt on my wounds.
“What you saying? Who is he? Riya never told me about a new guy in her life!”, I replied with my eyes almost popping out.
“Oh well you didn’t do that either, so why will she? She’s moved on already and you better do that too! I always knew she’d turn out like this since the first year of our college. Mark my words, she won’t even come to your funeral after your death!”, she said in her usual in-your-face manner.
Shannon kept adding fuel to the fire with her raging talks and I kept getting burnt in it. She had smartly taken me away from Riya in a few days’ time and I had started going out with her to forget my best friend. Destiny, however didn’t want me to do that as it had some other plans for me.
I had gone out to dine with Shannon in one of the terrace restaurants in South Mumbai when I spotted Riya with her guy. They were sitting a few tables away from ours and I decided to confront her. Shannon tried to stop me but I got up from the chair and walked towards Riya.
“Chal I need to talk to you for some time”, I said keeping my emotions in check.
“Can’t you see I’m on a date Meher? Go away, I don’t wish to talk to you”, she replied rudely.
“I care a flying f**k about your date Riya! Just get up and come with me.”
“Oh, don’t make a scene for god’s sake!”
“Yeah, I don’t want to, so I’m waiting outside! You better come there quickly...”, I said before I tapped on her shoulder and left the table.
“I’ll just be back! Let me give her a piece of my mind first...”, she told her guy before coming to meet me.
Riya met me in the lawn area and looked in no mood of reconciliation.
“What is it with you? Why you acting like this Riya?”, I asked.
“You asking that to me? After ditching me here and setting off for your vacation!”, she replied.
“I realize, I should have told you about it. I’m sorry about that ya. And, for your kind information, I’m no longer with Chris!”, I said.
“Oh f**k that! I knew, it was bound to happen someday. He was one shitty guy I wanted to keep you away from. And how dare you get close to Shannon who perhaps hates me for no reason? Can’t you understand her manipulative nature?”
“Oh my god, you kept ignoring me and I only had her as my companion. What else could I do?”
The argument went on and on with some or the other thing coming out which she had kept bottled up in her heart. All of a sudden, both me and Riya stood quiet as we had nothing else to say.
Bannnngg! Came her tight slap on my cheeks.
I was shell-shocked as I didn’t see that coming. Nonetheless, I too gave it back to her instantly with equal force.
“I wish you had done this when I was with Chris, you b**ch!”, I said shaking my head. We patched up rather emotionally with a hug after all the drama.
“Didn’t you find a better guy Riya? He looks like a joker sitting besides you!”, I said.
“Well, he’s my joker, you see!”, she replied with a wry smile.
“What to do now? Our partners must be wondering where have we disappeared??”
“Wow, let’s do that! Disappear from here, let them keep waiting!”
“Hahaha, you didn’t change one bit Riya! Let’s go..."
And we left the scene to go back to our days of togetherness. I can seldom stay away from her ever since then and we continue to envy Shannon among others in our friend circle. Our relationship is something I can’t express in words and I’d rather let it be that way. So much so, that I sometimes wonder if we were born knit in our previous life as Mehe(r)iya!