‘On your knees!’

‘Crawl like a baby!’

‘Hey, you! Yes you, sweat factory!… Hoot like an owl, spread your wings and run around.’

‘Don’t trouble your ass to sit. Let us enjoy our juniors’ creativity. Entertain us.’

The dreading ‘Intro Night’ was going on in the girls’ hostel. Juniors were being called one by one. They were informed beforehand about the rules as… ‘hair should be oiled, neatly braided with a middle parting. Dress should be salwar kurta. Dupatta should be pinned in ‘V shape’. All juniors should bend on 90 degrees and wish ‘good morning/ good afternoon/ good evening as soon as they see any senior.

Those were the days when ragging, bullying was not banned in colleges and was seen as a means to remove fear and to help the freshers in their personality development and a chance to build a rapport with seniors.

When I was adamant to take admission in a big college and to enjoy free hostel life as my brother did, I was scared by the elders through the exaggerated description of this ragging in colleges and hostels. They wanted me to study in the only available PG college in the town, which was coloured red with ‘pan spit’, had labs, library and classes in pathetic condition (according to me, though I never visited it). I was eager to get out of the hotchpotch of my crowded haveli which caged 16 people, providing no space for spreading wings of creativity, imagination and liberty.

My wish was fulfilled.

I got admission in a highly-reputed college of Agra. Here I was being asked to spread wings and hoot like an owl and show my creativity to entertain the gang of rowdies. A small-town girl never saw other girls in minis and shorts, roaring and shouting. I was on the verge of my tears. Then I saw one calm and beautiful girl who was the only smiling face among juniors. She was soon noticed and was called on to show her smile to everybody. She was ordered to laugh in 10 different ways as a punishment for her smile. She did so with a great sporting spirit. While doing so when she was laughing like a hysterical person, she accidentally fell on me and everybody burst out laughing. She was spared soon.

By God’s grace, this horrible night got over and we were going to our rooms at 3:30 a.m. The girl with the calm and smiling face came to say sorry to me. ‘And Kids! That is How I Met Your Mom!’

I said ‘it’s OK’, holding my tears back and started moving towards my room. She held me by my shoulders and said, ‘hey! It’s actually OK. Nothing has happened to you. Why are you so devastated? Come with me!’. She sat with me on the stairs and let me cry on her shoulder. From that day onwards we became best friends.

We helped each other on many occasions, cried together, laughed together, completed our education and I got married in the different city. Both of us got busy and we lost connection as in those days Facebook, WhatsApp, smartphones were not in use.

I missed my friend whenever I needed someone to talk my heart out, in my highs and lows of life. I always felt lonely whenever I saw the friendship day card of two girls holding hands and walking in rain together. It was given by her to me with a promise to make this friendship last forever. Oh! ..how I longed to know her whereabouts.

And today…

I am sitting here…

In her beautiful house with her 5 adopted girls…excited to know more about their MOM and her life from her old friend.

She contacted me on a social networking site after 7 years of our college. We quickly exchanged our phone numbers and addresses and I arranged for a visit to her house. To my surprise, both of us were in Bangalore.

I always remembered her as a people’s person. Her confidence, helping hand and contagious smile did magic in improving the sorrow state of needy people.

She proved her mettle and here I am waiting to hug my bestie, to congratulate her to be the mom of these beautiful souls and for bringing a smile on their faces as she once did for me.

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