True Friend6 mins 16.7K 6 mins 16.7K
"Anna, do chai dena". It was a usual day at Ferguson college with all the hustle bustle around. I looked about the people here with whom I had been seeing since 2 years. All of them lost in their own little fantasies including me. I waited for her to arrive as the tea cooled down; it had been 2 weeks since I last saw her, and to be honest I had been missing her.
"Arre sorry yaar really sorry, I was stuck in the traffic". She defended herself sweetly as she sat opposite to me on the table.
"It's not okay Panda,You have to treat me for being late now." I joked. I used to call her Panda since grade 4 and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
"Stop calling me Panda, Ashu. My name is Praneeta. How many times should I tell you!?"
"Okay, so Miss Praneeta Panda tell me all about your trip". "Okay listen, it was pure awesome dude!! I visited this church and I was really flabbergasted by it's ancient beauty. You know what happened when.........." She went on and on describing all the details of her trip. Just like that we both spent a wonderful morning.
The next day we both returned to our normal schedule-lectures, assignments, submissions but hanging out together during tea was a regular routine. Alas! She was always late for tea with an excuse ready in hand. One day I decided to pick her up. It was 9 AM and our time of meeting was at 9.30 AM, so accordingly I was waiting for her outside her house exactly when she leaves. She came rushing out to get a cab like I assumed she might be doing everyday. But to my curiosity, she headed in the opposite direction of our college. I waved at to grab her attention but she surprisingly was in a hurry to not even notice me waiting there.
I decided to investigate. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw where she was.... Horror and grief struck my body like I had seen a ghost of the insidious movies before my eyes!!! Praneeta, my crazy and sweet best friend was smoking cigarettes!!! That means all the time when she was late, she had been doing this! I had caught her red handed this time. All around Praneeta were her chain-smoker friends who were as high as she was. Numb enough to react to this situation, the devastated me returned to college. I didn't wait in the canteen for her that day, instead just sulked among the vacant backbenches of my classroom connecting the dots to how could she have gotten addicted to something which killed her father!
Praneeta's father had died due to mouth cancer when she was in 11th grade. It had been a hard blow on her and the entire family as no one ever knew about the smoking addiction. At 11 AM the bell for lectures rang. She arrived at 11:30 AM; she was much more than late today. I felt like going up to her and slapping her hard literally asking what she was doing with herself, but somewhere I knew I could never do that to Praneeta. I resolved to keep my feelings and turmoil concealed for a while. After the lecture as I dashed out to avoid her, she cried out "Arre Ashu wait, why are you in such a hurry?" Even without looking at her I shouted "I have assignments to complete, catch you later" and rushed home as fast as I could without waiting for her reply.
The entire evening I was thinking of what could have been the reason, what could I do to make things better. After hours of thinking, pondering and jumping to conclusions I came up with a plan which I thought could help her out. Whatever the reason she got swayed off her senses; I'll help her out of every deep pit she falls into. After all that's what friends are for. The next day she entered the classroom her desk had a note on it - 'It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped', she looked at it peculiarly but didn't pay much heed to it. The following day the note read 'Only a fool would put his lips at the either end of a burning fire'. She was terrified as she looked at that note, unnoticeable to anyone, she stuffed it inside her purse and sat down silently. The next was 'Tobacco companies kill their best customers, followed by 'Stop you'll burn your soul someday.'
She was getting frustrated and scared on who was watching her so closely or how did she attract a stalker? Nearly after a fortnight of the first note; Praneeta was early to college. Her eyes were smudged as if she had been crying. I smiled sadly as my morning note inside her purse had been her father's Polaroid picture with the caption 'Munni remember me'(her father used to lovingly call her Munni). She was extremely quiet, barely lisping words, I innocently inquired what had happened? She didn't answer; I didn't persuade her any further. I left her bits of paper notes, pictures on her desk or hanging them with her key-chains, slipped them inside the pages of her notebooks etc. To my delightful contentment and glee, Praneeta was breaking free from her cage of addiction gradually. The notes which she stared at with dismay, were the very notes she looked at with an angelic smile now, she reached the canteen before me and had a cheerful aura around her.
The day of her final test arrived. I met her at the canteen table as always. "Hey Panda do you want a smoke?" I asked firmly holding out my hand with a cigarette box in it. She looked at me in amusement for a minute and them smiled, she reached out her purse and gave me a note, 'Your positive action, strong willed determination and endless efforts you put in, have resulted in success. Congratulations on quitting smoking Praneeta' along with the note was her favorite chocolate bar.
"Who gave you this? And you were smoking?? What is going on?? Tell me!!!" I acted out. She told me everything,"I wish I could know who that person was who cared so much about a friend. If it had not been for those notes I don't know what I could have done"
Taking a deep breath, I narrated my side of the story. With tears in her eyes, she hugged me with all her might. "Thank you for everything, thank you for saving me, thank you teaching me the real meaning of friendship" was all she could say.......
As I reached the canteen the next day at 9:35 AM I was greeted with a beaming face,"You are late Ashu!"