The earliest memories I have of her, are of the third grade. She was “perfect”. Good at everything- oratory, dance, exams- everything! Since I was the topper and she was good at everything, we became rivals. Though not really evident, there was this constant underlying current of tension between us. On the face of it, we tried to be normal friends. Not great ones, but normal. She would invite me to her parties and I would buy expensive gifts for her. She was never rude to me and I was never mean to her. But neither the parties nor the gifts could mellow the fierce competition between us. In my opinion, she was better than others, but not better than ME. I continued to top and leave her behind every time. And each time, I would feel extremely smug about this. Her defeat gave me more pleasure than my own victory. Her disappointment was more endearing to me than my own satisfaction. At times, I would even feel the negative emotion of rubbing my success in her face. But since, we were never in the same class; I never got the opportunity to do so. I would never humiliate her in public. But I would pick on her perfection and say, “She and I can never be friends. Please, I don’t want to befriend a robot!” And all my friends would smile timidly. 2003 was the last year of our junior section. It was the year when the best girl of the batch would be given ‘the school blues’- the most prestigious award. Every day of the junior section, I had aspired for it. And since I had topped throughout, I was certain that the award would bear MY name! But guess what, being a topper wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, being an all-rounder was. So the miss-good-at-everything got it. SHE got it. It was the first time she had beat me at something. The experience was very, very sour- almost making me gag. There was only one more chance when I could get back to her- the student council elections. They took place in the last year of our senior section. So the next year i.e. 2004 (the very first year of our senior section) I came back with a vengeance. I participated in every activity throughout the year and even won in the Hindi elocution and the creative writing competition. I WAS BACK. How had I allowed that girl to belittle me? I was still THE BEST. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Somewhere down the line, my complacent nature made me fall into a bad company. I wish to refrain from using the word “bad”. They were nice people. But their friendship diluted my focus. Because of them, I would engage in fights with my group and then spend hours regretting over their actions and crying over my impertinence. I got trapped into a vicious cycle of misunderstanding, fighting, crying, making up and fighting all over again. Studies became my last priority. Not surprisingly, I became weaker in my studies and she surfaced as the new topper. While darkness diminished the sheen of my glory, she outshone everyone at school. Everyone- including me. She was everywhere- debates, dances, dramas, elocution, and studies. My confidence was shattered into fragments and my self- esteem ran into the negatives. Suddenly, I transformed from the girl who topped to the girl who couldn’t even read coherently in class. It was a death blow for me. I remained a mute spectator while she went out and won laurels for the school. 2009 brought in the eleventh year- the year just before the student council elections. I knew it was a case of ‘now or never’ for me. This was the last chance I could prove myself to the others. I WAS ME. This time, I had to be an all-rounder as well. So I threw myself into school activities both onstage and offstage, participating in everything I could. I worked and I excelled! Once again, I WAS BACK. Sadly, once again, I did not get what I wanted. At the end of the year, I did top but I could not beat her at the student council elections. Forget about beating her, I wasn’t even nominated! This shock was more than I could take… I still cannot forget the sense of hopelessness that I had felt. It hurt almost like a physical pain- piercing my insides and crippling my outsides. I waited for the pain to get over… it didn’t. At nights when I would lie down about how much I had worked and still been thwarted, I was not able to breathe. I would wake up gasping in the middle of the nights with sweat all over my body. Clearly, the student council elections had meant a lot to me and she had snatched it away. I felt so weak that I could not even muster up the courage to hate her. All I knew was that I would never ever forgive her. Once again, I had lost my confidence, my dignity. But that was little in comparison to what I had really lost: myself. I began to believe that I was born to be a failure and that no matter how hard I tried, I would never succeed. I couldn’t have been in a sorrier state. Recently, I was reading one of these forwarded messages that had been emailed to me. It basically talked about the reason why we met new people at every stage in our lives. It said that people came into our lives for a particular purpose. And upon the fulfillment of that purpose, they leave. It went on to state that we should not despair if we lose some of our cherished companions at some point in our lives, for their separation simply means that their purpose in our lives are over. But this was not the part I was interested in… “People come into our lives for a particular purpose. And upon the fulfillment of that purpose, they leave.” This line ran over and over in my head until it hit me … Maybe she had come into my life to tame my arrogance. Maybe our paths had crossed so that she could teach me a lesson that while I may be great, I may necessarily not be the best! And then… well then, she would leave. And maybe, just maybe, I’d get a chance to be the best again! I decided to forgive her after all. Pretty soon, I was able to see that it wasn’t even her fault in the first place. Once the curtain of recrimination had been lifted from my eyes, I was able to see that she got everything that I wanted because of one simple reason: she deserved it. She had worked for it. More than I had. Today, I am still wounded. She and I still aren’t friends and I’m still not the confident person that I once used to be. But whenever I meet her in the corridors, I always call out a greeting. A greeting that radiates my sincere warmth and acceptance of the face that to excel in life, I don’t have to be the best, I just have to BE ME!