Jamuna thumped herself down on the porch of her ancestral home. She still couldn't convince herself to believe that her own son has done this to her. She was thrown out by her son and daughter-in-law from their home in Mumbai where she has spent almost all her life since her marriage at the age of twenty. Though she was in her early fifties, Jamuna was still healthy enough to take care of herself. She let out a sigh as she made her mind not to crumble against the cruelty of fate. She set out to her hometown by the first train she could catch and took up the job of a sweeper in the old-age home of her native town which was arranged by a benevolent neighbor in Mumbai.
'At least,' she thought, 'it is much better than begging on the streets.'
She assured herself that she will be able to earn enough through her job to feed herself respectably as long as she is fit to work. And also save a little for that time in future when she won't be able to work any longer. With a determined stride, she opened the lock of the little cottage that she has inherited from her late parents and stepped into it's dark solitude. She cleaned the cottage which was locked since a long time and took a bath when she was done. As there was still time for her first day at the new job, Jamuna made herself a cup of tea and settled down in the porch again to have it at leisure.
As she took the first sip from her cup, her gaze wandered to the bungalow opposite to her cottage. Her childhood best friend Gayatri used to live there once. She was of the same age as her and both of them were classmates during their school life. According to the opinion of Jamuna's mother Shanti, Gayatri was the luckiest and the most perfect human being who has ever lived on the planet. Shanti used to say that Gayatri was showered immensely with all those gifts that a woman craves for. Right from the time, the two had bonded, Shanti wanted Jamuna to be exactly like Gayatri.
Gayatri was a brilliant student during their school days. She had a sharp brain and amazing memory and was quick in learning lessons. While Jamuna was an average student and used to barely score passing marks.
"Why can't you study like her?" Shanti used to scold Jamuna whenever Gayatri used to top the class.
But Gayatri was neither proud of her achievements nor did she looked upon Jamuna with contempt. She helped Jamuna with her studies as often as she could. And they remained best buddies in spite of being poles apart.
As time passed by, Gayatri grew up into a beautiful young girl. Everyone in their neighborhood started singing praises of her beauty and elegant dressing style. Whereas Jamuna was a plainly dressed, average -looking adolescent girl whom nobody cared to notice.
"Why can't you dress-up like her?" Shanti again pounced upon poor Jamuna for not being able to compete with her gorgeous friend.
But for Gayatri, Jamuna's external appearance didn't mattered much and she loved her for being who she is.
A few years later, Gayatri got admission in a reputed college for graduation while Jamuna kept struggling to pass her tenth standard examination. Soon after completion of her graduation, Gayatri was married to a rich businessman from Delhi.
"If you were also as qualified as her," Shanti sighed as she pitied the fate of her own unfortunate daughter, "and were a beautiful young woman like her, you would also have managed to bag a prince like the one who has landed in her kitty."
Finally, Gayatri bade them all a farewell and set out to the capital city with her Prince Charming to start a new life. A few months later, Jamuna was also married to the head clerk who worked in Mumbai and lived in a chawl there. Soon after marriage, motherhood dawned upon her and from there began the never ending fight for survival which lasted till the day she was thrown out of her own house like a rotten piece of meat by her son.
Jamuna sighed as memories clouded her face. She looked at the empty glass of tea that she held in her hand and thought, 'where will be Gayatri now?'
She has never being much to her hometown after her marriage and has never met Gayatri since destiny made them take two different paths. She felt an urge to meet her again as she was left all alone and was badly in need of her best friend from her childhood.
"She must be reigning like a queen in her palace," Jamuna smiled as she felt happy for her friend who has always outwitted her.
Jamuna had a light breakfast and hurried towards the old- age home as she didn't want to be late for the first day of her duty. She was received warmly at her post of duty and was relieved to get acquainted with a few kind souls. When she was sweeping the floor her eyes fell on a lonely woman sitting inside one of the rooms clad in a white saree of a widow. Her eyes widened out of horror as recognition dawned upon her.
"Gayatri!!" she ran towards her and threw her hands around her.
"Jamuna!" Tears rained down Gayatri's eyes and she sobbed in Jamuna's arm's, "Nobody wants me now Jamuna. I was thrown out of my home by my children."
"So was I," The tears that flowed down Jamuna's eyes were that of joy as her beloved friend was back with her, "but you don't have to worry Gayatri as I am always there for you."
Gayatri smiled as she recognized that those were the words she used to say whenever Jamuna gets scolded by her mother for not being able to equal her. Both the ladies hugged each other as they had found a family again in each other after being abandoned by their respective families. Jamuna looked at the sky and wondered whether her deceased mother Shanti have finally found peace as Jamuna was now sharing the same fate as Gayatri. Jamuna shook her head as she realized that her mother will never say those notorious words again - "Be like her!"