I think its only fair (now, don't ask 'to who?') that I start from the very beginning. It was in the middle of my 1st standard that Amma got transfered to Kochi. So the whole family, Appa Amma and us kids (I am the middle child, I have two sisters) had to get relocated. I dont' remember the date or month, I don't remember much of my old school (at Trivandrum) either, or of the year and the next at the new school, Err.. better I skip to standard-3. That year D and S were my bench-mates, about them, they were both good kids. They didn't have the habit of pinching or poking you during the class, when they bought chocolates to school; they shared and most importantly we used to watch the same cartoons on Doordarshan (remember He-man, Flintstones, Duck tales, Chip and Dale? Ah good old days!) so we could gossip like grown-ups about important issues featured in them, over food, during our lunch breaks. (We were a pretty evolved group, you see.) That year was a good one.
The next year though, things changed, our seating arrangements changed. Our new classroom had this slightly different type of tables and chairs which were taller than our old ones but not much wide i.e. they wouldn't accomodate us all three.. and that was not a welcome change, (infact that was to me, what acorn was to Chicken Little, a sky-is-falling-moment!) but then D offered to go sit with a new kid 'A' (or maybe she wasn't new and I just saw her that day, coz very few people existed in my perfect little world those days!) who used to ride the same school bus as her, thereby depriving me of some drama.
So even though we had separate seats that year, we made it a point to hang together often, for which purpose we even started taking our lunch boxes outside the class to unoccupied spots under the huge shady banyan trees that stood on the sides of our playground. Besides some together time, it exposed us to two new things, soft breeze kissing our cheeks at regular intervals and a soiled skirt for the post lunch session, the first, we liked and the second, we didn't mind, that's how a new routine for the next couple of years got set. Three days later D decided to introduce the new kid A to our lunch circle and soon she in turn brought some of her old friends along and like that, within less than two weeks there were about 7 or 8 of us sitting in big circle formation under those big shady trees, discussing varied topics each day. If one day, we were having a heated discussion centering around whether black cats crossing our paths was a bad omen, the next day we'd be seen talking in hushed tones about by what age we'd get our training bras! We couldn't talk about our old topic, cartoons, coz not everyone in our new group watched them. One girl didn't have a TV at home, another got to watch only those saas bahu type soaps with her mother and grandma. Two others had cable connection (which mean't Popoye and Captain Planet!) And the last one was strictly a nerd (and our class topper so she was always like 'cartoons are for babies, you guys should really start watching "Aaj Tak!".) This new gang, I wouldn't necessarily call as 'evolved', coz they couldn't spell SHARE (ofcoz not literally! there was this girl who would almost always lick her chocolates and then make a pretense of an offer, when we'd go 'Ughh'...!) But it sure was a cool gang like a box of Mackintosh's Quality Street chocolates, each with a different interest and hobby and yet there we were together, somehow making that perfect assortment complete... and Boy! I was glad to be a part of it!
Around about the 2nd term of that year, one day at lunch break S and I were waiting for D and A to fetch their lunch boxes but they were being rather slow, giggling at some funny comment A had made, it was kind of irritating us so we decided to interrupt their giggling fit and I said "C'mon D... hurry up please or all the best spots will be taken by other children"
D stops giggling and replies "you guys can go ahead and reserve a spot, we'll join you there"
"Hmm..but we don't want to sit and wait for you both, we are all really starving, so you guys have to hurry up."
The faint smile left behind by the giggling fit also vanishes as she retorts with "nobody is asking you to wait."
"But even if no one asks us we have to wait for friends no?"
Now a visibly irritated D says "No you don't, cause you guys are my 'DUPLICATE friends', A here is my original friend!"
Wow! I just stood there dumbfounded for about 10 seconds. I could see that A was trying to supress a smirk. I couldn't see S's face coz she was standing adjacent to me but I had a feeling she was in the same state as I. D turned to look at A and then they both launched into another one of their synchronised laughing fits! That was about when, when the air around us became a really stuffy nauseating scent, and S and I left for the playground.
We didn't talk about what had happened, we just kept walking and I didn't really know what S was thinking, but I was feeling very bad for many reasons. I mean, here I was thinking all the while that this girl was one of my best-friend and all... and she says this, that too in front of this new kid A, (or maybe not new, who cares?) for what reason? surely it couldn't have been just coz we were hurrying her or for not wanting to wait...(could it though?) and what did she really mean by this term 'duplicate friend'? I had seen this film starring Shahrukh doing double role and the duplicate Shahrukh was a bad guy in it, was she calling me a bad person? (Yeah... Maybe. And maybe I deserved that for interrupting their merry-making and being rude generally. Sigh!) Or she meant we were like spare friends, like extras..sundries, or whatever. Neither of us (S or I) participated much during the lunch discussion that day and we certainly did not look in their (D and A's) direction.
The next day D came to us with two diarymilks and some excuses which I don't remember now and we had to patch up (evolved as we were). Even though the whole thing really was quite silly and I am pretty sure D herself wasn't quite sure what she meant by a duplicate friend, I had decided in my stubborn mind that there was no way she was getting a 100% reinstatment to the good old friends status. But patch up we did, officially, and we all continued being friends.
My memories of 5th and 6th standard are a bit hazy (except for some random events centering around our cycle sheds and the like...but I am afraid it wouldn't make any sense in this particular story line) what I do remember is that each year one or two from our gang got transfered and left us and sometimes we took in new kids who came here on transfer. By 7th standard we were the most happenening gang in all of the divisions of our batch. Now the guys from our batch would make funny comments and do other crazy (and most times very lame) things to get our attention, during lunch breaks they'd finish their lunch fast and come and play near us and whenever they hit a Six they'd make enough ruckus to make sure that we were aware, which we were all the while but too cool to be seen watching their silly games. Even the kids from our senior batches were being nice to us (and a lot of them knew the names of all the girls in our gang!)
The next year, when I became an 8th grader, it was my turn to leave the gang, amma had got another one of those transfers (she had applied to Kottayam, our native place) The two days that followed saw a lot of hugging, exchanging farewell cards, others writing on my first slambook and a bit of moist-eye-syndrome on my part.
Three months later on a Sunday evening S called (we had promised to call each other up every weekend, which we did... but only that first year though) and from her voice I knew she was too excited about something.
"Guess what happened yesterday at school?" "No... forget guessing, you'll take a million guesses and still won't get anywhere near it.. Oh my God! You won't be able to believe it..!"
"Please yaar, stop talking to yourself and tell me what happened no" I said impatiently, getting infected by her excitement.
"You remember that guy 'T' no?"
"Yeah... what about him? What did he do?"
"I am telling you no? Stop rushing me.."
"Ok ok sorry.."
"Hehee ok.. last Wednesday D told A that she thought T was the cutest guy in our class and that she liked him, now this was to be a secret between them ok. But she had no idea that A herself had a crush on T, but on thursday she went and told T about D liking him and that idiot-guy told his friends and by friday morning even the kids in other division and some of our seniors came to know and everybody was laughing at her when D came to the class that day..."
"Yeah... that day Whole morning D didn't talk to A and during lunch break D called her a "Bloody fool!" (That was some serious expletive for our age in those days) they argued and called each other all the bad names they knew..."
"Hooo...Really? Bloody fool?"
"Yeah! and soon they both were seen crying, everybody else were trying to sort it out and console and everything... And after lunch break they changed seats and are now sitting separately...so much for 'original friendship!'.. heheh..
Anyway I didn't bother getting involved..."
"Haha..yeah... SPARE us the drama..pls..!"
"What..hah! then what!!...hmmm... Ey, time for the sunday 4 O'clock movie.. will give you more details next weekend okk?"