“Hey, results are out and as usual SHE has topped her class”. Yes, I overhear it every time but no one congratulates me directly. Lonely, you say. Well, that’s not the case. I have a loving family but I don’t have friends. Please, don’t pity me. I am alone by choice or to say the truth, it was what I used to believe but I was wrong.


As the school bell rang, I heard my classmates talking: “Now that it’s vacation, let’s go window shopping”, “No, let’s watch a movie”. I thought, “These people are wasting such precious time wandering.” “Hi, Safina” I heard a sweet voice call me, “What are your plans for the vacation?” “Nothing!” I answered and abruptly left the classroom. I saw her from the corner of my eye, she was dazed. She was the first person who was not furious at my rudeness.


It made me wonder why I distanced myself from making friends. I made this resolve when I was very young and now, I am seventeen. I still wonder why I stopped talking to my elementary school friends, why I turned down everyone who tried to befriend me, why I tried to make people hate me, why on earth I deprived myself of having the joys that every child is entitled to! My phone ranged. Putting all thoughts away, I picked up the call. “Hello, Mom, how are you?” I asked. “I am well, my dear but what’s wrong with you, your voice……”, “I- I am okay, how long will you stay in the Darjeeling office? It’s already been four years ” I quickly changed the topic. “I will be back soon. I am sorry for not giving you time. It’s my failure as a parent that my only daughter can’t confide in me. But remember this, never miss out on something that you want to do. Don’t restrict yourself, enjoy your school life while you can, and don’t have any regrets.” “But Mom, I can’t just waste my time when I have to get a recommendation letter from school for the university. For that, I need to focus on my studies.” “My dear, come out of your comfort zone. To enjoy your life to the fullest you just need to work harder and strike the right balance, which I know my daughter can do easily. It’s child’s play for someone like you. ‘Ms. All-time topper’ I believe in you. Love you.” “Love you too mom, bye.”


It was just me all along who wanted to stay away from making friends because I considered making friends would make me dependent and weak. But now, I’ve found it in me to acknowledge the need of having friends, my inter-dependence is not a weakness, it’s a part of being myself, as it is best described in the proverb, “No man is an island”. I am grieved that while focusing on the destination I couldn’t enjoy the journey, while the journey in itself had a lot to offer. 


I didn’t have time to regret my past decisions So, I decided to make friends. I was too excited to be mindful about vacations and straight away went to school, the watchman at the gate knew me as ‘a good student’, he looked bewildered and said, “The Library is closed and today there are no teachers, do you have some work in the administrative department?” If it were me, I would have lied, just to keep up with the image of a perfect student. “I just wanted to look around the school, as I will not be able to come to school for one month”, yes, I know this, too, is a lie! I pretended to look around and took several photos. On my way back, I thought about contacting someone from my class- in order to make friends I should make the first move- but I don’t have anybody’s number, 

“After all I am lonely” I sighed. But the heavens were in my favour, as I was rambling down the street, I heard a familiarly-sweet voice call me, “Hey, Safina, is that you?”, I turned and smiled. She had a very unpretentious smile. A “smile” I hadn’t smiled in the past eight years. This explains why our mind is called a mirror through which we see the world. I felt as if my field of view had expanded. 


I was so happy that I was dazed as she came near me and introduced herself, “Hi, myself Vidhi. I have been trying to talk to you, but you are always so busy and -”, “And yes, of course, I am a book-demon and unapproachable, that’s what they call me behind my back, right?”, I said jokingly. She protested, “No, it’s not like that. You are mistaken, most of our classmates think highly of you but are hesitant to talk to you.”  “That means they see me as a proud and pompous person”. Vidhi replied, “I will not lie, some do think of you as a proud person but most people think, they will come in your way if they formed acquaintances with you.” “Yes, this is the right time,” I thought. “It’s not at all like that, I will be more than happy to make friends, for starters, will you be my friend?”, I held her hands and said it in the most informal and hopeful tone. I was happy, nostalgic, surprised but most of it was anger. She was my bestie in kindergarten. “Why on earth do you keep numb? Why didn’t you talk to me before?” I was furious. “Wait. hold on, why are you angry at me? I tried talking to you several times before but you are really a study bug, huh! It is me who has every right to be angry!” After this, we both started laughing hysterically. I didn’t feel like we had been away from each other for twelve years. Then we shared our anecdotes till afternoon and I invited her for lunch at my house.


As she left, I realized why I stopped making friends. “A true friend is the one who overlooks your failures and tolerates your success”, a famous quote by Doug Larson, left a negative impression on me. As a kid, I was pampered by my father, which made me think too highly about myself. When Vidhi’s parents got a transfer, I thought she couldn’t see me taking her first position in class and that she started hating me to the point of leaving the town. I know this sounds foolish and absurd but I was five then, what else can you expect from a five-year-old-spoiled-kid! As the years passed by, I forgot all about this incident but what remained was a resolve to stay away from people in order to protect their feelings from getting polluted by hatred. This is why, it is said, what we experience as a child stays with us like engravings on stones, unaltered.


I have worked hard on my attitude and behaviour as at the end of the day it was me who was at fault. I started talking to people, sharing lunch and notes but most importantly, it was emotions. It was not long before I noticed “friends” around me. I realized studies and friends were not rivalrous but complimentary. 


By the way, till now I have performed my best in all the mock exams and after class12 boards, we are going camping. You ask, who do I mean by “we” of course my friends: Vidhi, Preeti, Soumili, Arfa, Ankita, Anshika, Tania, Prachi, and many others.


Safina Khanam is an extroverted class12 student who loves to read and write. She enjoys gaining knowledge and experiences from interactions with people.