There are some friendships that evolve in a manner to mirror the conscious choices of two people who decide to stick by each other and have faith in the fact that love will ultimately win. No, I am not talking about a romantic partnership. My equation with Madhurima can be summed up safely in these terms. We are as different as chalk and cheese but as Madhurima puts it, "Our differences amp up the bond that we have. Because it is boring to be friends with someone who is exactly like you." Indeed, we have grown together and learned as much from each other owing to the range of differences that we sport and embody. I guess I can call our friendship the most impactful and sustained dialogue I have engaged in so far, not to mention the fact that I intend to continue the same for a lifetime.
This story is a testimony to the fact that if we look closer and deeper, we will find instances of how the universe has already planted the seeds of a support ecosystem that we would need through our journeys. Both my friends Madhurima and Arkamitra were similarly planted in my vicinity only for me to discover their importance in my journey later on when I faced some of the most trying phases in my life. I cannot possibly write about this woman without opening up my heart and acknowledging the importance of her presence in my life. This story seeks to focus thus on the way I have understood, cherished and celebrated one of the most beautiful women and her story that I have chanced upon in my journey so far. With the heart and imagination of a child and the grace of the new age femme fatale, Madhurima has taught me how to be bold in spirit, trusting in love, and self-assured with undying faith in the power of the age-old symbols of the fairy tales. She has taught me to ground myself in the belief that there will always be the victory of good over evil and that the impending and expected dawning of light over seeming spells of unending darkness is just around the corner. She is the voice of hope and insanity, just the perfect blend to add some much-needed adventure in life. Without any further ado, let's dive straight in to witness Madhurima and her story in real-time.
" I have always had a pretty sheltered life. I have never exactly not had what I wanted, especially material stuff. My dad had to travel a lot because of his work so he kind of compensated for his absence with a lot of gifts. Now that I think of it, the emotional unavailability of my father was a major factor that shaped me over the years. Life was comfortable but emotionally unfulfilling. I was too young to realize that though."
"You must have really missed your dad..." I mused.
"You bet! But I wasn't conscious of the impact of the void because I was so used to it you see. In fact, as I grew older, I embodied his pattern. Whenever I couldn't face anything like a confrontation or an accountability matter with someone who mattered, I would give gifts to evade the situation. "
"Tell me more..." I urged her.
"I was living quite an entitled and privileged life because my dad made sure that I got everything that I wanted. I wasn't used to sharing things or my dad's and mom's attention. On top of that, I was studying in a school where elitism was the order of the day. Before realizing, I had become quite a mean-minded person. One day, right before my birthday, I had bought a birthday dress that I really liked. At my place, the person who used to help my mom with domestic household work had a daughter who was about my age. This girl who was staying at my place really liked the dress. My parents were always kind and thoughtful so they advised me to give away my dress. I reacted very badly and insensitively to that gesture of my parents. Later, I realized how I must have hurt the girl. I gave her the dress. This was the first time that I realized that something was wrong about the way I was looking at life. I felt entitled to gifts because I felt that they somehow amounted to the demonstration of the love and attention of my parents. It took me a long time to evolve from that space."
I admired the openness and grace with which Madhurima acknowledged the negative traits that she had once displayed and reflected how she had emerged out of that sense of self.
"These days I make it a point to look at gift-giving as a gesture of gratitude rather than compensation. I have come a long way!" she sighed out aloud.
" What would you say served as milestones in your life?" I inquired.
"My time in G.D Birla Centre for Education was like one phase. It ended with a lesson and though I could not see it then, I am glad that I got the chance to move on from that institution.
I was in standard X and I was dating this guy. He was very abusive but I was vulnerable and gullible. Like any other teenager, I didn't understand that he was toxic to me until much later. One day he picked me up after school in his car and tried to get physically intimate with me. I was not prepared and I objected. There was a scuffle between us and he shouted and told me to get out of his car. The commotion attracted the attention of the pedestrians. We were taken to the police station and the guy was put behind bars because I was a minor still. When my dad was informed, he came to pick me up. As I was in my school uniform, the school got involved and I was suspended by my Principal. What shocked me was that everyone in school got to know the story from the Principal who exaggerated facts and defamed me publicly while character assassinating me. I was stunned by how a woman could do this to a child who was already suffering. I felt that I would never trust another educator after this incident. I was issued a transfer certificate and my parents took me out of that school to a new school. I was literally gifted with a new life.
Recently, about 12 years since the incident in G. D Birla school, I realize full well what I was put through and I made it a point to write to the Principal who destroyed me and my image. She responded saying she wants to meet me. I am going to meet her hopefully soon. I need to let this go."
As a student of the same school for the final two years of our school life and having lived all my life in the same locality with many a common friend, I remembered the way I had received fragments of this story from various sources. In all of these sources, Madhurima was projected as "the wayward girl". I take immense pride today in sharing the narrative of the sufferer as a point of her emergence. I didn't know her very well then and though I was told this story before, I am grateful that life led me to know Madhurima closely enough so as to enable me to become her confidante as she shared this painful incident that emotionally traumatized her for quite some time. "Judgement is something I got used to early on in life you see. No wonder I don't really care what people think these days. I guess this phase helped me embody that somehow in terms of a coping mechanism."
"After GD Birla, I stepped into my new school Apeejay. This school was my turn around point. My Principal in this school was the kind of educator who I aspire to be for younger women now. She patiently heard my story and gave me a safe space to emerge out of my trauma. She had a troubled daughter and knew how to handle children sensitively. I am still in touch with her and am ever so grateful to her for bringing back my faith in educators.
My classmates were very sweet. I made some really good friends for life. I am still in touch with them.
I participated in many co-curricular and bloomed during those two eventful years."
I could imagine how important this environment must have been for Madhurima to shape her. I had worked with her briefly as a colleague and fellow career coach at a career consulting firm. I distinctly remember how she would make an effort to be a patient listener and friendly coach to kids who would have problems opening up. She brought into confidence many young girls who preferred sharing their growing up struggles with her. I wouldn't be wrong to say that with every young girl who she coached and helped, she was in essence living out a gratitude token to her Principal who helped her heal.
"During my college days, my next phase of struggle began. An abusive relationship yet again took a definite toll this time. I became a very insecure person who was made to doubt everything about her life. I was slut-shamed, made to feel bad because I am dusky, and was even cheated on by my boyfriend. I had to take therapy when I realized that I was slipping into depression. Finally, I came out of the relationship in 2014. It was around this time, from 2012 onwards, that you stepped in and with you, a new chapter in my life started."
"You have no idea what you mean to me," she added.
I smiled to myself as I recalled how I had met Madhurima and bonded with her at a mutual friend's farewell party. Food brought us together as we cooked together that one fine day.
"With you, I found for the first time in my life that female friendships could be as strong as the bonds within one's own family. You brought into my life my soul mate Abhinav. And the rest is history!
For a girl who had always sought a simple life with her own fairy tale, I had always landed myself somehow in nightmares. You brought back to my life a sense of groundedness and helped me navigate the difficult territory of trust-building. I trust you with my life. You also gave me my fairy tale by bringing in Abhinav.
The friendship you brought in and the love that I found through Abhinav changed me in ways I could barely have imagined. Working with you as a colleague helped me understand how to conduct myself in a professionally empowered fashion. You both have been no less than milestones in my life so far.
Now I take care of my younger sister's needs and am financially independent. I have a stable relationship and am emotionally grounded and secure. Everything that we have seen and been through together has made me a better and wiser person. And I guess through all this, I have found my peace with respect to my past too."
I recalled our moments together, the countless fights and moments of making up to each other. I remembered our episodes of supporting each other through heartbreaks, confusion, and professional struggles. From helping me to land my first job to always tactically supporting me so that I could manage to contribute to the field of peacebuilding and community development the way I have managed to, Madhurima has been no less than my rock. She has seen me through some harrowing times when I could not trust anyone but she and we made it through. As I write for this beauty, I find myself re-living the past 8 years of my life and observing the two of us evolving together.
There are few stories where you can barely write about someone without engaging deeply with the relational reflections. Madhurima's story is one such story for me. Our lives have become so intimately linked over the years that I can safely say, " You are, so I am Payal." We have inked our souls with memories for a lifetime.