New Beginnings in Mid Life

By Asmita Javdekar in Stories
Updated 14:30 IST Mar 05, 2019

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New Beginnings in Mid Life

We all became friends by fluke.
While I was doing my masters in the US, on my first trip back home, I had inadvertently picked up a Black and Tan Samsonite bag from the luggage belt at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
I never bother checking the name on baggage tag and in my defence that bag looked like mine.
Unfortunately, only on opening it, did the goof up dawn on me.
On reaching for my phone, I bumped into twelve missed calls from an unknown number.
When I returned the call, a frantic female voice squeaked in.
“You have my Samsonite travel case. I mean, I really hope you have it.
Do you have it?”
I was cheap enough to say, “Sorry, wrong number” in an earnest voice and cracked up, sensing the nervous wreck on the other side.
That was my first brush with my steadfast, crazy girl friend Manali or Man for all of us.
Man was a tall, strong girl with an aquiline nose, bunny rabbit incisors and a stylish pixie cut.
When she arrived home to exchange the luggage, she was accompanied by another girl.
Dusky and svelte, carrying an air of intelligence. Wearing vintage thick rimmed glasses, a simple maroon kalamkari kurta over faded jeans and her hair carelessly tied up in a messy bun.
When Man introduced me to Vaishnavi, she folded her hands in a pranam and added that she preferred being addressed as Vaisho. It’s only after meeting her a few times did I realise that Vaisho was smitten by Osho in those days.
Coming to our last voyager, Radha or Radster.
Meeting Radha, too was a random coincidence.
Man, Vaisho and I were attending a music concert by a relatively unknown band called TheTribe.
We had bought the cheapest passes available.
On reaching the venue, we were disappointed to find out that for our ticket category, no alcohol was provided. 
Imagine our surprise when this girl with bright red lips, kohl rimmed eyes, grunge shorts and a grey tank top walked over to us with four rum and cokes.
Apparently, she had four platinum passes and her friends had just not turned up!
Radster instantly became our Hero.

Those were our wild, carefree, delirious days. Impromptu long drives, mid night pool parties, thumping music, Bacardi and coke, jäger bombs, blurry moments, raucous laughter. We were young!

Life caught up. Like a Ferris wheel it took us up and down and often left us scattered.
Man got too caught up in her ascending career graph and her string of failed relationships.
Vaisho was forever torn between her three year old twins and her Homeopathy practice.
Radster was miserable with an internal hormone havoc. Add to it, the doctors had discovered some abdominal Ascites and had recommended a Biopsy.
I was newly married.
Although very well educated, my family was spiritually devoted to Shanti Baba.
We were all expected to lead a life aligned with his teachings which meant, No alcohol and No non veg. My heart revolted against this allegiance and the entire purpose of my life was reduced to rebellion against my new family. 

It had been years since our girly gang hung out together. The mundanity of Life had sucked us into it throughly.
An occasional message would be exchanged but our WhatsApp group had transformed into a redundant fossil. 
Just as this thought crossed my mind, my phone beeped in epiphany.
Radster had typed in about a reunion
Much love and nostalgia bubbled over as we all joined in the conversation.
Day, Date and Venue was set.
On the day, Man, Vaisho, Radster and I huddled together in the doctor’s waiting area at Pargaonkar Hospital.
The Doctor pulled out Radster’s report and very calmly yet firmly announced, Stage 0 Ovarian Cancer.

The following four months were dedicated only to Mission Recovery.
Effortlessly, we divided the tasks amongst ourselves.
Man was in charge of the administrative paper work related to hospital stay.
Vaisho with her medical background would be with Radster for all tests and Chemo.
I volunteered to take care of healthy, home cooked meals.
When you focus your energies on the positives, invest effort in that direction and have faith in collective prayers, miracles happen.
Bit by bit, we realised that this Cancer trough had given us a chance to introspect.
Man realised it’s not worth taking the body for granted by putting it through insurmountable stress.
Vaisho was calmer and happier around her little twin monsters.
Radster was soaking in gratitude.
As for me, the time I spent cooking for Rad
in the kitchen proved therapeutic.
On one such days, I overheard my inlaws performing a havan and chanting the Maha Mrutyunjay japa for good health and a long life. My mother in law invited me for Darshan and told me that Shanti Baba had recommended this havan for Rad’s quick recovery.
With tears flowing down my cheeks, I hugged her tight. She kissed me on my forehead, reciting “Shanti Shanti Shanti.”
In that instant something within me changed too, I learnt to respect somebody’s else’s faith.

As for our friendship, in our younger days it was centred around fun and as soon as the fun began to dissipate, our bond began to disintegrate.
However, this new lease of mature friendship had blossomed on nurturing and love.
Four months later, Radster’s Cancer marker had gone down to 0.
In celebration, we held our hands together, closed our eyes and thanked Cancer for giving us all a New Life.

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