It was one of those regular mornings of early 90’s. Schools were reopening for the new academic year, students and parents both were in hurry. Trying to leave the vacation vibes behind. Sahil was going to attend class 7th this year. Instead of being eager to start new, He was in despair; not only he had lost his father, he also had to leave the only city he ever lived in, the friends and all the familiar faces behind. Sahil’s mother decided to move out of Mumbai after his father’s unexpected death. It was really hard for her to take care of Sahil and manage the house-hold on her own. She did try it for few months but she wasn’t able to afford everything in her only salary. They shifted to Baroda 2 weeks ago; trying to leave bitter memories behind for the much needed fresh start.
Unlike Mumbai, Sahil’s new school was far from home now. His mother thus opted for school bus. As she won’t have the time, she has already started working. Sahil’s bus-stop was first one on it’s route. When he boarded the bus it was almost empty with just 2 kids who he guessed were Bus driver’s kids. He was in no mood to interact so went straight ahead and sat at the very last window seat. Sahil was never the talkative kid and since it was all new for him, he was all the more awkward.
Sahil was starring out of the window at a newspaper boy riding side by side when a sweet voice disturbed him. “Hi, New joining?” Turning around he looked at a young girl with the brightest smile. He remember seeing her boarding at the previous stop. Her smile was so contagious that he couldn’t help and smiled back. Sahil nodded. She sat next to him and introduced herself. “My name is Khushi, and you?” before Sahil could say anything she continued “…I’ll be in 4th now. I’m so happy, I’ll meet my friends again..” “My parents took me to my nanu’s place so I couldn’t meet anyone…” She continued. While she was talking about her nanu’s neighbor’s dog, Sahil was not sure how to react or rather how to stop her. Her energies were so high for someone her age on going back to school that Sahil was jealous of her. Before Khushi could finish up her story of the summer for Sahil, the bus arrived at school. Khushi rushed back to her seat to pick up the school bag and got down as soon as could. After listening to a total strangers summer, Sahil felt better. He didn’t need to talk and he heard a story that someone out there had a better summer than him. Khushi’s magic worked~ Khushi worked.
Days passed by, Sahil made new friends in his class but none of his classmates shared the same bus route. In bus, he was mostly alone. There were few kids but they were younger than him so it was not the same for him. Khushi and Sahil waved and smiled at each other from time to time but unlike Sahil, Khushi was never alone. She was one popular kid, had lots of friends and was loved by everyone. She’s always chatting or laughing. Always on high spirit, everyone’s favorite. She was too sweet and comforting for her age.
It was only one day after the monsoons when sahil found khushi sitting alone at the very place he used to sit from day one of school, last window seat. Khushi seemed upset. Sahil tried to talk to her but she did not respond. It was unlikely of her but there wasn’t much he could do so he sat at different place that day. Khushi did not talk to anyone, she didn’t even greet the bus driver while getting down. It was unusual, Sahil was bothered what happened to the happiest girl.
On the very next day, Sahil was sitting at his usual window seat when Khushi boarded the bus. She came and sat next to him, She was still down on her energies but not as bad as the previous day. “What’s your name?” she asked in her sweet voice. Sahil smiled back and replied “Sahil”. And again she started with her non stop chatter… “I’m sorry, Sahil. I wasn’t being rude to you yesterday, I was upset. I failed in math. They showed us the papers yesterday”. Before Sahil could utter a word Khushi continued “You know, my mum used to be a teacher. I feel like I disappoint her. I try but I don’t understand Math” “I’m only in 4th, what will happen when I grew up, my parents don’t scold me but I think they should but will it help?” Sahil was smiling, Khushi stopped; looking more upset. “You are bad, I was trying to apologies because my mum says we shouldn’t be rude but..” “Stop right there..” Sahil finally said. Khushi couldn’t understand. “Let me help you!” Sahil said again. “With your math problems…” Khushi looked amused. She couldn’t understand how he can help. “Math is easy, I’m class 7 student and not being proud or anything but I score well enough to offer you help”. Without saying much Khushi just sat there and got down at her stop.
Khushi started sitting on last seat that day onwards. Apart from usual school chats, they solved Khushi’s math problems together. They were not preparing just for exams, it was all and all maths they were looking at. Sahil was a good teacher, Khushi complimented at times. Sahil was happy that he was of help. Times passed and as she covered most her bases in math, Khushi started sitting back on her usual place in front. It was understood. Sahil actually liked watching her from that distance, she belonged there, in the spot light. Khushi came to Sahil with her queries from time to time and they solved it together. Sahil thought his life was lot less miserable than he thought at the year’s beginning, at least his school life was better than he expected it to be.
After finishing her 2nd term’s math paper, Khushi was waiting for Sahil in bus to discuss her paper. When Sahil finally came he announced it right away that they won’t talk about the exam, telling her he would like to see it through the results if he was helpful enough. Khushi was angry for a moment but she knew, she did pretty good in the paper so, she relaxed. As the week passed by, sahil was more anxious about Khushi’s result than his own. They did not speak much during the time. when khushi finally came to him, he nervously asked about the marks to which Khushi laughed off and said “We haven’t got the Math papers yet, Mrs. Sahin is on week’s leave” Sahil was looked puzzled “Mrs. Sahin, my math teacher… and I came here to invite you to my Birthday party tomorrow. I think you should come, we are friends right? You helped me so much, I’m sure Mumma-Papa would anyway want to meet you when the math results come. I know, you won’t know many people there but…” Sahil nodded without giving it much thought. It was only later that he realized that he’ll be all alone with other kids in that party, that too at her place. He felt weird and thought of skipping it for a moment but now that he knew Khushi, he knew she wouldn’t let it go easily.
Next day, Khushi wore baby pink for her birthday. She looked like a Disney princess, may be because she actually wore a tiara. Yes, she did! It looked like there weren’t enough books in her bag that day, it was filled with chocolates only. As soon as she got on the bus, everybody started wishing her. She gave chocolates to everyone for the wishes. Sahil too got 2 chocolates.
Later that day, Khushi did not turn up in bus on the way back. Sahil was not sure if something happened, if there’ll be still a birthday party and if so at what time?! When Khushi invited him, she did not mention time and she wasn’t even there to ask. He knew her house as it was by the road and has seen her running for bus in the mornings. Unsure of what to do, he decided to turn up at 4pm with the gift he made the previous night.
When Sahil reached at her place at 4, he couldn’t find any familiar faces or for that matter any kids at all. There were 2-3 people decorating the hall. Before he could inquire about Khushi, what looked like her father appeared from back welcoming him “Welcome Beta, aren’t you little early for the party?” Sahil hesitated a little but replied, “Oh! I’m sorry. Actually, I forgot to ask her time sir” Khushi’s dad laughed off; asking him to sit as he disappeared into the kitchen. Khushi came downstairs laughing, she was still wearing the same baby pink dress from school. “Hi Sahil, come upstairs. I’ll show you my gifts.” Sahil was unsure but he had no where else to go. He followed her. “I forgot to tell you that the timing for cake cutting is 6” Khushi’s house was big, like really big. It was fully furnished. He did not know that khushi was from such a wealthy family. As he was looking around the house, he saw lots and lots pictures of Khushi with the her parents. She was loved. No wonder she was such happy kid. Sahil thought to himself, Khushi had no arrogance of from where she belonged.
Khushi’s friends started arriving by 5.30 as Khushi dressed up in white. Sahil, who was scared of feeling out of the place in the first, was now part of the gang. He was doing rounds in helping out the workers and Khushi’s mother in last moment preparations. Even though she asked him to just enjoy the party, he insisted on helping. By the end of the day, Sahil felt like he knew Khushi and her family since forever. Her mother was the sweetest lady and her father was the chatty one. No wonder Khushi was best of both, he thought.