It was the Year of Buttercups for Kiah and I. Walking the playground on the cool Autumn morning at school, our hands intertwined, Kiah was telling me the story of Buttercups in The Princess Bride, about her trepidations and her trials in love. Kiah was excited and as she would read more, she’ll come and narrate it to me… and we would be lost in the world of Buttercups, feeling her pain, living her love-sickness, hoping and wishing that she finds her love in the end. There would be a catch in Kiah’s voice as she told me about Westley whom Buttercups loved, and how he would always respond to Buttercups with an ‘As-You-Wish’!
It had been a full year since Kiah joined my school in fifth grade. Ours was a girl’s convent of the catholic order. Kiah had just returned from Ireland, where her parents had worked for some time. She was fair as snow, had big dark eyes and straight black hair. She was bright and intelligent, honest and fair and she never spent her time deriding other people! I took to her instantly. I mean I would feel special n all if she’d drop by and say hello… my day would be all made! It was a beautiful delicate feeling of commonality and bonding, of friendship, of cherishing special moments together!
I wanted to sit with her, talk to her, go to her home, invite her over, study with her, play chains with her, read novels together, act in plays together… in short pretty much, I wanted to share my life with her… wanted her to become my best friend! In the endless essays we had to write in school, I always wrote on ‘My Best Friend’ and I always wrote on Kiah! Just the feeling of being together was so special for me… to have lunch together under that Peepal tree… to hold hands and walk together to the school water tank after lunch every day to wash hands… or to sit on the same bench in class… or to wait for her birthday and present her with a handmade card or to wait the whole year round to gift her sweetmeats on my birthday! Her friendship gave me confidence and security, her love was simple and unconditional… The purpose of life became to lend a smile to each other’s face just by being together!
We would talk endlessly about the things we read. Reading was a shared passion… it connected us. And therefore, that Autumn, Buttercups managed to turn our world upside down! She provided the potion which sparked off our imagination… A thing called Love was being unfolded to us, in its full grandeur… with all its beauty and pitfalls… and like any growing up girl, not even registering the perils, we saw only the glory and the wonder of love! We marveled at the feelings it ignited, getting revealed to us through the medium of literature, as we gradually moved from childhood to teenage.
We graduated to the next year in school.
“The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.”
We were sitting in the English class on a cool April morning. Today, our lovely English teacher was going to teach Alfred Noyes’s poem – the Highwayman! Kiah and I had read that poem millions of times by now, and each time had been a teary event! We were disturbed by the poem. Distracted by love, we were devastated to see the tragic ending… and we were not the only ones; there were quite a few girls in the class who’d be devastated as the session progressed! We wondered and shared the pathos of Bess’s tragedy, reliving her trauma, feeling the palpable loss of her lover almost like a physical stab…
Kiah and I identified with Bess, her life obviously became ours in no time, as we romanced her tragedy… floating around life in a forlorn, love-sick manner… waiting for our Highwayman and the imminent tragedy to befall!
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I’m after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
In time, we created and perfected the art of classroom recitals and on those special days when we could stay back after school waiting for our Dads, we would entertain each other (and a host of other students!) enacting our favourite dialogues and poems. It was a highpoint in our lives those days. This was Kiah’s idea and we had loads of fun doing this. We would stand on the classroom dias and just transform into a Buttercups or a Bess or a Juliet! It was the kind of drama we loved to love!
O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
Kiah and I were growing up. It felt beautiful to dream and live on them. The line separating the real world and the dream world became thinner and thinner. Dreams became reality, and all reality shaped around dreams. Love had hit us like a sharp blue comet coming from the outer space and our souls began to search for that one brief moment in time when we would experience love! Totally enamoured, we wanted to find our love and fall for him… Once I saw (I actually did!) two lovers standing and embracing each other atop the golden rim of the sun during sunset and it was the most fantastic image I had ever seen… a sort of dream in waking life… On sharing this with Kiah, we were both filled with wonder, and belief in our special existence was reinforced… our man was just round the corner… this had to be a vision!!
Someone inside me smiles even today at those memories etched in time… The joy of my growing up would never have been the same without Kiah’s sunshine presence. Days passed and years passed… Kiah and I grew up and as we pursued our destinies, we remained secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens, in this world of continuously dissipating relationships, we had an eternal friend in each other. Someone who we could call up in the middle of the night to share the slightest of things and finish the call with I Love You!