And then, there were two!
Six years after knowing V and meeting her frequently, I found out that there were two of her. It was a strange sensation. How often do you come across a scenario like this? Almost, never. But here she was, with another version of herself and I couldn’t help looking at them slack jawed. There was nothing to tell them apart. Except that V wore the scarf I had gifted her last year. It was a lovely shade of aquamarine in silk with knotted edges. I had bought a similar one for me in a shade of burnt orange.
I had met V in not very regular circumstances. We had both signed up for dance classes with Guru Somnath. She was a wiry girl then, with fierce, ink black eyes and a stubborn jaw that stuck out in defiance. Like she was always fighting with the world for her rights. I had asked her about it one summer afternoon as we lay under the shade of a giant mango tree eating cucumber slices. She didn’t deny it. All she said was, ‘I was born because I fought hard to be born. Otherwise, I would not be here.
What a strange answer. I didn’t understand it and it slipped out of my mind as easily as my math lessons. It was not something worth remembering, clearly. Guru Somnath’s dance classes were much sought after and as it happened, he had only one opening. Of course, V and her stubborn jaw won. My timid, half-hearted efforts were swept aside by the force of her desire to be a classical dancer.
I would occasionally go past the dance classes and listen to the thump of 15 pairs of feet as they beat to the rhythm of the teacher’s instructions. There was a wildness to the cadence as if they were answering a call to war. The occasional twinges of jealousy on missing out the opportunity gradually faded away. And we continued to stay friends, till my parents decided to move to another part of town.
Moving away did me good. Away from her pugnaciousness I learnt to tentatively take some steps to developing my own personality. And finally, it emerged. A little frayed at the edges with self doubt. Always seeking approval and most importantly, never willing to take centre stage. Never. And then one bright Saturday afternoon I ran into V at the second hand bookshop. It was the only one in our little town. It had been over a year since I had last seen her. I walked up to her, wearing my new found confidence bravely and said hello.
She turned around, frowned and then turned away.
Strange. I walked up to her and was about to tap her on the shoulder when there was a tap on my shoulder. It was V. And that was when I knew that there were two of them. One stood before me and the other, right behind. All I could do was stare open mouthed. What kind of bizarre in-between world was I trapped in? Ordinarily, I wouldn’t make too much of it, but somehow the threads of her betrayal stretching back to six years seemed like a deception of Macbethian proportions. I edged sideways and eased myself out from between them. Just for a second it felt like one of them was hollow. Not a real person. I didn’t bother to ask her name. It didn’t matter. I gathered up my shredded feelings and left, head held high.