Friday, July 18, 2014


Narinderpal was hardly 4’-8.” Her face was small, dark wheatish, and she would tie her very curly, very black hair in a plait. She gave the impression of being a little school kid – only until she opened her mouth. Her voice was too heavy for her height and looks.

We were together in the GNDU campus during our M.A. days. I was from Goraya, so I had to live in the university hostel. She was from Sultanwind, and still liked to live in the hostel. The top floor of the B wing ( I think it was B) was assigned to our class. Her room was right opposite the shared washroom, so we would often stop by to say hi to her. Her smile would extend right into her small deep-set eyes.

She idolized me – I never thought I was worthy of her attention, or of her hero worship, but she somehow looked upto me with a certain devotion that would invariably leave me slightly embarrassed. It never flattered. Sincere though they always were - I was always looking for ways to escape her compliments. She would love the way I made notes, love the way I planned my studies, love the way I carried myself, loved the way I handled the stage – but I somehow always wanted to escape that praise.  She would like to walk with me, but I was always kind of self  conscious walking with her –she was so short and thin, I was taller and plumper. (okay, fat perhaps)

She had a huge crush on our very handsome teacher who taught us "Saint Joan." Oh my, didn’t we all? She would look at the tall Sardar with moonstruck eyes while he would animatedly deliver Joan’s speeches and Bluebeard’s exhortations. (Why did I always think Bluebeard must have looked like him?)

M.A. I happened, and then M.A. II flew by. My father passed away just two months before our exams were to start. Narinder would offer support whenever she would find me sitting and crying alone in my cubicle. She would force me to come to her room, and would talk to me. I still remember she said, “Manpreet, you will die crying, stop this and focus on your exams now.” I would be amazed to see where she got the courage to scold me. I had always respected her, but she became some kind of a go-to person in those days. We somehow finished our exams and parted ways, with promises to write to each other. Yes, those were the days when we would actually write long letters to friends.

I began writing to her, as I wrote to all my friends during the hot summer days awaiting results of M.A. She would write back in her small, neat and emphatic handwriting. Then her letters stopped coming. I still wrote – angry some times, anxious at others – but I kept writing to her, asking her - "Narinder - Nanni/Nannu (we used to call her) - where are you? What's happening?"

Three months, or was it four months? I received a letter from her brother. It read something like, “Dear Sister, who are you writing all those letters to? She died three months ago!!”

I did not have the courage to ask what happened to her. I just wrote a letter of condolence to him.

She stayed on, in my mind, I always wanted to write about her, her voice still is around me. We were never very close, but she somehow still lives somewhere in my heart.

(June 13, FB)

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