Nandini, fondly addressed as ‘En’ amongst friends is a spirited, 27 year old, girl-next-door. A go-getter, and an achiever, she still remains a complete ‘heart’ person, never letting us forget about the smaller joys of life. In the fifth part from the series of ‘A day in the life of En’, enjoy another slice of life story as she traces back memories and people from a distant past.
It was one of those days for En when she had exhausted a day of her annual leave on doing something completely unproductive. Standing before the mirror, she asked herself, ‘And why did I exactly do that?’ Much to her dismay, the mirror couldn’t speak.
So yes, that weekday afternoon, En found herself welcoming home this annoying cousin of hers, whom she hadn’t seen in the last fourteen years. He comfortably made his way to her apartment, with three large suitcases and a backpack. En had no option but to greet him with a smile, as broad as she could. And assure him, it wasn’t going to be a bother to have him around. Hell yeah! It was already. So much for despising hypocrites all her life!
The sight of him, threw open so many questions in her mind. Most importantly, ‘Am I that easily gullible?’ One phone call from Maa and there she was, entertaining this twenty one year old, very irritating cousin. And that was not it. En was also supposed to be his helping aid, his city guide, and if need be, his personal financier.
Through the course of the day, he kept asking her about things that were not only pesky, but also lame. Where’s the washroom? Do you have a maid? When did you exactly shift base? What were your dreams then? How far is Churchgate station? What time is good to visit Juhu Beach? Are people in Mumbai spiritual? Each time addressing her as ‘Nandini didi’. The sound of which was nearly driving En, up the wall. She thought she was going to choke and it was still Day 1. By the end of the day, she had decided to set the record straight. In a rather high pitch, she spoke, “No one calls me that. Just call me ‘En’”.
He looked at her astonished and nodded his head in approval.
Days passed by and one evening when the much-despised cousin, Amol was sharing the dinner table with En at the local Chinese joint, he mentioned that he couldn’t have been more grateful to her and that he really owed her this dinner. He paid the bill and announced that he was moving in to the boys hostel, closer to the college. En suddenly found herself swallowing on the mukhwaas she had greedily grabbed on her way out. The walk back home seemed longer than usual. They engaged in chatter all along, as the heaviness in En’s heart grew deeper. The two of them were laughing about old stories, relatives and life in general.
Amol: But seriously, don’t you think ‘En’ is such a wannabe name? ‘Nandini’ has so much more character.
En: So you think I lack character?
Amol: I wouldn’t know that. I’m your brother!
En was running after Amol in a careless fashion as they both raced towards home, and finally hit the couch, gasping for breath.
In the next few days, Amol left for his new abode. En’s little pad now seemed spacious but hollow.
She was standing once again before the mirror, probing. Asking herself, ‘Why did I think he was annoying? Well, he had thrashed a huge basketball onto my favourite ice cream, some fourteen years ago. A memory I had held on to so strongly, that it became the only memory of his, for all these years. But this young boy, had managed to pave his way through my narrow mind, and emerged victorious. He had managed to find a place in my heart, by breaking through the shackles of an old ridiculous recollection.’
En felt silly and ashamed for having wasted so much time holding on to a belief that was hardly true. He wasn’t annoying. He was like any of us at twenty one. Youthful, carefree, vibrant, bustling with energy and ideas. Yet, what set him apart was his sensitivity and candour.
That summer, En saw new changes happening around the city. And also, in her head. She realised that it’s not about making new room for people, but about leaving that door open for people to walk into your life.
[Maa ~ Bengali word used to address ‘mother’. didi ~ Bengali word used to address an ‘older sister’. mukhwaas ~ Indian concept of an after mint.
* To read more stories from the En series, simply select ‘A day in the life of En’ in the Categories section on your right.]