In second grade, I had a best friend named Asma. We were strangers in class, but it all changed in one day. My father was taking me to play in the ball pit at a children’s play arena, and to my surprise I saw Asma in there too.
I gasped, shocked to see anyone outside my school universe. I asked her in shock, “Asma, what are you doing here?”
She looked at me wide-eyed too. “Skye, what are YOU doing here?”
After that day, we decided to be best friends. We sat next to each other every day in school, we spent our lunch breaks together, and even discussed homework together. We would talk about our love for the arcade and make plans to meet there every day.
And it mostly worked. We couldn’t go there every day, but our parents would let us hang out there once a month and that was enough for us.
Over the years we spoke about our life outside the country. I would talk about my summer vacations in India, and she would talk about her vacations in Pakistan. I would tell her about the warmth and bustle of Mumbai. She would tell me stories of the vacations she spent on the hills of Murree, a place where she would sometimes see snow. I told her I wanted to visit someday, and she told me that I would always have a home there.
Asma had to switch schools in 7th standard, and we didn’t stay in touch. We didn’t have each other’s number, and we didn’t have Facebook then.
But when we did have Facebook, I decided to find her. I thought it would be difficult to find her, but in 2007, when Facebook was still very new, it was relatively easier to find an “Asma Shaikh”. She accepted my request within minutes! I wanted to rekindle our friendship again.
But it didn’t happen. For the first two years, all we would do is occasionally poke each other and wish each other on our birthdays.
Then one day someone from our school alumni posted a class photograph of us. I reached out to her and we started talking. We bonded over both Hollywood and Bollywood movies. I told her I had moved back to Mumbai, and she told me she had moved back to Lahore. We were happy where we were. We bonded over so many important things, like life, and the universe, and the importance of mental & spiritual growth. We became really close friends.
We would laugh at the twitter fights that would happen online. We remembered our friendship from our school days, and how our parents would trust each other with our lives, and wondered how either of us could be the enemy.
Things are different now, she tells me. We laugh about how we’re on enemy lines now. We cannot visit arcades together anymore, we’re not welcome in each other’s home.
But there’s online bowling, and Netflix Party, and so many gifts that technology has given us.
Maybe one day she’ll eat Pani Puri with me in Mumbai, or I’ll take in the fresh air of Murree. But for now, I’ll just send her a text, and a movie trailer, asking her if she’d be down to having another Netflix Binge Party.
Illustrated by: Ruchita