Till today I have never come across a more striking looking 14 year old. She was new in our school and even in an all girl’s school she made heads turn. Her family had recently moved this side of town and she came across as a stuck up south Bombay kid. Since she and I were the tallest in class, we had to sit together. Over the next couple of days I figured that she wasn’t stuck up, just shy. Gradually S and I became friends. She definitely came from a privileged family and had very liberal parents. Studies weren’t a priority. She missed school if she had been up watching movies all night with her cousins. She went on vacations abroad and shopped at the toniest stores in town.
I spoke about her so often that my family and friends in the building also wanted to meet her. The boys in my building were drooling for days after they saw her, my mother remarked that she was too mature for someone her age. As we became closer I started going to her place and was so impressed. She had a walk in wardrobe. Her parents were never home so we could play loud music and talk on the phone for hours. Privileges that were hard to come by in our homes.
She failed in the unit tests and didn’t seem too concerned. I found that really strange and asked how her mother had reacted. She laughed sarcastically and let it pass, the detective in me was intrigued and I started on my fact finding mission. One day I dropped in unannounced at her place. Her dad was happy and said he had heard so much about me; S seemed fidgety and said I shouldn’t have dropped in just like that, her mom doesn’t like it. I pretended like it didn’t bother me, said I would meet aunty today, she said her mom had to be called by name, no one called her aunty. Her mom breezed into the room and i instantly knew what S’s problem was. Her mom was gorgeous and even S would feel like a waif before her. Thank god for my round bespectacled mom.
When she realised I was a tough cookie that was not likely to get intimidated by her she tried to get pally. Sure she wanted to be addressed by name and went on to tell me how S had signed up for aerobic classes and had to be prepared for the beach holiday. This was absurd, my folks only told me to prepare for exams. She gave me some spiel on how she got married at 16 and had S when she was 18 so they were growing up together.
When I told my mother this entire saga she said clearly the woman was complexed and competing with her daughter. S began confiding in me. She cried as she yearned for a normal mother who cooked and attending pta meetings. She wanted a mother not a pal who shared her clothes.
While she got oodles of male attention she steadfastly maintained that she would never date anyone. I asked her candidly asked if she feared that the guy would fall for her mom once he saw her? She smiled sadly and said no, because she would soon get married to whoever her dad chose for her. That evening I thanked my parents for who they were. I was allowed to play basketball without worrying about whether I would get dark. I could enjoy eating cake and not worry about an inch I may gain.
I decided S was the poor little rich girl who needed help. When all of us made a plan from school to go watch a film her mom decided she would come along. She came and everyone was floored, she paid for everything but S and I sulked. Later she asked the two of us to come for a driver with her. I mustered all the courage and decided to tell her off, even if it meant that she wouldn’t let S talk to me ever again. Holding back my tears, despite S pleading with me I declared that she was cruel and why was she ruining her daughter’s life. Trust me to be dramatic even at that age! She looked shell shocked and asked me what I was talking about
S was her mommy’s little baby she insisted and would never have a problem with what mommy did. She said their family was different and that S would be married by 18. To live in a golden cage like yours I asked. Floodgates opened and for the first time I think mother and daughter spoke. Amidst tears, accusations, hugs and hostilities a lot was said and understood. Before dropping me home both of them thanked me and I called S’s mom aunty from then onwards!