Friends make everything better – school, quarrels, sorrows. How far out of your way would you go to stay with your friends?
The word of the day is – Friends.
“Bye Ria!” Sunita called out. “See you tomorrow!”
“Bye!” Ria said, watching her friends walk away. She heard Trisha ask, “Why isn’t Ria walking home with us? And she heard Sunita explain, “Because this is the long way to her new house. She’s found a shorter route now!”
Yes, thought Ria, walking slowly away from her friends, the new route was shorter. It was Papa who had found it and he had shown Ria the short cut, telling her that she would save a lot of time if she used it instead of taking the usual way.
Till a week ago, when Papa had stumbled on the short way home, Ria had always walked home with her friends. The four of them had identified different routes to make the walk home fun. The best part about walking home, Ria thought, was deciding which of the exciting routes they would take that day. One of their choices led past a house with three dogs in it. They took this route if one of them had smuggled biscuits to feed the dogs. The route that led past a bakery was a favourite for all four and it was taken on special occasions like birthdays or when one of them had some money to spend. How good the samosas and cakes they shared there tasted, Ria thought.
And no matter which route they chose, there was always the fun of going over the events of the school day, giggling over the silly things classmates had said and done, worrying away at the threats of tests and exams. Ria had always been surprised at how quickly time had passed when she walked home with her friends.
The new route should have taken less time. And yet, thought Ria, her feet dragging as she walked away from her friends, and yet, this route seemed so much longer. And, she thought with a sigh, so much lonelier. The thought stopped her short. And there in the middle of the road Ria thought of the two routes she could take home. She could still hear the faint sounds of her friends’ voices.
Shalini was saying something in her usual mock-serious style, something that was causing the other two to laugh. Ria smiled to hear Trisha’s hoot of laughter mingling with Sunita’s guffaw. And suddenly Ria understood exactly what she was missing by taking the shorter route home. She knew that she couldn’t weigh and measure those things. But they were still things that mattered to her, things whose absence left her feeling lonely. Her mind made up, Ria turned. Her friends were nearing the end of the road, and the way in which Sunita and Trisha were staggering all over the road told her that they were laughing hard.
“Hey!” Ria called loudly. “Wait for me!” She waved at her surprised friends and ran towards them. Sometimes, she thought, the long way home was often the happier way. And that was the way she chose to take.
This story was published in Young World, The Hindu.