Being competitive is fine, till the competition enters friendships. This story examines friends whose life is taken over by their need to do better than the other.
Word of the day is – Friends.
A walk in the park
It had started as a walk in the park on the day when Prachi and her best friend Kiran had met, just as they did every evening, to go cycling. But Prachi’s cycle had a puncture that day. And that’s when Prachi had her brainwave. “Let’s go into the park!” she had said.
The Park was a grand name for a piece of land with some shrubs, a few swings, benches for senior citizens, and a path meant for walking. The girls had looked at the screaming children on the wings, the women resting their feet on the benches and decided to walk. “After all,” Kiran had reasoned, “it is good exercise!” And so, giggling, the two of them had started on their first walk around the park. At the end of one circle there hadn’t seemed any reason to stop walking, so they had continued. And by the time darkness cloaked the park, turning the shrubs into shadowy shapes, the girls had walked twenty times around the park.
“That was fun!” Prachi had said. “We should do it again!”
And Kiran had agreed. That was how their evening walks had started. Cycling had been fun but they hadn’t been able to talk to each other. Walking gave them with the perfect opportunity to chat about their day. Things might have continued in this way but one day Kiran didn’t turn up for her walk. Prachi waited for her for ten minutes and then she set out for the park. Without anybody to talk to, Prachi was able to walk much faster. By the time the park began to fill with shadows, she had walked around the park 24 times. “Four times more that I usually do!” Prachi congratulated herself. “Wait till I tell Kiran!”
But when she told Kiran about her achievements of the day before, the news seemed to irritate her friend. She said nothing however, and the two girls walked their usual twenty rounds. Kiran didn’t turn up the next day again. Prachi waited for some time and then went to the park. When she got there she was astonished to see Kiran walking around the park. “I’ve already done five circles,” Krian called triumphantly. “Come on!” Prachi joined her but the two friends found little to say to each other that day. Both of them were busy with their thoughts and the silence stretched between them.
Prachi didn’t even bother to wait for Kiran the next day. She simply set out from her house the minute she was washed and changed out of her school uniform. By the time Kiran appeared, Prachi had walked six times around the park. She smiled at Kiran, triumphant at having bettered her friend’s score. That day the girls hardly spoke to each other; all their energies were concentrated on getting ahead.
After that it was out in the open – the competition between them to see who would walk more number of times around the park and do better than the other. Now Prachi raced home the minute she got off her bus. Kiran’s bus usually drove up ten to fifteen minutes after her bus and she meant to take full advantage of this fact. She changed out of her school clothes, washed hurriedly, grabbed a few biscuits to eat as she walked and then was out of the house, hoping to walk more circles than Kiran. Thanks to the difference in their school and bus timings, Prachi thought, she was winning. Till the day Prachi walked into the park to see Krian just ahead of her. The two girls glared at each other, making no attempt to even say ‘hi’. And then they were both off, practically running to try and keep up with the other, their breaths coming fast, muscles aching as they pushed themselves to their limits. “I am winning,” Prachi thought. “I am just a little ahead!”
And then all at once Kiran stopped walking. Surprise made Prachi stop and she stared at Kiran. “I can’t go on like this,” Kiran said. “It’s so stupid!” And even though she hadn’t specified what was stupid, Prachi knew at once. “Yes,” she sighed. “Yes, it is stupid!”
“We didn’t start walking to compete with each other,” Kiran said. “And now we are always competing with each other…”
“I know,” Prachi said. “Coming here earlier and earlier,”
“And trying to walk faster,” Kiran said.
They stood in silence, thinking over their silliness and feeling ashamed of themselves.
“And today,” Kiran said, “I didn’t even eat anything because my bus was so late and I wanted to be here before you!”
“I didn’t eat anything much too,” Prachi admitted. “I didn’t want to stop and eat the Poha Ai had made! It smelled wonderful, though,” she added.
“Ooh! Poha!” Kiran groaned. “What I wouldn’t give to eat a plate full of hot Poha!”
“Come home with me,” Prachi said, “And you can eat all the Poha you want! Though,” she added, “I am sure I can eat more than you!”
“Prachi!” Kiran said, “How can you even think that? Don’t you know I can beat anyone at eating Poha!” And arguing happily, the friends walked towards the Poha, for once not thinking about a walk in the park.
This story was published in Young Buzz, Sakal Times.