I have been meaning to write this series for a long time. It is about those individuals, in no particular order, who have come into my life by chance, left an indelible impression in my heart, touched my soul and, by god, did I thank my stars that they did.
I rewind my memories to my days as a senior registrar at the leading cancer hospital in Mumbai. It was one of those hectic days in the operating rooms and I was shuttling from one case to the other. Sometimes, as strange as it may sound, we never get introduced to new recruits in the department until we bump into them inside an operating room. I was called in to assist at an anesthesia procedure. And there was this petite lady helping me through the process. At first glance she looked to be a fresher who has just finished her exams. And I was showing her the ropes! The case completed successfully and patient wheeled into recovery. In the ladies changing room, we met again. This time, she was dashing out the door so that she could reach her home in Colaba to spend time with her daughter. My jaws dropped when this simple and petite woman disclosed to me in that fleeting moment that she was a mother of a teenage daughter!
The next day, I walked back into the operating theatre and we chatted a bit. She had graduated out of Chennai too. That gave us some common ground as we discussed Chennai. She told me that she has been moving places every 3-4 years since her husband worked for the Armed Forces. And this is how life had brought her to Mumbai. Experiencing cultures, cities and, generally, taking life as it comes had become her way of life, she informed me.
Soon our meetings moved from the busy operating room to lunch time breaks with our own tiffin boxes in the ladies common room. It brought me back to childhood and school days when one is always eager to eat out of a friends dabba (slang for tiffin box).Somehow, those dabba friends always remained so close to one's heart! Of course, the conversation quickly moved to Indian politics, helpers at home, Mumbai monsoons, her daughters yachting experiences, difficult cases we encountered during surgery and intensive care and life! This was a far cry from school days when we used to talk about our teachers and other friends. Since I studied in an all girls school, boys in the neighbourhood always were discussed !!
My friend and, by now, soul sister was also always up to date with most of the fascinating events happening around in the city. Music, dance, book exhibitions and theatre. One day she brought me a book to read. She insisted that I start reading it the very same day as soon as I reach home. The book was titled "It's not about the bike" by Lance Armstrong.
It was at this very moment, without any realization, I embarked on a beautiful journey. 'Running' had entered my life. The very next day, I stepped out of my home, dusted off and laced my sports shoes to take the first baby steps in running.
She also registered me to run the dream run (7 kms) in Mumbai while she went about training for her first half marathon. By now, our discussions during lunch time was completely about training, shoes, nutrition and fitness.
As in life, time rolled by. And, in a blink, years had passed. She had completed a hospital management program. I had completed my postgraduate degree and worked as a consultant at the hospital. One day, we moved places and parted ways.
It was almost 4 years since we communicated. One quiet winter afternoon as I was watching my first ever snowfall outside the windows, I fondly remembered my good friend and sent her an email. However, the email failed to deliver. Many subsequent attempts to reach her failed and I thought that I had lost her forever?
As luck would have it, I chanced upon her husbands email due to his deputation for work at the Indian embassy in foreign lands. I took a chance and sent him an email, telling him that I was hoping to reconnect with a long lost soul sister and good friend. The very next day, I received an answer from her. And we swore then that we will stay connected. We started from where we had left off last - chatting about good times.
There are many days when I remember the fun times we have had. Distance does make the heart grow fonder. This, I guess, is true of any relationship. Especially those with very close friends. Now, when we meet up on my annual visits to India, over a cup of coffee, we still pick up from where we left. And this is such a beautiful feeling.
She has trekked the arduous Mt Kailash Manasarovar and shared a lot about the awakening of her soul amidst the Himalayan ranges and living the moment. She also talked to me about a non profit organisation called Isha Foundation http://www.ishafoundation.org/ that she volunteers for. She also shared a thing or two about "Inner Engineering". Like always, I continue to listen with an eager ear.
Today is more richer for me because Shanthi continues to be a close friend that she is. To quote her words to me one day "Life is beautiful because of the experiences that our friends bring in to our lives". All that I can say is I am blessed that she walked into mine.
Who is your Shanthi ?