I resisted the temptation of doing it. I could see why some people might consider it wrong, but my own time and experience tells me that it’s absolutely fine. If there is a chance that I can pull it off, why shouldn’t I. So I decided to keep the hound of morality at bay and let myself take a deep breathe. But letting the guards down didn’t bode well. The breathing increased the pressure from within. My gravest fear came true. The balloon burst! I could only sense exhilaration in my heart as if I would drop off some cliff I had been hanging on, for way too long. I guess it’s time to touch the ground and find something more credible and less stressful to live by. With these thoughts still going strong, my alarm clock woke me up at 6am in the morning.
Since the very start of my life, I had learnt to live by the idea of an ideal girl. I should not interrupt anyone while speaking, even if they are saying absurd things. My hair should hold together to form a tidy pony. My books and copies should not have dog ends. Homework should be done on time and I should go to bed by 10. No ice-creams when I have cold and no candies from the road side vendors. So I grew up creating a list of ‘to-practice’ habits. There was another list, that I believed in; the ‘my-values’ list. It had those points of the imposed principles of morality, I voted as true. So when my best friend asked me to help her meet the boy she likes, I got super-excited. One, it totally had no mention in any list. Two, it sounded like something which might fall in the NOT to-practice category by my parents but it just might qualify into ‘my-values’ ! Social service as I assumed it was, hadn’t featured yet either. There was kindness and helping the needy and impoverished, in both the lists. But probably since I had only crossed the age of 9 yet and had at least another 9 years before I started earning, social service wasn’t discussed separately. I will not let this grey area opportunity go. It feels absolutely wrong and yet I can justify it to myself.
The next day, we went to the 3rd street to the left of our bus stop, just after the school. There was a big military training ground there. Since my family didn’t know someone who lived in this street, I hadn’t been here before. Even though it was just 3 streets away, it felt like entering a different city. THAT was an evil thing to do. I was nervous but I couldn’t let it show in front of my friend; she trusted me for being cool. This boy she wanted to meet was from school. He lived across the military ground. When we reached there she spotted him behind a scooter parked towards the other end of the park. That’s it. I turned to go. If she wanted to meet someone who looked like a rogue, I could accompany only so far. Not meeting people who looked dangerous belonged to both the lists. Also, he wasn’t wearing the school uniform. That meant he skipped school today. I developed a sudden dislike for those who skipped school for no reason and hideously wanted to meet a classmate. So declaring that my part was over, I turned to go. My friend could spend all the time with this boy, she wanted. The blazing sun was another major deterrent and I could imagine my mother coming over to the bus-stop, if I didn’t reach back in next 10 minutes. I had to leave now. My friend however, was more scared than I. When I proposed that I should better leave, she told me, probably we both should. I scoffed at her response. She should at least say a ‘hi’. So I forced her to go and meet him. I didn’t want all of it to happen for nothing. For all I know, I will get a good scolding at home for being late. (My bus drops me back at 2:15pm. It was 2:25 already. And I had 3 extra streets to cross to reach home.) She better made the plan a success.
On my threatening her, that I am not helping her ever in the future if she blew this one, she agreed to cross the park and meet him. But she wanted me to stand by and promised to return quickly. Looking at her fearful guilty face I knew she would be back in 5 minutes. She crossed the street and reached to the scooter. The boy walked towards her and gave a wry smile. After an uncomfortable minute, she turned her back to the boy, and ran back. This entire thing took 4 minutes and 33 seconds. I was proud of my friend. She did what had to be done. I felt accomplished because in these four and a half minutes, I had accomplished a feat over the bigger list. As for my friend, she could now claim that she had a boyfriend, which made her happy. But more than anything, both of us were glad to run back to our homes. We could say the bus got late. We might get a scolding if they found out, but none of us would ever give in the secret. The stakes were equally high. Our bond strengthened by this small incident, we knew we were best friends for life.
As time moved on, the additions to the ‘to-practice’ decreased in frequency. About 6 months later, my parent’s got transferred. Even though we lived in the same city, I didn’t meet my friend often. Over these years we hadn’t shared any new secret. She realized I wasn’t cool and so didn’t invite me to any such ‘meetings’ in the future. I didn’t think feel like friends anymore. We had become shadows of each-other’s childhood. We created our own set of friendships. On completing school, I moved to a hostel for further studies. My list grew at a faster pace than my parent’s. When I returned to town after my degree and we met, we didn’t even have much to share. We discussed life formally. I had grown out of my parent’s list into my list. My parent’s list now looked like a paper torn out of an old yellowed copy, so feeble, that one might wonder if it ever was all mighty. It smelled like rotten pumpkin. I didn’t even realize when I, eventually, discarded it. Morality had found a new meaning. My morality was different from my friend’s or my parent’s. But it wasn’t imposed on me. It was not a hound anymore. It was like a resting chair. I could choose to sit on any chair, but at the end of the day, I would want to go comfortable on this chair. This is where I would sit and read myself to a peaceful sleep, every night.