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The baby yowled again. She sighed! She wanted to prepare dinner and was already running late with her chores. But the impish 21 months old would not allow her to perform any task and bawled the moment she turned towards the stove. She tried all the tricks to keep the toddler occupied but when nothing worked, she was left with no choice but to hold the tiny tot in one hand and cook. It was uncomfortable because she was making Koftas and hence, had to be tremendously vigilant to ensure there was no spluttering of oil on the child cocooned in her arms. Sounds like a typical day in the life of a mother? Well, yes it is, except that the child is definitely mine but the lady in question is not me, but is my close friend who lives in my neighbourhood. That is the kind of bond my little one shares with my loved ones who reside in my housing complex.
Friends have always played a pivotal role in my life. Needless to say, my family means the world to me and I cannot imagine my life without them. But, my friends are my lifeline and they occupy a unique place in my heart. My friends have stood by me like a rock in every circumstance come what may. They have looked after me during times of illness or despair, when I was away from family. They have watched my back and instilled in me the confidence to be myself. They have brought out the best in me by invariably egging me on to tap and hone my abilities. They have always made me feel like a star. They have given me immeasurable moments to cherish for a lifetime. They have taught me lessons about life which no book or teacher could ever edify me on.
I have been extremely fortunate to have found wonderful people at every stage of my life. I lived in many cities owing to the nature of my father’s job and fostered deep connections with some friends at every place I set foot on including, of course, the six years of my hostel life. But once I began to traverse the conduit of the corporate world, I started to feel that I can no longer get myself to make those “special” kind of friends - the kind of friends with whom you don’t just have unlimited fun but you can bare your soul to; the kind of friends with whom you feel at home even in the strangest of surroundings; the kind of friends with whom you are connected through some invisible strings which last through the entire life span regardless of the number of times you meet or interact. Once I took my nuptial vows, the workload at office and then the domestic responsibilities left us with little time for socializing. Gradually, without any real basis, the notion that I have probably crossed the stage when I can give my all to a new friendship, etched itself in my mind. Who has time in today’s fast-paced world for it anyway – I thought!
But, the universe conspired and we purchased our own apartment, which according to me has been one of the best decisions of our lives. The society that we live in is one of its kinds. There is a sense of belonging each one of us feels here. It’s a lively abode abuzz with the energy and vibrancy of the residents and there is a positive, welcoming and affable vibe that is all around in the air here. Though I warmed up to the place instantly, I still kept my distance when it came to making new friends. I enjoyed their company but did not make efforts to spend more time with them. But, being a sucker for genuine love and warmth, how long could I stay away! My neighbour was my first friend here and through her I got acquainted with a few ladies, with whom I went on to build close ties eventually. However, the “unyielding me” would still say to my old friends – “Yes I have good friends but it’s not like how we were during college.”
Then, one fine day, I saw the two pink lines which transformed my world in more ways than one. Pregnancy made me realize how imprudent I had been all this while. My community friends made my pregnancy a smooth and pleasurable experience, so much so that I did not feel the need for the presence of anyone else from my family till a little before my due date. I was pampered in profusion in every way possible and was treated to lip-smacking delicacies throughout. My mother was also particularly glad and reassured to witness the manner in which we all connected with each other.
Since the birth of my daughter, my friends have become that village which is instrumental in raising a child. It is so relieving and soothing to be encompassed by a strong support system, especially when your husband has erratic working hours. I have never had to worry about any kind of emergency because of the existence of such obliging, accommodating and amazing people right next to me who never blink an eye even when they have to go out of their way to respond to a call of distress. Like once I was not able to reach my husband when I was down with high fever, and a friend immediately offered to take my daughter to her place while I snoozed away to glory at home.
My heart wells up with joy and gratitude to see my daughter being showered with abundance of love by everyone. She is adored by all of my friends and their children who belong to various age groups. She gets to learn different things from different people and all this stimulation is aiding her growth positively. Having a village means I have a troop of folks to lean on for support and advice. Sometimes, it is not even about taking suggestions or seeking opinions. It’s not even about having deep, soul-stirring conversations all the time. Parenthood is a roller-coaster and during the lows, it is a huge stress buster to have someone who can listen to you without getting judgemental or someone who can make you laugh in a way only friends can. You get enough opportunities for a breather as you know your child is being watched by someone responsible and trusted during a gathering. There are times when my daughter refuses to even come to me because she wants to be with her amorous extended family, and I am delighted to be blessed with such moments. She also refers to a close friend of mine as “mummy” at times and I am indebted to God for bestowing her with such motherly figures in her life. I know that she knows she can count upon them always.
In the era of nuclear families, it is indeed a blessing to stumble upon friends who become like family with so much ease that you do not even realize when and how. I am pleased with the fact that I have got myself to let off my guards and make friends again, the way I have been doing all my life. When you have such fine friends in close vicinity, everyday is a party! I know there are many who manage exceptionally well without one, but for me, it takes a village to raise a child and also a mother, and I am glad I have been endowed with mine.