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Stories. 
Two Friends
by Subhajit Ghosh

Susmita and Mandira are best friends. Actually, they've a lot of things in common. They live in the same locality, went to the same school, and studied in the same class. Moreover, they shared the same interests. As time went by, they even shared all things equally. Everyday at school, during recess, they shared their tiffins which both had brought from home. The bond between them was cohesive.

Inspite of the many similarities they shared, there was a difference. It was their academic performance in class. Susmita was an exceptional student and a topper. Mandira, on the contrary, was quite content if she could just scrape through. Susmita did try to help her friend in studies, but Mandira seemed totally disinterested in improving her performance. Anyway, let's not get mired in these facts. Because this did not affect their friendship in any way.

After school, they used to return home together. "I hate studies. When I grow up, I'll set up a business in cosmetics. I will also open a Beauty parlor" Mandira told Susmita one day.

Mandira used to spend most of her free time in Susmita's house. Susmita's mother, Indrani, a housewife, loved Mandira dearly like her own daughter. Mandira's parent were a working couple, and usually returned late in the evening from work. They hardly found time to speak to Mandira. When there was no school, Mandira didn't enjoy staying alone at home and generally went over to Susmita's place and spend her time over there.

 "You're always welcome at my house, Mandira" Susmita used to tell her.

That year, particularly during her summer vacation, Mandira stayed mostly at Susmita's house. In the afternoons and evenings, they played games and had great fun. Susmita's mother even took them to the cinema on a few occasions. She cooked good food for them. But the short period of merriment ended when school reopened.

This was a particularly difficult period for Mandira. They had to sit for a couple of examination. Mandira dreaded the evaluation process. She was particularly weak in mathematics. On a few occasions, Mandira asked her busy mother to help her with some problems. She was a computer programmer in a MNC. She did solve them, but Mandira was unable to comprehend those solutions or her logic. Since then, Mandira desisted from seeking her help.

She could have taken Susmita's help though. But possibly her ego prevented her. She was really all at sea at the time of her annual examination.

"How's your preparation for exam?," a concerned Susmita asked her one day. 

"Quite well," Mandira said trying to put up a brave face.

***

One night, Mandira kept tossing restlessly on her bed.  Her parents had just rebuked her. Mandira has failed in her promotion examination, while her friend Susmita secured second rank in class.

It meant Mandira will be in the same class next year. Added to this pain was another which kept troubling her

"Susmita and I are in different class now. Will she continue to be as close to me as before? How will I show my face to her mother? Have I lost a good friend forever?"

Tears welled up in her eyes as these thoughts floated across her mind. A pin-drop silence in her parents' room implied that they were fast asleep, oblivious of her torment. For tomorrow is another busy working day in their lives.   

1-Feb-2001
 
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