During my elementary years of attending school in Bangladesh, my ride or die companion was ( and still is) Zema.
Zema was the kind of a friend who I had always turned to when I had a bad day. To me, she kind-hearted soul full of laughter, excitement and immense spontaneity. She always shared the most fascinating ideas and stories which was cherished by many of the people around.
There were many splendid memories that I have shared with Zema. But there was this one particular time when we both had truly surpassed the height of our friendship ; and that was during a traffic jam.
It was a scorching hot afternoon when I had just been picked up from school by our driver and my mom. As we were closer to the city square, all the cars had to stop as the vehicles from the east and west lanes were crossing. Our car was about 50 rickshaws, 70 motor bikes and 20 buses away from the square. Unequivocally, my mom and I knew we were going to be stuck for quite a while.
Being someone who easily became bored, I started making a fuss. Traffic Jams were the worst in Dhaka city. I remembered that I had just returned my Goosebumps novel to the school library and I had nothing to keep myself entertained with.
To this day, I cannot really explain if at that particular moment, the universe had somehow heard my silent complaints. As I looked through my car window, there was Zema, sitting in her car, looking just as dissatisfied as I was.
I was instantly delighted once I saw her. I waved at her through my window in the most noticeable way.
To her delight, she waved back at me excitedly. We both exchanged mischievous grins and our brains automatically responded to something I had never thought it was capable of.
In an instant, I found myself in a tense game of rock, paper and scissors. We both had played about a total of ten rounds. I was so persistent in having the game to go on as long as it could because she was scoring more points than me. I just had to beat her!
To my disappointment, our cars began to separate towards different directions. The traffic was over, and I was getting further away from Zema. Our car was basically travelling through the main road now, but I could still get a glimpse of her grumpy face and fidgeting wrist through the window, zig zagging past the other cars.
Our willingness to keep proceeding with the game was just so extraordinary that made my mom laugh . Soon, her car was many miles ahead of us, and I am glad to say I ended up scoring the most points and won the game... at least I hope I did.
To this day, I still communicate with Zema. Thankfully, I was able to reach out to her through social media and we both enjoyed a good laugh, reminiscing about our crazy adventures together in school.
If memory serves right, I recall a particular story that made us laugh until our stomachs hurt, and it is one of my personal favourites.
This story dates back all the way to the second grade. Zema and I were both transfer students from Scholastica ( another English medium school in Dhaka). Interestingly enough, this was both of our first time together switching schools. To me, I believe that the change of environment was a significant aspect which brought me and Zema together as close friends. Scholastica was a relatively ginormous school with a ginormous population of students. Thus, it was difficult for many kids to socialise with each other because cliques and social groups were starting to become the status quo.
It was apparent that fate performed it's job quite wonderfully, as Zema and I had quickly become one of the most inseparable pairs in our grade at Chittagong Grammar School. We both did everything together : Sharing snacks, helping each other with homework, group projects and participating in the same after-school activities etcetera etcetera. We became notorious to all of the teachers and staff for our friendship.
One of the most important things that really brought Zema and I together, was our unplanned passion for Songwriting. And this in particular, has a story all on it's own...
During the primary years of school, trendy entertainment hubs such as Barbie, was the craze for all kinds of feisty eleven year olds. And the two of us were among the perfect exemplars. There was one particular movie about a princess who became best friends with purple-haired popstar, who wrote her own magical songs. This 'popstar' was Zema's favourite and I would always end up being the pink puffy-dressed princess ( even though I always yearned to be the cool-haired popstar). Now I'll have you be informed that I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the main concept of this Barbie film, had gradually merged into realm of our realities. This movie became our life. We were the characters.
Now this brings me to my point of how much my friendship with Zema was so special, and very much similar to my cousin ; We both embraced our imagination.. enormously.
Moving on, our imagination took over a major pedestal on a regular day in our second grade English class. Our teacher assigned us to practice our writing skills from copying a paragraph written on the board. As I invested myself into perfecting the letters on my notebook with the tip of my pencil, a sound like "Pssst" came from around the corner. I turned to my side, and noticed Zema making that noise. I wanted to laugh so bad because she put on such a silly expression when she excited to tell me something. But this teacher in front of us was like a shark ; any movement and we would be toast in an instant.
When the shark walked to the cupboard at the back of the classroom, Zema quickly tossed a paper ball at me. I unfolded it, noticing it had a very persuasive note.
" Let's go work on our song together ! We are going to be famous by the end of the month I promise. If you say no, I will find myself a new princess best friend! "
At the age of eight, I was on the weirdest verge of being very protective of my friendships. I was infatuated with the idea of being part of a clique. Being excluded was like a poison to me. I wanted to know everything about everything because it made me happy and almost weirdly, having that justification, was like a homeostatic balance in my soul. I was not going to have Zema be disappointed in me. Or worse, I did not want to leave my assignment unfinished to that hungry shark.
Stupidly, I followed my heart and said "Ok" at the end of the note. I passed it to Zema and she giddily hopped off her chair and asked the teacher if she could use the restroom. The next task was for me to follow her. The shark responded with an annoyed 'Yes'. Waiting exactly after fifteen minutes, I asked if I could use the washroom as well.
The shark flashed a venomous stare into my face and said " Only one student at a time. You can only go when Zema gets back". I gulped. Before I grieved the coming days my friendless life after not helping Zema with the song, I almost became surprised when I noticed that she never really left. The door in our classroom had one window, and peeking through it was Zema, mouthing to me " Come on, Lets go". I could not believe it. She wanted me to ditch the class on the spot. The shark was back facing the cupboard. She could still hear if I closed the door, if I left the classroom.
Somehow, I had successfully managed to exit, without any of my classmates snitching on me. Guilt poured over me like a thunderstorm. I ran to the restroom, and there was Zema, dramatically reciting the lyrics of the song.
" Finally you made it! You have got to be bit more serious about this Raisa. This is the epitome of our career!!" she announced proudly.
" We only have one song. And we are not even old enough to find a record label" I responded, still feeling guilty for what I did.
" Ugh! who cares? I have a vision. I have the Perfect Plan!" she said, enunciating the Ps in a refined manner.
" You always do." I said blankly but kindly.
She handed me the piece of paper. It felt veiny because it was folded so many times under her grip. I looked at the lyrics and... I did not say a single word after reading it:
" The forest was dark. And I was running There was a dark shadow and I still kept running Suddenly, I wasn't so afraid. But I still kept running."
We both thought it was probably the best worst song ever written. In our latest conversation, we even tried to sing the lyrics but only ended up embarrassing ourselves through unstoppable fits of laughter. Personally, I found this moment in my life, truly fascinating on how watching one barbie film at a tender age was the major gateway to nurturing an undying obsession.
Nevertheless, I have vowed, that never in my life, I would trade these memories with Zema for anything. To this day, we both walk the earth as voracious daydreamers, a purple-haired popstar and a princess, and lastly as best friends for infinity...