Hema was my neighbour in Muscat way back in 1999. She moved in a year or so after I did. She was only 22, and newly married. Being younger to me by almost eight years, she called me didi, but was far more adept at domestic matters than me. I hugely admired her for that. She would spend a big part of the day with me, helping me with my chores (despite my protests), sharing romantic tidbits from her wedded life and amusing me with her nonstop chatter about this and that. Although I was also fairly fresh in matrimony at that time (having been hitched reluctantly only in 1998), Hema was true endorsement for a happily married life. She was a symbol of undiluted spirit. We bonded very well, without expectations, judgments, misgivings and hesitation.
However, within a year, her husband lost his job and they were sent packing overnight. Before she left, she presented me two of her designer salwar kameezs that she had made for her wedding, as keepsake. And a pink glass bowl that someone had gifted her. We managed to stay in touch over hand-written letters for a while, and then, like all fleeting connections that peter out with time, Hema too merged with the crowd and became a memory.
The dresses she gave me aren’t with me (I think I passed one on to my sister), but the bowl still is. I make sure that it travels with me on every relocation.
I have been thinking of her a lot these days, especially while walking past neighboring doors behind which live near-strangers. I have been trying to find her through facebook, but to no avail. No face that FB throws up by her name resembles her, even if I factor in changes that might have come over her with time and age.
For some reason, Hema still remains a part of my life. Distant, yet unforgotten. You don’t need to spend a lifetime with someone to make them a distinct part of it. Do you? Seen in that light, what seems the most tenuous and tentative might be among the most enduring ties in our lives.
(Hema’s pink glass bowl)