Her name is Tina for me, she is also known as Sanyukta (by her colleagues), Payal (by her granny), Giggles (by her dad & uncle)...but to me she has always been Tina - so that's what I will refer to her as.
I first met Tina in 1989 in Kanpur and must not have even registered much about her then. I was ten and she was eight...her dad got transfered to Kanpur and within a month of that, my dad got transfered out. Leaving no time for us to even know each other. But - one or two meetings back then are good enough for me to claim that I first met Tina in 1989.
We met next in 1995, in Bareilly Air Force Station. Yet again, our dad's were posted there together. This time I was in Delhi (with mum and sis), staying back for academic reasons and Tina was with her parents.
During summer vacations, I went to Bareilly to spend the vacations with dad. There I had no friends (as I was a visitor) and found one in Tina. Apparently, she had also just moved there and didn't mind spending her time with me. This time, our time spent together had more meaning than that in 1989. We had more to talk to, we had more to express. We would go out on long 'evening-walks', talk for hours and not get tired...I think this is the foundation that holds us together still.
Tina and I met many times during that month-long stay and post that we became pen-friends. I had recently been bitten by writing-bug and she responded letter-to-letter. We have never really counted how many letters did we exchange - but we have kept each one written by the other till date. The first one is dated Nov 1995, don't remember who wrote the last and when though!
The next phase of our friendship came in 1997, when dad was posted in Allahabad and she was still in Bareilly with her folks. I finished XII boards - ran to A'bad and stayed there for a month. Since A'bad and B'ly are in the same Command (CAC) and dad was heading communications for this command - I had the priviledge of free communication between these towns. Which only meant that when dad was working, I was on the phone with Tina. During one such conversation, the idea of her coming to Delhi and joining AFBBS's girls hostel came up. The only question was - who would be her Local Gaurdian in Delhi. For the smart ones - this wouldn't be difficult to imagine who it turned out to be.
Tina joined AFBBS, with my folks as her LGs and I had the responsibility to bring her home every once a month on a weekend and drop her back. I should also mention here that Tina came to Delhi conquering the X boards, scoring 90% plus, topping in her school (I think she stood 3rd in Bareilly). Coming back to the weekends, Tina and I would talk for hours, talk through the night and still be left with topics for the next time we met.
I was in college and had got my driving license. Dad had handed over his faithful Bajaj Super to me, but bought me the sexiest head-gear - a Ninja helmet! So here I was, riding a 1988 model Bajaj, with a 1998 model helmet with my would be sweet-heart as my pillion. I am still thankful to her that she never refused being my companion for a ride on my oldie scooter.
It took me a few months and a trip to Bareilly (Dec 1997) to seal the fact that I wanted to propose to her. I was eighteen and she was sixteen then. This would be the first time for me and didn't know what to do or even how to approach her. What I knew was she was indeed my best friend and that I really did want her as a 'girl-friend' not just a friend.
I resorted to my biggest strength then - letter-writing. I wrote my feelings in a letter, wrote a long letter (which was not new for me). Wrote that I knew we were too young, or that this probably was not required...but I could justify this as an experiment. I didn't know how far would we go, couldn't promise a lifetime of togetherness at that age. What I knew was that if I didn't propose to her now - I might never!
Tina got that letter around 9th Feb 1998, came over to our house on the weekend, 13th Feb and after a lot of explaining, cajoling, pleading...she said yes at mid-night! Giving me my first Valentine's Card. I held her in my arms for the first time that night.
This was exactly a decade ago...we celebrated 10th anniversary of our togetherness this year. I could not have been happier with the way things have turned out. I could not have asked for a better shape for that one experiment. I could not have asked for a better life-partner.
Tina - you are my life-line, you hold my life together. I love you loads my sugarpie!