Neha watched helplessly was Pramod collapsed on the floor. He was breathing heavily and was sweating profusely.She didn’t know what to do ,so she ran down the corridor and tried knocking Mr. Kapoor’s door but no one had answered the doorbell. She tried calling all her high society friends but all of them had excuses and some promised to come but still hadn’t arrived. Today Pramod had lost  his job and all the money he had ever made. His boss had committed a fraud in the company and Pramod was also implicated in it.The news had splashed across all media and had come as a shock to Pramod. As she was wondering what to do she suddenly remembered her childhood friend Kusum. She lived in a small colony nearby. Though they had been best friends in childhood they hardly talked now despite of living so close by.

Her mind went back to her childhood. Kusum and Neha were neighbours. They were best of friends and did everything together. Neha was ambitious and dreamt of moving to big city to study further. However Kusum was very homely and simple. She had very small aspirations and dreams. As the grew up their friendship also blossomed. Their nature’s complemented each other perfectly. Kusum was not jealous of Neha ever.In fact she always helped Neha balance out her decisions. After college Neha went to Mumbai for further studies. But she and Kusum were always in touch. Neha confided in Kusum about all her wild doings- the drinking parties she had, her boyfriends. In Mumbai Neha met Pramod , Kusum was the first one to know that Neha was in love. He wasn’t from their community, it was Kusum who had helped convince her parents to get her married.

Kusum’s parents were not as modern or well to do as Neha’s . After she had graduated they had found a good match for her and got her married. Ajay was a simple boy who worked as a school teacher in Mumbai. Kusum was very excited to move to Mumbai because it meant that she would be closer to Neha. However off late Neha’s calls and mails had become irregular. On reaching Mumbai, Kusum excitedly called Neha but she only got a lukewarm response. Neha didn’t seem as excited to meet her as Kusum was. Anyways Kusum put this thought aside.

Kusum and Ajay lived in a small apartment in a colony in Vile Parle. Their one room kitchen might be small but Kusum was very happy.Though he didn’t make a lot of money he was very kind hearted. Kusum lived a very mediocre life but she was extremely content in her small world. Neha on the other hand lived in a plush 3 BHK apartment in Bandra. Pramod had done well for himself and was rising the corporate ladders. As both of them climed in status, friendship with Kusum started to feel awkward.

Couple times when they had gone to meet Kusum at her place had been painful. Pramod turned his nose up at the narrow lanes as he maneuvered his BMW. Neha was cringing at the sight of garbage can right across the lane. Kusum had prepared an elaborate lunch to welcome Neha. But Pramod cribbed about sitting on the floor and eating. Neha took wipes out and started to clean the plates and spoons. Kusum was heartbroken. She couldn’t believe it was her best friend Neha. Kusum was a good cook so the meal was very tasty but Pramod commented on the oil saying it wasn’t healthy. Pramod kept taunting them about their tiny 1 room kitchen flatAfter that slowly Kusum and Neha drifted away. Neha immersed herself in her high society world while Kusum was happy in her small world too. Kusum missed Neha but Neha had drifted far apart.

Suddenly sound of Pramod screaming pulled Neha back to present. She was ashamed to call Kusum after the way she had treated her.With great hesitation Neha mustered courage to call her. Phone was ringing but no one seemed to be answering.She was wondering if Kusum would ever attend her calls. Just as she was about to disconnect she heard her friend’s voice. In midst of her sobs she told Kusum what had happened. Kusum had read about the scam in papers in the morning and was wanting to call Neha but she hadn’t. Kusum asked her to be calm. “I’ll be there in 10 minutes, till then you keep rubbing his chest”. She woke her husband Ajay and told him about the call.Both of them called an ambulance, asked the Pramila aunty in the neighborhood to come and sleep with the kids and left for Neha’s place.

On seeing them Neha felt a sense of relief wash over her. Never had she felt so lonely and deserted as she had in past few hours. The ambulance arrived and Pramod was shifted to the hospital. He had experienced a cardiac arrest. Ajay did the entire running about right from making sure Pramod was attended by doctors to getting medicines for him.Through the night Kusum held Neha’s hand and sat right with her. Finally as dawn broke out doctors told Neha that Pramod was out of danger but he would be in hospital for a few days under observation.Neha had no words to thank Kusum. She hugged her and said ” I am sorry Kusum. I chased the rainbow thinking there is a treasure at other end. I forget real treasure is in relationships we make. Please forgive me”. Kusum wiped her tears and hugged her and said” Friends are always there to help you. I will leave my kids to school and be back with lunch”

Over the next few days Ajay and Kusum went all out to help Neha and Pramod. Today Pramod was getting discharged. Ajay had just finished completing all the formalities for his discharge. Pramod and Neha were peniless now. So Ajay and Kusum put them up in their house till they sorted their lives.Today Pramod had found a new job and rented a small apartment nearby. As they were leaving Pramod looked at Ajay with his eyes moist with gratitude and held his hand and said. ” I kept mocking at your 1 room kitchen but your one 1 room kitchen is far bigger than my apartment. Thank you for everything”. Ajay looked at him and said, ” I don’t want thanks.  I am glad to have helped”. Pramod looked at him and said, “However big I become, I will always have a one room kitchen to help someone in need”

 

 

 

 

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