Do you remember that chicken soup corner at the end of the street. Where there was a huge banyan tree, and the road forked. You found it the year before I was to graduate. And boy, did we make the most of that. The first time you bought soup for me, I had been down with the flu. Influenza, as you would call it, it was a thorough windy afternoon of winter. And the warden's assistant called. I had a visitor. You were waiting downstairs with a tall plastic cup in hand, your face seemed smaller, your glasses covered most of it. You looked a different boy from afar, very apart from the backbencher-latecomer in class. The soup was only lukewarm. My shawl din't stand the breeze. Your t-shirt had swollen up, the wind got in and bloated it up. Like a balloon.
Three days later, when you had gotten my cold, we had walked down to that soup corner. Together, for the first of many times. It was only a shack, back then. Boys and girls, sat in pairs, stood in pairs, about the cemented base of the banyan tree, cycles parked in tandem. You shook one and the entire pack would collapse, one upon its adjacent. I actually wanted to do that once, shake on cycle and run for my life. Or pretend that nothing happened. Like a poker face, you know. You always asked me to confine that idea to my mind, for the better part of the year. And just drink the soup. Chicken noodle soup. Fiery and hot. One by two.
Everytime, later in life, I split soup with anyone, I would think about you. Everytime, I see anyone read Chicken soup for the Soul, I would miss you. Hoping you were around, then and there. Sometimes, when I see a banyan tree, centuries old, and pause to see it some more, it is as if you are there. Like literally. And then I see the fork in the road, I realize again. Hands are held, till the road forks.