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  • Part I : The Lemon Tree

    There are various arguments about what true love really is. Some people say it’s when two people fall in love romantically and can’t seem to live without each other anymore. Others say that only when you become a mother (or father) and hold your child for the first time, do you understand what true love really is. Others say that true love is when a person learns to love himself or herself unconditionally.

    I’m not here to argue with anyone. I think they’re all right and wrong, in their own respect. There are parents who abandon their kids and there are people who fall in love and cheat on their partners anyway, but that’s not the point. True love comes in different forms and I think it really depends on the individual. This is the story about how I found my true love.

    It all started when I was 12 and she was 10.

    Let me clarify: this is the story about how I met my best friend, the one who taught me what true love really is.

    It was October 2000 and we were in India at a holy place for a month-long festival. There were all sorts of other people there and amidst the crowds and festivities we found each other at the guesthouse playground.

    I’ll be honest here; at the time I had no idea that she was going to become my true love. We barely played with each other. When you’re a kid, 2 years is a big gap, so I played with other kids and with her older sister, who is my age. But then came the day when a boy I considered only a friend told me he liked me. The problem was that another friend of mine was in love with him, or that’s how she put it. My 12-year-old self, burdened by the weight of the predicament, sat under a lemon tree on the edge of a lily pond and worried. There on the lemon tree was carved the name of the boy next to mine. I was not happy about this at all.
    Then Gauri came over and joined me under the little lemon tree. I showed her the mutilated tree and explained to her my woes. She listened to me. To this day we both agree that this was the moment that foreshadowed the nature of our future relationship. We both listen to each other’s woes and do some problem solving. Although there’s a lot more to it than that, but I’ll get to those parts eventually.

    And then that was it. We parted ways and didn’t see or hear from each other until nearly a decade later. Over the years I stayed in touch with her sister via MSN messenger and such, but Gauri was off the map and out of my life.

    I had plenty of other friends over the years. I’ve always had female “best” friends since I was a small child, but none of them ever lasted more than 5 years. This was partly due to the fact that we all moved from one country to another every now and then and obviously children can’t be expected to stay the same and retain the same friendships as the years pass and they grow up. But I was disappointed.
    The thing is, girls have always been more difficult for me to approach because I find them intimidating. Boys are easy because I guess they’re looking to get lucky so they show more interest, but I never cared much for their friendship because I knew it could only go so deep. But girls I really cared about and I was afraid of being rejected or worse, accepted and then ditched. That happened a few times. A so-called “best friend” whom I loved and trusted would suddenly change me over for someone else: someone cooler, prettier, smarter. So I did something really stupid and became “best friends” with my boyfriend at the age of 18.

    It was stupid because I was confusing friendship with romantic love. It was doubly stupid because I agreed to leave my family and move to England, where he lived with his family, and stay with him “forever”.

    But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have found my true love.
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