Miles ahead: (from left) Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji, Manjeet Kaur and Mandeep Kaur, who won the gold in women’s 4x400m relay. Kamal Kishore/PTI

Once upon a time there were two girls (born one month apart) who studied at the same convent school. Their paths rarely crossed until they were eight or nine years old, at which time they were both selected to be part of the school’s athletics team. At first, they were wary of each other, and even though they were both the youngest members of the school team that travelled to another state for a month-long, intensive athletics camp, they never really bonded.

Many years later, when they were inseparable, one of the girls had a favourite story about those days: “She was such a crybaby. Once we were playing ball, I threw, she didn’t catch, and she just started wailing." She had such a big butt, the other would say.

Nobody remembers the exact moment the wind changed, but soon enough they became best friends.

They trained before school, spent the day together and then jumped on the phone to each other as soon as they reached their respective homes. They fought often; it was always easy to tell when—because on those days, their home phones never rang.

They became teenagers, and fell in and out of love with the speed of the sprinters they had become. Luckily, they were both attracted to different types of idiotic boys. The only love that overlapped was their love for their superwoman trainer.

Before they knew it, they had graduated from the same college, the days of winning inter-school relays (they ran first and third so they never really passed the baton to each other), the many adventures of state athletics camps and the thrill of participating in the nationals, just a collection of growing-up memories.

One of them ended college with a broken heart, one found the love of her life and eventually married him. When the unmarried friend returned from her postgraduate stint in the US, it was time for the married friend to move base there. But they remained connected.

By the time the married friend returned from the US several years later, with a broken heart and a young son, the one who was in India had met the love of her life and married him. Now, the two girls had more than a silver jubilee friendship.

But that was a few years ago. Nobody remembers the exact moment the wind changed.

They became almost-strangers. They rarely met or spoke, and when they did, even their mothers, who could not understand this new non-relationship, pretended nothing had changed.

Then, last year, one friend discovered she was pregnant again—unplanned, she said. By the time her baby girl was four months old, the other friend found out that her adoption application had been cleared and that she would be the mother of a daughter—also four (or maybe five) months old. Who knows, maybe the two baby girls will run a relay like their mothers once did?

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