The 'weight' machine

When I was a child you were the highlight of my outstation trips. Even as we stepped onto the station I'd be begging mum for a coin -- the cost of our tryst. There you stood, your lights flickering red, blue, green and yellow - on and off, on and off. The crowd, the heat, the dust melted as I spotted you - an oasis of happy colour. Yes, you were my absolute favourite, my 'weight machine'.

Coin procured, I would sprint up to you. "Wait for the wheel to stop," my father would say with an indulgent smile. I didn't listen. I knew the drill. My eyes firmly on that red and white wheel, I'd wait impatiently. As it stopped I'd insert the coin and listen intently for the gentle whirring. Then, quite miraculously, out popped the ticket. Those two digits were studied eagerly and carefully committed to memory to be brought out, analysed, boasted about and compared for days to come.

And there was more... turn over the ticket and you could read your fortune. Pure delight. Pure paisa wasool.

You were a friend, back then. A very fascinating friend. We didn't meet often enough, for outstation trips were few and far between. I'd wait anxiously for each trip and happily watch the figure move up.

Then came teenage and brought with it some serious 'weighty' issues. You changed, then. Your flickering lights took on a sinister glow. The turning of that wheel was like a downward spiral of my fortunes. I tried to drive away the memory of those two figures you churned out. Figures that climbed exponentially upward. I had a compulsive need to meet you, even while you broke my heart. I'd walk reluctantly to you with my coin, hoping for a favourable verdict only to come away disappointed. "Never mind," mum would hug me with a quiet smile. But I wasn't listening. And you... you looked on, unmoved, unaware of my misery, a diva pronouncing her judgement with heartless apathy, no longer the friend of my childhood.

Inevitably, our friendship faded.

Then, some years back, I bumped into you again... at my gym. You had changed, aged, a bit like me. Gone was the cheerful friendly face that had thrilled me in my childhood. Gone also was the glamourous heartless diva of my teenage - the lights, the wheel.. all gone. There you stood, no-frills yet dignified - a lady, accurate and impartial as in your youth.

The memories came flooding back.. the excitement as well as the dread.

I climbed on, under my trainer's watchful eye. "We've a long way to go," he said with a gentle smile. This time, I listened.

Since then we've renewed our friendship. You've mellowed, you're kinder. Each morning I find myself waiting to meet you with new hope. Somedays you smile, turn your needle down and my day is made. On others, after binge weekends, I see you frown and I glimpse that heartless diva of my teenage.

However, I accept your smile and your frown for I now know you want only the best for me.