Kalpana’s not very good at first impressions — I would know, because I was not a fan when I first met her.
Well, I guess it was technically when I first heard about her. Six years ago, my younger sister tried out for the seventh and eighth grade soccer team, and she came home crying because some girl had accidentally stepped on my sister’s face when my sister fell. That girl — who didn’t notice that she had stepped on someone — was Kalpana.
Six years later, I talk to Kalpana every day:
“If you were a song, what would you be?”
“What city do you think you’ll settle down in?”
“What ‘Harry Potter’ house do you think I’d be in?”
These are all questions Kalpana and I discuss on our drives around Cupertino when we’re back home during break. Wake up at 9 in the morning, open up my phone and immediately there’s “What’s up” from Kalpana. Of course, that means she’s going to pick me up in her car, and we’ll spend the next 12 hours driving around, talking about songs, cities and “Harry Potter” houses all day long.
When we’re in college, the conversations are necessarily over the phone, during a walk to class, or used as a break from studying. And the questions continue:
“Do you think I’m a spontaneous person?”
“I’m not going to fail chemistry, right?”
“Malini, why the hell do you think I’m Hufflepuff?”
Here’s the thing: Kalpana’s absolutely one of the weirdest people I’ve met. Kalpana reads the “Harry Potter” book series all the way through every year but never talks about it. She’s basically blind in her left eye, but her right eye is perfect. She completely manipulates the stereo when you’re in the car, but every now and then, she plays a song like “Bicken Back Being Bool” by YG. And she pranked people in high school by dressing up in monkey suits and putting bananas on their porches. (Not to worry — no one fell. They were not peels but entire, unopened bananas).
Kalpana, or Kalpi as most call her, is so honestly herself. And it’s not by choice — she is just utterly unable to be anyone but herself. These columns are supposed to be about things we’ve observed and learned in life, and so I’ll say: In my 20 years, I’ve learned to hold onto people like Kalpana.
I officially met Kalpana when I was in 10th grade and she was in 9th. We were in our Writing for Publications class, and I read a feature she wrote about her neighbors (she later told me that she had completely fabricated that). We became acquainted with each other as we both jumped into working at our high school news magazine, but we didn’t really become close until we fought over a boy.
Yes, there was a time when Kalpana and I were fighting over a boy, and it’s unreal to think about. But the beauty of it all is that through our fighting, we became the closest friends. The boy is no longer relevant, and our friendship couldn’t be more strong.
Kalpana knows everything about my life, from what song I am currently listening to on Spotify to why I randomly started crying the other day.
Kalpana makes me playlists, and a lot of them. She showed me Tom Misch and Jordan Rakei, and I simply can’t imagine listening to music without listening to them anymore.
Over the summer, Kalpana joined my college friends and me on a trip to Crater Lake, and she got along with them seamlessly. Kalpana “accidentally” FaceTimes me at parties all the time, and she has access to both my Instagram and Twitter accounts.
When I was getting over a bad breakup, Kalpana said to me, “Malini, you just got to cry. I cry twice a week, for two hours at a time, for no reason.” She understands that sometimes, in college, when you feel alone and scared, a phone call can make the difference between a good and a bad day. Another time, she told me, “You know you are going to be friends with someone forever when you find their flaws endearing.”
This is running the risk of being a gushy love letter to our friendship, but I’m just trying to say that I’m thankful for her, among many other strong personalities in my life. When you have friends who are motivated by enjoying and embracing the idea of being wacky, you know you’ve found your people.
So yeah, Kalpana stepped on my sister’s face, but she knows how to be there and how to show up, and that’s all I can ask for.