On A Train
The book I’ve been reading
rests on my knee. You sleep.
It’s beautiful out there —
fields, little lakes and winter trees
in February sunlight,
every car park a shining mosaic.
Long, radiant minutes,
your hand in my hand,
still warm, still warm.
Yesterday I came upon this poem that brings together long journeys, a book, love and the February sun. On a dreary day tinged with the loss of a loved one, these words felt like a warm, comforting hand, reminding me of the delights of my favorite month. I love the pleasant chill in the air, the oblong patch of dappled sunshine that sneaks in and spreads over my bed every morning, the first sprouts of green on the bare branches of the tree outside my window, and the dubious yet unavoidable association of love with this month.
It is the month of mass commercialism and ostentatious display of love. The generalization of a single day of the year as the day of love is ridiculous. But it is difficult to avoid this young month dripping with love. It is everywhere; the romantic comedies on TV, the newspaper ads of lovers staring moonily into the horizon, the special offers for couples at restaurants, the love songs blaring everywhere including the dialer tunes, the annoying spam about love horoscopes, tiny little hearts and confetti decorating even the local supermarket, flower stalls at every corner with outrageously priced bouquets, heart-shaped food, even the foam in my cappuccino is a white heart, and the sudden trend of wearing pink or red, lead by the over-enthusiastic teenagers.
I am too old to be a part of the hoopla surrounding this Hallmark holiday. There is also the logistical deficiency of a determined lover out to woo me. The only things I look forward to are the books I had ordered a few days ago (Break of Day by Colette, Book of Disquiet by Pessoa, The Lover’s Discourse by Barthes and The Angle of Repose by Stegner); and as pathetic as it sounds, that makes my month of love, reading books about this baffling emotion. Stories intrigue me, so does love; and a good love story, preferably the real ones, is always a delight. Today I want to mention a few of stories of love whose charm had grown on me.
1. Renu and Biren
They had been in love for 44 years, including 34 years of conjugal life. They are the poster couple for ‘opposites attract
‘. He is an unabashed extrovert, witty, quite popular with the women, an engaging conversationalist, adventurous, highly ambitious, brash and has uncountable friends. She is quietness personified, a loner, seeks solitude, gave up her job to set up a home, shuns socializing, is calm and composed, the stronger one, the better half, and the one who holds it all together. She liked old movies, he was hooked onto sports. Now she is a cricket enthusiast and he keeps humming Rajesh Khanna songs. They are as unconventional as they come. He is the fearless protector, but she has to hold his hand when the nurse jabs his forearm for a blood sample. She speaks few words, but he listens diligently to all of it. They support each other, no matter how many obstacles come their way. He discusses his work-related problems with her; she doesn’t comprehend them fully, but her encouragement and patient words soothe him. They made each others’ families their own, not just out of obligation, but out of love. They fell in love during a time when the caste and socio-economic divide mattered a lot when seeking parental approval for marriage. She is a Brahmin, he belongs to a scheduled caste; he had worked hard to amass a small fortune, and she had none. They eloped. She battled with a chronic illness for seven years after marriage, but he nursed her back to health. They didn’t have a child for seven years, and people tried to convince him to remarry. He stood by her. Later they became parents of two daughters. They had troubles, grave ones, but they didn’t run away from each other. They were wedded for life; their love never ran a smooth course, it tested patience, taught compromise, stuck to hope and came out triumphant. I call them Pa and Ma.
2. Angana and Gaurav
We grew up together, and she knows me inside out. My best-est friend, Angana, had an interesting run up to her twenties. She lusted after inaccessible and stereotyped uber-heroes, with bulging muscles, dimpled smile, oozing with charm; and was blissfully oblivious to the long queue of admirers and stalkers who waited for hours at strategic locations just to have a glance of her. She had a new infatuation every month and we dissected that object of affection to the very core, analyzing and re-analyzing, till his charm wore off. She got into IIMC and moved to Delhi six years ago. She had a new set of friends, most of whom belonged to Dehradun. She often heard the name ‘Gaurav’ pop up in their conversations, another Dehra dude who worked in Mumbai. She had heard so much about him, she had recklessly announced to her friends that if he was so good as they made him sound, she would end up dating him. Similar series of events and conversations were unfolding before him. He came. She saw. Love conquered. It has been a little over five years now. They are delightfully inseparable. He is an amazing person, and I am not saying it because he is going to marry the most important girl in my life someday. He is the brooding Darcy to her impish and impulsive Elizabeth.
3. Devi and Divy
She is a fellow-introvert, born and raised in a remote hill town of Assam; he is jovial by default (Fun-jabi gene
), growing up in a crowded Delhi locality. She is a doctor, he is rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. She comes from a highly orthodox family, he is highly liberal. She is my best friend and he is my brother’s best friend. Eight years ago I was their Cupid at a family dinner. That night in the cover of the conveniently dim dining hall, shy glances and hesitant smiles were exchanged. She broke off an earlier loveless relationship and he was ecstatic. After the initial few awkward phone calls and umpteen emails, love blossomed. He swept her off her feet; such was the wooing! They sneaked off on covert vacations, going incommunicado for days. They had a courtship straight off the pages of a romance novel. When faced with parental opposition, she asserted her love with a conviction that I highly admired. He left for a different country; and she patiently waited the long years till she was with him again. The striking thing about their relationship is the balance they maintain in giving each other their personal spaces, without compromising on the togetherness. In a week, they would complete three wonderful years of marriage.
4. Natasha and Azhar
We had donned pale grey skirts and starched white shirts, and attended the same school in my hometown. I was in awe of her; she dabbled in karate, art and shared my passion for books. Facebook and blogging brought us together after long years of separation. I was privy to her love life through mutual friends. They met as undergrads. It caused mass palpitations in her family, sparking off strict opposition on religious grounds. The future seemed bleak; as they pursued their studies and later their respective careers in different cities, while the flame of disapproval continued to burn in the families. With a note-worthy patience, they waited it out and stood by each other for nearly a decade. Their love culminated in marriage last November.
5. Pallabi and Nayan
She taught me the art of bunking class, by sneaking me out of several math classes at Cotton College. In August 2010, she called me up to inform that she got engaged to a man she had barely known for a couple of months, being a dutiful daughter and approving a match engineered by their respective parents. I am wary of the ‘arranged marriage‘ tag. But my worries were baseless, there is no fixed time frame for love. It is an instinct. You just know it. They were married in less than six months. The baby arrived shortly after their first wedding anniversary. Everything in her life had been fast paced; marriage, baby. But she had juggled her career, home, husband, and a baby with an inspiring confidence, learning by trial and error, making adjustments, setting the foundation of her own little world. I realize that she had made the right choices. Recently during an event, I saw her smoothen a crease on his coat lapel and he looked down at her and smiled; the contentment and understanding between them became palpable.
6. Rahul and Garima
He has the innate talent of charming the women around him. Flings and flirtations surrounded him, but he always got out of them with an impish smile. She contradicts his every facet; yet ironically complements him, bringing some much needed stability to his life. They dated for nearly a decade; overcoming differences in culture and background (Assamese vs Punjabi), parental opposition, distance and long years of waiting; and finally got married four years ago. That’s my cousin and bhabhi. Their love story had all the elements of a stereotype Bollywood movie; yet their perseverance triumphed in the end. And now they are the parents of an adorable baby boy.
7. Barsha and Manash
They are two of the most wonderful people I have ever known. He had always been my favourite cousin owing to his sobriety and pleasant personality. And she complements him so well. Theirs was a match doctored by relatives; which was followed by a courtship long enough to allow love and understanding to seep in and grow roots. They had been married for seven years now, and their smiles continue to light up the room, wherever they go. My nephew is their pride and joy.
These are a few of the love stories that had endured adversities or long years of adjustments; and had taught me the value of compatibility, trust, perseverance, and even healthy compromise. There are many more stories that I had witnessed, a few of which cannot be described in mere words, gradually subduing my cynicism and cautiousness towards love. My heart is so drunk on love as I write these words, reliving and remembering these stories, re-affirming a belief that had threatened to dwindle.
Enjoy this young month; dabble in love, and soak in the sunshine.