So about an year and a half back i had written a short "love" story. (Read it HERE) Yeah, I know the probability of me writing a love story is same as the probability of RJD and SP coming out in support of Women's bill but I wanted to write the story from Narayan's perspective (many people also suggested I do) and I had written it but not published it. Found the document lying deep in the recesses of my C: drive so thought it was time to subject you to another one of my hopeless love stories! :P
So here goes! A love ahead of time - Part II! :P
Please do let me know what you think of it. Honestly! So if you don't like it please say so.
Narayan took his spectacles off to wipe them, cursing Pittsburgh’s weather under his breath, quickening his pace. Damn the frost which frosted his spectacles blurring his vision. Damn the cold which found its way to each and every crevice and bone in his body making him shiver. Narayan was walking with Shyam from the university to his quarters inside the campus. Fall had just gotten over and winter was setting in. The landscape was beautiful and all the trees had shed their leaves leaving a lovely carpet of red yellow and orange leaves on the ground. The students enjoyed this season. Every bench on campus was occupied with couples holding hands, whispering and giggling with the soft glow of love evident on their faces.
“Bloody hell. Defiling every inch of the campus by sitting and doing all kinds of nonsense on the benches. Love it seems. Bah!!” Shyam growled. “There should be a rule against this”.
“They are just students Shyam. This is the age to fall in love. You wouldn’t understand. You have obviously never been in love” said Narayan with a soft smile
“hah!! Like you have a lot of experience Narayan. You aren’t even married”
Narayan smiled. If only Shyam knew. Married with a wife and 2 kids for 26 years Shyam had seen less love that Narayan had in one year with Lakshmi!! That one wonderful year of his life
Lakshmi. Involuntarily he smiled at her memory.
The first time he saw her she was singing some Bhajan for the Golu at their house. He hated these customs. The Golu, the ladies visiting their house for Golu, all that money which amma and appa spent to do the various archanai’s at all the temples in trichy, the money they spent on feeding all the greedy kurukkals who came to do the “pithru kaaryam”. Narayan was sure Thatha would have been infinitely happy if appa had used all that money to feed the poor people in Trichy than spend it on these kurukkals for his devasam. It was ironical. The more he questioned these customs the more number of archanais amma did asking god to give her son “nalla buddhi” or good sense. Narayan was 22 years old. Angry, confused and agnostic he spent most of the time in the public library reading books on theology, sociology, anything he could lay his hands on and trying to find answers to his never ending questions and when at home he spent his time reading his thatha’s books. Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, poems of Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Neruda. He found solace in their writings.
He had a bachelors degree in Mathematics and with Appa’s influence he could have gotten a respectable job as a professor in Holy Cross trichy. But the rebel that he was, he had chosen to sit at home and read, discover himself and then go on to get settled in life. How he wished he had taken up that job. How he wished he had been well settled when he met Lakshmi. If only… if only..
He would never forget that day. The first time he touched her. It was pouring. As usual he had had a fight with appa and had picked up his umbrella and left home in a huff to walk to the library to spend some quality time reading. He was walking on the pavement when he suddenly saw someone walking right in the middle of the road and a car’s headlights flashing close behind. He realized that if he didn’t intervene the person would be hit. He reached out to the person’s arm and pulled her to safety even as the car whizzed by and it was Lakshmi. Those big beautiful kohl rimmed eyes staring at her with a gamut of emotions ranging from fear to apprehension to relief to confusion playing in them.
Are you crazy?” he shouted at her as soon as he found his voice
She turned around and started blubbering “Th…Thanks. I..I..didnt hear the car. It was raining and…”.
He had offered her his umbrella, still holding her arm and she had pushed it away determinedly preferring to go by bus and he had offered to wait with her.
In the past 30 years he had replayed that scene in his mind a 100 times, playing the hopeless what if game
What if he had just said “ok” and left her. She would never have come into his life then. He would have carried on with life, married someone his parents had chosen for him and been one of those innumerable human beings on earth untouched by the power of love.
But it was not to be. He had chosen to wait with her at the bus stand. Why? That was a question he couldn’t answer. Maybe he was bored, maybe it was hormones, maybe he had a foreboding that they were meant to fall in love or maybe he just wanted someone to talk to.
That day at the bus stop it was appa who had come and disturbed the perfect moment that he had shared with her. It was amazing how appa had spoilt some of the things he valued the most in life. That perfect moment with Lakshmi, his future,his life with Lakshmi…
“Narayan” shyam’s voice pierced his reverie. “Where are you going? We have reached our apartment”
Narayan entered his apartment glad to be alone with his thoughts and reveled in the warmth which it provided. How he missed the warm Trichy weather. He removed the layers of clothes on top of him, the gloves, the cap, his shoes and changed into a cotton shirt and veshti – his only connection with Trichy. He switched on the coffee maker and grimaced at the black color liquid it spewed forth. Black decaf, these Americans called it. What was coffee without a generous dose of fresh milk, prepared with fresh decoction, two spoons of sugar and shaken till the froth formed? He settled down with the coffee and his thoughts switched back to Lakshmi
That one wonderful year of his life.
When had he fallen in love with her? He couldn’t really say. Maybe it was that first sarcastic reply of hers. He was a very judgmental person and had thought of her as just another air head who went to college just so that she could put “B.Sc graduate” on her “marriage” resume. He was wrong. She was intelligent, innocent and willing to learn which was an endearing combination. He remembered how he would wait for her to come to the bus stand after college and would keep peeping out of the window in the library to see if she had come. Those endless conversations which he had with her, those long walks home, the smell of jasmine in her hair, and mysore sandal soap on her self, the tinkle of her anklets and bangles, the sound of her deep laughter, her intelligence, her inquisitiveness, the expression of wonder on her face when she spoke of the authors whose books he loaned her…. These were some images and sounds which had become ingrained in his memory. She was everything that he ever wanted in a woman. He always thought she was his and they were meant to be.
That day when she had told him that they had started groom hunting for her, THAT was the first day when fear had crept into him that she might not be his and he would have to do something if he didn’t want to lose her. He had proposed marriage and the happy tears in her eyes had been answer enough.
The same day he had broken the news at home. Amma had started crying and Appa with a melancholy expression on his face had asked him a question which had sealed Narayan’s fate because he didn’t have an answer. “If you were the father of a daughter would you assent to give her hand in marriage to a person like yourself who doesn’t earn and doesn’t seem to make any efforts at doing so?”
He had just assumed that Appa and Amma would agree because of the friendship between them and Lakshmi’s parents. He had been terribly mistaken. Appa hadn’t even allowed him to explain things to Lakshmi. He guessed that things at Lakshmi’s end were even worse because no communication came from that side too. He had sent her a letter explaining how things were and why they couldn’t get married because of society’s silly constraints. He never got a reply. She must have had a very low opinion of him.
Within a week, news of her marriage came. He had wanted to attend but Appa wouldn’t hear of it. To prevent him from doing anything brash they had gone to Coimbatore for a week to Perima’s place. By the time he came back the one person in the entire city who he cared for no longer existed. He had heard she was in Madras now married to a successful bank officer. She never came to Trichy after that and 2 years later appa had gotten a transfer to Madurai and they had moved. He finished his Post graduation in Coimbatore, finished his MS and Phd and had moved to Pittsburgh – unable to forget her. He had chosen to remain a bachelor. He didn’t think he was capable of loving anyone as much as he had loved Lakshmi. Amma had tried everything to convince him but he was determined. If it wasn’t Lakshmi it wasn’t anyone.
He drained his mug off the last few drops of the bitter liquid and stood for a long time at the window watching the falling leaves and the beautiful campus and thinking about Lakshmi and his fate.
Fate, thought Narayan was a cruel thing. It makes you meet and fall in love with a person who in ur heart of hearts u know can never be yours and yet in a strange inexplicable rather stupid way instead of wishing that u had never met them, you feel glad that they were a part of your life.
It had been 20 years since he had moved to Pittsburgh and yet he hadn’t gotten used to the country but he hadn’t wanted to go back to India. He had cherished the anonymity and freedom which this country had given him. That combined with the fact that Pittsburgh wasn’t swarming with “well wishers” wanting to get him married.
But now at the age of 52 he doubted if anyone would try to get him married.
It was time to go home. Time to go back to Trichy. Time again to spend the rest of his life as a bachelor, sitting at the public library and trying to answer elusive questions.
Life, had come a full circle.