The Lovers That They Are

There is a beauty in knowing that your parents are lovers. No, it is not gross or vulgar. For, if they were not lovers, you could never be. I could never be. Parents are lovers. And as lovers, there will be tiffs and spates, quirks and smirks—companionship at its best. And, like fine wine, the beauty of this love shows best when they have aged (shall we say grown) together for decades.

My mother was an attractive girl. She still is. It is easy to see why my father was smitten. The story we kids love the most is the one where my father met her for the first time. And every time we ask for this story, a new age-appropriate layer is peeled off before us to peer into. She was very quiet and always had a slight sad look in her eyes, he says. My mother never refuted this, and she never really has described how he was when she first saw him.

Times were hard. He was eking out a living in a small secretarial position in a private company in Delhi. “In Accounts,” he always adds. My mother was a nurse in Ludhiana, but she had travelled to Delhi to give an application at the Employment Exchange. These were the last years of the 1970s, when opportunities in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria were big. Yet, my mother applied for a nursing position in the never-heard of Kuwait.

It seems like there were no complicated dating rituals back then. My parents met a couple of times, amid common friends. My father, I imagine, must have been as gregarious as he is now. Lots of anecdotes and jokes and experiences. Even at the age of 26, I am sure. My mother nodded along and smiled politely, not asking too many questions. He clearly liked her. When my mother returned to Ludhiana after her interviews, my father realized (like all heroes in great tales like these) that he liked her enough to confide in his elder sister-in-law, my aunt. I have to thank my aunt for pushing this case further. She picked up the phone and pointedly asked my mother what she thought of this chatty boy.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Three children and three decades later, they live in a house that echoes and is too big for them to manage, alone. The children have grown up, left home, and started their own families. The suddenly silent house was hard for them, at first. But the lovers within them picked up the romance that they were forced to abandon in between bottle feeds and diaper changes, and school fees and colleges, and teenage meltdowns and weddings.

I go home to see them sitting on the front porch, hand in hand, talking lazily in the afternoons. I love to watch them busy in the garden watering the plants and caressing the flowers that they helped bloom. I wince at the fragility of their adjusted lives in their homeland, after spending a youth in the torched and alien Kuwait. There are no signs of the tension-filled lives they led in their 30s and 40s though; the arguments that stemmed out of lack of sleep and imminent midlife crisis. The pressures of double shifts and thanklessness at work; the lack of time and the regret of not being around for First Holy Communions or PTA meetings at school. They had hard lives.

My mother talks a lot, now. She learnt a few card games to keep my father company. They cook together—singing, talking, laughing. They have jokes that I had not heard simply because I was not around all this while. They exercise together in the evenings and pray together in the mornings. They truly have become best friends.

When I went home this time, I spent a lot of time with my parents. This was the first time I had come home after my wedding. And I was examining their lives with a new point of view. I realized there is more than what meets the eyes when you leaf through musty albums. Those photographs that are constantly battling decay and rot in the humid environment they are stored in… their wedding album. From the time I first remember these pictures, they were never in a decent looking album. In fact, they were photographs gathered—in a hurry—from an apartment that was looted in a war-torn Kuwait, during the Gulf War. Years later, on one of their wedding anniversaries, we three children bought an album. We carefully pieced together the photographs—from an event none of us had personally attended but was the very reason for our existence.

Now that I was “all grown up”, once again, I asked my parents about the first days of their lives together. Once again, I got to hear about tiny episodes that I had never known before:
How, when my father wrote a letter to my mother asking for directions to an office building in Ludhiana (harboring the sentiments of a budding romance and yet hiding a fear of rejection somewhere deep within), she was quite cryptic and terse. “Get off at the Ludhiana railway station and just ask any rickshawala.”
How, after their wedding date was finalized, my father left from work early to hop on to an overcrowded bus which my mother had already boarded. He found a spot next to where she was and held her hand, on the pretext of taking measurement for the wedding ring.
How, three months after their wedding, my mother had to leave for Kuwait and how my father pined for her for a whole year.
How, even though they are my parents, they are deep and intense lovers.

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Vices. Unforgiven.

Insecurity. Insignificance.
I feel these are the two vices that infest the times of 2009.

Years ago, I asked my cousin brother a question — What would be unforgiveable in a relationship?
We were out for a walk that winter night. He stopped in his tracks and almost immediately said — dishonesty and betrayal. Here was a man, whom I idolized for always being caring, kind, understanding and patient… with an unforgiving flame in his eyes.

Must be huge, I thought.

Tonight, I am thinking of the same question and I was surprised that I actually rate insecurity and insignificance really high up on that chart of unforgivable things. Damn it, it is important, I figured. It truly is unforgivable if someone makes you insecure or if someone makes you feel smaller than the tiniest atom in your being.

I don’t forgive easily at all. Not something I am proud of, but I am just putting it out there.
Call me an attention-seeker, if you must. But a nice word, a hug, a thought, a compliment wont necessarily kill anyone. Just that we don’t deem it important. Just that we think we will lose something if we open our mouths and say something nice.

Not good. Not healthy, you know.
It saddens me.

—————-

This was a piece I wrote way back in August 2009.

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Thoovanathumbikal (1987) : My Thoughts

Thoovanathumbikal (Translation: Dragon Flies in the drizzling rain) is a 1987 Mohanlal-starring movie by Padmarajan. I have seen this movie many many times. But the last time I saw it, was probably when I completely immersed myself in the film to study the characters.

The story revolves around Jayakrishnan lives a nondescript life in rural Kerala. He also leads a secret dual life where he gallivants around town drinking and partying with boisterous friends. Jayakrishnan falls in love with a lovely strong-minded lass named Radha. At around the same time, he has a brief encounter with a sex worker named Clara. The film then explores Jayakrishnan’s emotions and how his will is torn between the two women. He is extremely sincere and doesn’t hide his encounters from either of the women.

The portrayal of the three characters is extremely well done in this story. The author has carefully sculpted and built each of these characters to make us love/hate them. None of these characters are completely “good” or “bad”. Each of them have flaws and there was no attempt to cover them up. Jayakrishnan, for instance, is ruthless and adamant when he wants something. Radha is shown to be too head-strong and Clara is — well — a “fallen” woman.

This is what I liked the most — the bold theme. It is not something that is usually discussed in Malayalam movies. Even then, the director did not take it over the top or underplay it. Watch it if you can :)

The movie is available on youtube (with subtitles).

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The Year That Was

So it is almost the end of the year that was, and I couldn’t help but be in a retrospective mood. There were good things and there were bad things. Lots of new starts and some much neede closures. Oh, and shock and horror too – I just looked at my blog and realised that I had made exactly ONE blog entry in 2010! Of course, we will not count this one as a legitimate entry. :)

Discovering Yoga
The year began on a positive note – I picked up Yoga and was pretty kicked about it. I remember trudging through the deep Milwaukee snow and getting into that sweaty Yoga class and feeling awesome about it. I still am an advocate of Yoga, but the classes have slowed down. Mainly because I moved and couldn’t find the right teacher. Why not practice Yoga on your own, asks some of my friends. To them I say, it just isn’t the same.

Joys of Cooking
Among the other things I picked up this year, the most prominent one was cooking. Well, I have been cooking for over 12 years now, but I have been experimenting. I hosted a food blog and overused my camera to click food pictures. I never used to read food blogs, but now, I am a fan of Edible Garden. I try to work hard on presenting food decently rather than plopping it on a plate. Oh yeah, that blog needs some serious work. Now, there’s an incomplete project of 2010.

Picture Project
Speaking of projects, I took up “Project365: One year of my life in photos”. It is going pretty well. Of course, there are those slow weeks too. But I have managed to be pretty regular even during the busiest of times. SunshineGirl inspired me to get started on it, and interestingly I began posting those pics the day she posted her 365th! She is always taking up projects, this SunshineGirl — her latest being Korean and French languages.

Marital Matters
One of the biggest changes that happened to me in 2010 has to do with the change in my marital status. Yep, I am a missus. And a happy one, at that. It has been five months and the excitement doesn’t seem to end. And I mean that in a good way. Right after we got married in July, a lot of people asked me “How does it feel?” and I was not really sure what they meant when they asked that. Feel what? Because to my husband and me, life pretty much seemed the same. Of course we had thrown a huge party for 300 people and did not have to worry about cleaning up after that. We unwrapped a lot of gifts and got to go on our honeymoon – all exciting stuff – don’t get me wrong. But when we got back home, life pretty much seemed the same like how it was when we were dating. BUT. Then we gave it some time. A month. Two months. Domestic life is pretty different, my friends, and NOW I know what those people were asking. Bad timing, peeps! Marriage has been a beautiful experience thus far and I hope it will remain so. The thought that there is a person you love whom you can go to, at the end of the day really makes me want to vagabond less and be HOME.

Places
Vagabonding. That has worked out real well for me. And with a perfect travelling buddy in my husband, life’s good. Chicago, SFO, NYC, Boston, Cape Code, Zurich, Paris, Vegas, Hollywood, Delhi. Not a bad deal at all. And I haven’t even mentioned the small local places that I went to for Photo sessions – Central Park, Devil’s Lake, Lake Michigan, Liberty State Park. Heck, we even made our move from WI to NJ a road trip!

Homeward Bound
Moving and setting up a home has been one of the high points of the year. I love our home and it was a project that I put a lot of thought into. Everything from the color themes to the furniture was well thought out. It truly does look like something he and I would put together. :)

People
I cannot end this note without mentioning the best part of having lived 2010. I met people who I thought I wouldn’t meet again (or maybe not that soon or at that place).

I met my English teacher, Sam Sir, after almost 10-14 years. And he was someone I thought I will never meet again. The last time I remember meeting him was when he gave us kids one wooden bead each. It had native American prints painted on it and I think I strung it to my bag with a shoelace – for good luck. Yes, I was a nut that ways. This meeting was different. We lunched and talked and walked and laughed. It was a short short meeting, but it forever be burnt in my memory, Sam Sir. THANK YOU!

I got to hang out with the Leena-Deepak team late May in SFO. We had fun! I last met Leena in Kuwait when we were in 9th standard. With schools and countries changed, we lost touch. Then, thanks to the wonder that we all call the internet, we became close friends once we reconnected. It has been a fun ride, LeAn, and yes, I feel horrible that your letter got lost!

The craziest thing that happened during my wedding time was this bridal shower my girlfriends hosted for me. It was awesome. Imagine a room full of the ladies you love and cherish. College gang, sweethearts from work and all over the world were in there. I have loads of pictures but I will not put them up, even if you ask me to! The high point of that evening was it turned out to be a reunion of sorts of the Kalindi bunch of journos. We have been trying to get together for ages. Thanks Shiv! I am still waiting for those pics, though!!

The latest fun was when Shravan was in town. Two months ago, when I shared pictures of my place with him, he said he wished he could come over and visit us at home. Fate (and work) played out well. He spend a day of fun and laughter and breakfast banter with us. Unforgettable, unforgettable.

Misc.
There are so many things I haven’t detailed out: friends having babies, close people getting married, siblings being missed, making new friends, rediscovering the joy of postal cards and letters, new gadgets and gizmos added, picking up an old unfinished book, playing Scrabble and those AngryBirds, celebrating Diwali and Dusshera, etc .

And for all this, I am thankful that I lived through 2010.

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Story So Far…

There was a friend whom I grew to like. When I say like, I meant I really, really liked him. In fact, gradually, he turned out to be the most important person in my life. How these things work, I do not know. One particularly hot summer night, as I stood in my balcony trying to cool off and thinking of a new plot to write about on this blog, my thoughts wandered. And I got thinking of him. He was away in US and I was in Delhi wondering what that strange achy feeling within me was — am I really missing him?

He and I were not close friends. But planning trips and having outings, we were nearly always around each other. We liked to spend time with each other and in his quiet ways, he showed me what a wonderful person he is. In my own garrulous ways, I guess I began to appeal to him as well. Weeks and months went by. There was this ache that developed within us. That could not be addressed by our silence. The weekends we got together were precious. The conversations we had were replayed in my head a million times before I fell asleep… only to wake up to happy thoughts about him.

A September evening. Fate had it this way: We would part ways. He would be off to US for a long time period and I would be here. This is it, I thought, conceding defeat and crying silent tears in the ladies’ room. This is it, he thought, as he drove off. A couple of hours later, in delirious bliss, we confessed to each other, our feelings — over the phone. And so began a long distance relationship. Of not having met each other for months after that. Anticipations, triumphs, tragedies, happy thoughts, sad thoughts, laughter, cheer, tears. Everything was shared over this distance and across time zones.

Months went by. It was my birthday. And never was this day this special. For the first time, we met as lovers. It was a very strange feeling. We had so much to talk about. And yet everything was already spoken. The distance and the time that we had spent that way did not matter anymore. Ten days went by in fluid harmony. Coffee dates and random meetings. And before we knew it, it was time to part again. This time it was even more harder. Thankfully, I flew out to him in four months time. That Christmas, I remember thanking God for what He has given me.

A year sped by. I had been here for months. He stayed put. We met throughout the summer and spring. We saw places all over. We made new friends. We had new problems to deal with and came out even stronger. My conviction of him being the one, grew more and more. I went home in Fall and came back to find him with new decisions. I sure was excited…

We are getting married in July 2010.
That is where we are now. Just wanted to keep you posted.

:)

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