Friday, August 21, 2009

The Search For Answers

She was 16 when she fell in love with him. He was a young Army officer who had just returned from Sri Lanka after fighting the LTTE. His palms were made of steel and his voice, when he sang, as silky as Hemant Kumar's. Which girl wouldn't fall for him? Their eyes had first met during Durga Puja, and then they began to meet. At first under the roadside tree outside the school, then in restaurants in the neighbourhood. And that summer, when the entire class went on an excursion to Bombay, he followed her. There they roamed Chowpatty, hand in hand. Holding hands was a big deal in 1987. It was the present-day equivalent of kissing. But unlike kissing, which only fuels your desire to explore further, hand-holding, at least back then, brought about a sense of contentment. The average couple knew that they had reached the maximum permissible limit, and that the rest would follow only once they got married.

She was 20 when she got married. She was still preparing for civil services exams. The groom was an engineer, a product of IIT Kanpur: a soft, intelligent, good-looking guy. Her parents had netted the prize catch after combing the matrimonial columns of the Times of India for months. She glowed on the night of her wedding. That year, she also got through the civil services exams. Engineer husband, bureaucrat wife: what a life. Two years later, she had her first child, a girl. And two years after that, a boy. Living in an old British-made bungalow, they lived happily ever after.

'Ever after' is a relative term; its periodicity can vary from five years to 50 years, but once you've cross the 20-year mark of living happily, you've lived happily every after. In their case, they've already crossed the 20-year mark. She is almost 40 now, he is 45. He is the vice-president of his company; she is the managing director of a government-run corporation (she has also published two slim books on poetry, and she blogs too. Though not many people who leave comments on her posts know her real identity. She blogs by the name of 'Sunaina', who describes herself on her profile page as 'I am what I am.') They no longer live in British-built bungalows, but in a bungalow of their own. One happy family: neighbours' pride, society's envy.

Then, one day, Orkut came knocking on the door. And the first person she searched for was -- of course -- the Army officer. She was in luck. Once an officer, always an officer: he looked just the same in his album on Orkut, only that he had greyed. But the salt-and-pepper hair made him even more desirable. Once she had had a good look at him, her eyes widening and narrowing alternately, she turned her attention on his wife. "Is she more attractive than me?" that was the first thought that escaped her mind. The thought was so loud that she could hear it. She at once felt jealous. She heard another thought escaping her mind: "This is my man, how could she have him!" Just then, the bell rang. The daughter had returned from her salsa class. She went to the kitchen and hurriedly made sandwiches for her daughter: her mind was on getting back to the computer as quickly as possible, just to look at the pictures all over again.

Four months have passed ever since she was reunited with her first love, courtesy Orkut. Today, Google Talk keeps the old love aflame. Really, only the internet can bring back dead things to life. And you know what the profile picture on her Google Talk shows these days? It shows a young man and a young woman standing next to each other, rather awkwardly. They want to get closer, perhaps put their arms around each other, but they are aware that the world -- at least the photographer -- is watching. The result is cute as well as disastrous: if I am ever asked to write a caption for the photograph, I would say, "So near, and yet so far." Well, this was the picture taken on Chowpatty, way back in 1987.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a short story that I am attempting to write, but a true story that has made me think. Though it can also made into a thought-provoking short story provided one has the skills. After seeing the Chowpatty picture on her Google Talk profile for several weeks, I asked her one day, "Aren't you going to change it? Or are you still in the nostalgia mode?" She replied, "What to do, I happened to love him so much." Now that made me think:

1. Should she forever curse life for having denied her her first love, or be thankful to life that she spent 20 blissful years while being married to a man who she did not choose but who not only gave her happiness and two beautiful children but also enough breathing space to write two books of poems?

2. Or is it that she is mistaking lust for love? When you are 40-plus, and your husband a few years older, the bed is the place where you only have arguments. Once upon a time the bed might have been a place where toes touched, but today it is the venue for pointing fingers. In other words, there is no sex, except whatever goes on in the mind. In such a situation, when a handsome visitor appears on the horizon, then... well. And if the visitor happens to be a blast from the past, then.. well. You know what I mean, don't you?

3. Does love retain its potency and its intoxicating properties as long as you don't achieve it? And lose its charm the moment you achieve it? I am asking this because, had Sunaina married the Army officer, wouldn't she have got bored of his constant presence after 20 years of marriage? Maybe she would have searched for other people on Orkut. Maybe she would have searched for me.

Please answer these questions for me, will you?


Anonymous said...

As usual very well crafted, I would choose option 3..

Anonymous said...

;) Whose the inspiration...

Paresh Palicha said...

We're emotional fools! My take: the day we find true love our mind becomes a blank slate. If an age old relationship revives same old passion then they both have lived fake lives. And, I'm sure even if they get the courage to be in touch & go to the extent that they'd have wished to go as teenagers. Still, they'd return to spouses at the end of the day fearing backlash from society & other such crap.

We're always taught that life is a set of comprises we make to adhere to norms set by the society (no matter how hurtful it is for us or for the people around us) & marriage is one such thing.

Anonymous said...

this reminds me what i tell my friends sometimes,that one should always have a person, some person who has touched your life at some point of time in the back ground its not about having an affair with him its just a nice thought to know when things are'nt perfect in your life to sit and think that if you want that special someone is there..

Ardra said...

Difficult questions...even more difficult to answer.

Anonymous said...

Lambi si dagar hai mere dil suna koi aur kahani. Toes still touch each other its just that thoughts venture out else where. Live free...breathe is too beautiful and there are lot of people out there.. Explore . That would keep ur soul alive. ..

chitra said...

I agree with Ardra.

but i would go with option 3.

Maya said...

I think we are capable of carrying within our hearts more than one love and what we manifest in our life is really the sum total of this huge capacity for love that each of us have.

You can think of that as a flaw or a positive embellishment.It really is - to each his own.

I won't blame society for the way it imprisons but really the individual who chooses to let it do so. If you want something badly enough then whats to stop you, eh?

One's ability to love someone old or someone new doesn't necessarily diminish the feeling or emotions for that someone already in one's life. We play games, sometimes the rules defy logic and decency and sometimes we make our own rules. And why not?

Now..lust.....ummmmmmm that's another matter all together. Most things laced with lust come in irresistible packages..;->

Anonymous said...

very thought provoking..but i feel human heart is capable of loving more than one even if she's married and all, a little bit of fantasy is harmless..

Anonymous said...

do u sincerely believe she lived happily all those years??

btw 'Constant presence' and 'army officer' are contradictory terms
:-) so, for all u know she would have stuck with him for those many years and more..

lala ram pandey said...

sunanda is 40 plus and her husband is 45 plus. He is not able to get it up.
Her ex -lover is also of almost the same age as her husband.
whether he will be able to get a good erection ?
Too much risk.

Raksha said...

Found this interesting and astute!

My take:-

1. Even if we stay at the most romantic locale in Monte Carlo in an exotic beach house, it will seem commonplace to us in some time and lose its magic.
There goes the Engineer huby's credibility along with the goodies packed all in one.

2. What we do not wholly owe (read explored, familiarized with etc) always casts that alluring pull as we assign every possible goodness to that 'other' and the combination that we would make with the 'other'. Thus putting the army guy and the concept of 'us' with him on a pedestal.

3.Had she married the army guy, he would find himself in her husband's shoes and yes she would be looking in Orkut for another' him' woth potential.

Sadly...this is the truth for most of us!