In our search and quest for meaning and affirmation we often look so far ahead that we forget to have a closer look at what lies around us. It has been my experience that courage, magnificence, beauty, strength and love, which we all so desperately seek is just around the corner, we just forget to observe what lies the closest in our belief that the exotic and the eternal lies in a place unknown to us, beyond our grasp.
I always felt that idea of eternal love, that epic romance, which servers as an inspiration to one and all has been lost in the annals of time, unknown to modern civilization. We all lament about it, cry, bitch and moan of how it eludes us as a generation caught up in our pursuit for material possession and self-indulgent gratification, well at least I know I do, we seek to vicariously live a small piece of it, in the reassess of our imagination, through film and literature, yet I have only just realized that ‘love’ may not after all be such a fictional entity.
Even though we might fail to see and recognize it, the ordinary men and women that we ignore for their plainness and mediocrity carry forth this flame of eternal love and carefully and tenderly spread it around, to their children, their friends, colleagues and sometimes even perfect strangers. If just for once we can push aside our ignorance and just learn to listen, we might just realize that there is still hope, everywhere.
I stepped out of the train at Matunga station at around 10.20 am. I was later than usual; well this has sort of turned into a nasty habit lately that I must get rid off soon. I love traveling by train, on most good days, encountering something amusing, unexpected and engaging becomes its highlight. I absolutely love observing the various species of human beings that share the crowded Mumbai public transportation system with me. I was never much of a TV watcher, with the exception of a random craving for something funny or dramatic every once in a while, for the most part I have been pretty detached from the idiot box. Amazingly enough, I have now completely lost the occasional longing for mindless mass entertainment ever since I moved to Mumbai and started traveling by train! Seriously, who needs a TV set when all the ingredients for great entertainment are around you! Bombay and its over crowed public transportation system has become my window of entertainment!
Yeah so anyways, I have this tendency of going off into these random tangents and completely postponing the point that I am trying to make. It was a scalding day and I was late for work. I was sweating profusely in the oppressive heat. (Seriously, I think I sweat more than anyone that I know and have ever seen. I have observed women looking their freshest and prettiest, with incredible Zen like expressions lining their faces in the midst of the Bombay heat while the sweat on my countenance glistens like hot oil sputtering on a frying fan.)
My head was stuck in my book. (I cherished my last few moments of literary gratification as I marched along the platform towards the exit, expertly avoiding all possible occurrences of a collision between myself and some unsuspecting stranger.)
“You shouldn’t do that you know.” I heard someone whisper really close to my ear.
I turned around some what startled, it was “A” one of the senior managers at work. Oh great, now I have to walk with him and make small talk along the way, I groaned a little within.
I am painfully shy when it comes to having a friendly chat with most people I work with. I mostly speak when I feel there is a purpose I need to interject. I suck at small talk, it gives me a headache.
A friendly, nonchalant chat about the weather and all things meaningless isn’t really my cup of tea. I really envy the people that do manage it, getting friendly and comfy with the senior members of an organization never really hurt anyone. I wish I can do it with the ease and grace that some people manage to pull it off with.
So yeah, “A” and I were walking to the office, luckily I didn’t really need to say much, God bless his talkative soul. I don’t exactly remember how it started; I think I wasn’t even really paying too much attention to what he was saying. Suddenly, somehow the conversation veered towards his family. “A” is not a young man by anybodies standards. For someone who is fairly middle-aged, his son is awfully little. Now I can understand that this is not all that exceptional in this day and age, but some 20 odd years ago, getting married or having children in your late 30’s was unheard of.
“We had an inter-caste marriage, my wife is Hindu, we ran away from home. It was utter chaos in the beginning. We lived in fear for a long time. There were death threats and police complaints. All we had was each other and the clothes on our back.”
“A” straightened his shirt cuff as he went on reminiscing.
“She use to live in my colony, back in the day, we had the scoop on all the girls that lived in the neighborhood. It was something we were utterly proud of, me and my friends. She was the only one that I didn’t know, although her family stayed there, she had mostly grown up at her grandmothers house. I was completely awestruck when I first saw her, who is that girl? I asked my friend.”
“A” said that it was love at first sight. He knew that their union would never be accepted by those around them. A country that has been plagued and tortured by the ugly shadow of religious hatred would never let a Muslim man and a Hindu woman come together.
In an essentially secular country, religion has been the point of contention that has divided people, generation after generation. The passion and fervor of religious fundamentalism has turned men and women against each other, making them forget all empathy that they might share amongst themselves.
In spite of these seemingly impossible circumstances, here they are some twenty years later sharing a life together.
“It was a while before we had our son, having absolutely nothing in our pockets made it difficult to have a child. No complains, we are very happy.”
By then we had reached the office entrance and went our separate ways. I was completely awed by “A’s” story, in this crazy eccentric world that we live in love might just conquer it all. Well at least for this one lucky couple anyways.
More to follow…