It was the evening of May 31st, 2004 and I was bummed. It marked the first weekend of my summer internship. I had been 97 weeks away from what everyone called Bombay and from what I called home. I was 51 weeks away of what others called becoming a BA Hons. (Economics) graduate and what I called good riddance. What Kartik had led me to believe, that weekend, “Dono bhai, club jakar bhand honge (Bro, we’d both go to the club and get pitch drunk)” and what he was delivering, “Bro, the people from my school’s book club have arranged a reunion, come along, it’s gonna be fun. The Modern girls, you’ll find them cool.”
Before you judge me as a birdwatcher, the only reason Kartik said what he said was because I didn’t read books, I knew nobody from Modern School but him and the only incentive that he could find for me were the girls. But the last thing on my mind at that time were girls, let alone a Delhi girl with a rich stroke of liner on her eyes, straight hair, accent that you could not identify with any place on the globe but Delhi and demeanor bordering on snobbery. If I was mooning over the XX chromosome in Delhi, I’d find plenty in SRCC, some who did not correspond to the description I have just laid out, some who I found exceptional, some who I looked up t. However, all with a typical vibe that Delhi-ites exuded, that made me uncomfortable, that made me feel out of the place, that stopped me from making long term associations with them. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the reunion.
That evening I met your mother, It wasn’t raining, she wasn’t wearing red, I wasn’t on a white horse, there were no moonlit castles and red roses, no romantic songs being played on the piano and no blue french horn. It was in a living room of a flat in Vasant Vihar cramped with people, their lit up faces and exuberant voices, notes being exchanged on books, on their lives and on others’ lives, spiked cold drinks being served in disposable cups and samosas, sandwiches and dhoklas laid out on the central table. I was sitting on the couch munching on sandwich after sandwich and mentally sorting people into pre defined categories. Then I looked at your mother, she was wearing a dark blue 3/4th sleeve T shirt with an acid washed light blue jeans and a beige scarf looped like an infinity around her neck. I was stuck at the scarf, only a demented person wears a scarf in May, in Delhi, when it is freaking 42 degrees outside; unless of course you are hiding a love bite or a vampire bite or a zombie bite or warts like Nurse Matilda. Her hair tied in a lose bun, her well rounded eyes looked sunken, as if, they were in immediate need of sleep and the perfect curve of her lips made for a captivating smile. It brought a spirit to her appearance and how she talked. But she had a air of confidence to herself, that made her look like a Miss Know it all. To me, she looked self indulgent who considered her opinion far above others. She was holding Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix which did nothing good to my opinion on her. Because the world was reading Harry Potter, it was the ‘it’ thing to do and so there she was another victim of another cultural phenomenon; ‘why cannot people do something original, at least make a decision on reading independently’, I thought to myself. Shaking my head with disappointment, I walked out to the balcony, plugged in the iPod and looked around vacantly.
It must have been thirty minutes when I returned to the living room. Everyone was seated in the center of the room for discussing that week’s read. On the arm of the couch, was your mother speaking about Harry Potter, about Hermoine unearthing Voldermort’s plan to Harry when they leave for the Ministry of Magic, about Phineas Nigellus’ words to Harry about young being judgmental of the aged, about the irony in Sirius’ words on judging a man’s character on how he treats his inferiors and ultimately befalling to his doom on account of his hostility to Kreacher, about the possibility of how differently things would have panned out had Harry discovered the mirror that Sirius had given him earlier. There was a light in her eyes, a composure on her face and passion in her words. Her voice brought me to peace. I wondered if I could achieve a tenth of her passion on the book, in anything that I do. I listened to her and felt that she was magic, magic that I did not have the words to define.
For days, I thought of her, her voice rang in my ears, the curve of her smile flashed before my eyes. I yearned to see her, to listen to her speak calmly but to speak with a spirit. It was October when I witnessed the magic again. It was the departmental fest and she was participating in the Paper Presentation. I was informing the participants about the order in which they will be called and that is when I saw her dressed in a white shirt and beige trousers, her cut in a medium bob making her look all the more endearing. I told her that we had met on the reunion, she gave me a concentrated glance and pointing a finger at me remarked, “Oh you are the judgmental guy who sat on the couch, ate most of our food and sulked all evening.”. I nodded sheepishly; she chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I was just kidding.” I did not skip an opportunity to be around her that day, I abandoned the arrangements and took her for a lunch in the campus and somehow managed to exchange numbers before she left. Occasionally, I would text her asking about sight seeing in Delhi or making a conversation on a well known book at that time or about DiCaprio and his Golden Globe victory for Aviator or on the truce between Israel and Palestine. She would always reply and always supersede my parameter of an interesting conversation.
In the summer of 2005, with a stroke of luck, I began working my first job in Bangalore, luck because your mother was studying law at NLU Bangalore. On the weekends, well some of them, she would take me to clubs or theaters or restaurants or street groups with zero heads up, deciding on the place spontaneously, while driving past signals or turning into lanes. She was a delight for company, spinning magic with every word that she spoke. Her company was the wildest that I had ever been and the most adrenaline I had felt in this life. When she would focus her attention on the task at hand, I would look at her sideways with awe, with respect, with longing and with love. She was what I wanted for the rest of my life.
On one evening a month before her graduation, we had gone to a cozy South Indian cafe. Over filter coffees and butter dosa, she looked at me with purpose and asked, “When are you going to muster the courage to articulate what you feel for me?”
Caught off guard I choked on the sambhar that I was gulping and asked in bewilderment, “You know, already?”
She answered with impatience building in her voice, “Of course I do, Kartik knows, my friends know, your flatmates know and even my mother has doubts.”
“I love you Namrata.”, I uttered in a rush.
“That is how you do it, without going down a knee, without a ring and without a kiss. I can see your planning skills giving up on you.”, she said.
“I am telling you that I love you, that I do not desire anything out of this life but you, that I have not been able to see the world in the same light since I heard you speak at the reunion and all you focus on, are the dramatics. That is very Delhi of you.”, I teased her.
“If there was anything Delhi about me, you’d not be circling me for the past two years with a sense of admiration in your eyes.”, she answered back.
He then knelled down, took her hand and said, “Namrata, I love you and love is too small a word to define my emotions for you. Will you be with me through long ticket queues, through the hour long traffic jam from work to home, through boom and through recession, through sheets from the sketch book being tossed in the bin when charcoal fails me, through lousy attempts at being poetic but authentic affection.”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, to all of that and this life with you.”, she replied and smiled that perfect smile.
Kids, you may ask, why am I writing to you about us. Because I have always loved you, even before being committed, even before deciding to settle down. I have always loved all three of you but Namrata doesn’t want kids. She doesn’t see kids for what I see in them. Given the person that she is, a day before our marriage or three years down of being hitched, she is going to wake up with a bout of guilt on depriving me of the the family I had imagined for us. And that day, I will hand her this letter so that she can read what my voice often fails to spell out for her, read how much of the world for me is simply her. What she has given me- read a certain calmness, stability, love, happiness, a feeling of being whole- no child in the world can measure up to that. So, we will not bring you to life, dear children, not as long as your mother does not desire that, not in this life and not in other lives if she so wants. Her love is what I seek for the rest of my existence and other than that everything stands diminished.
Only your mother’s forever