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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Of love, romance and being incorrigible

(c) Durba Gupta

I am a self-proclaimed, incorrigible, mushy kind of piscean love addict. I day dream profusely of my romantic endeavours and misadventures. Over the years, I have seen many of my close friends, relatives, acquaintances and myself go through this beautiful experience. When I was young, a friend once told me that love is like a cigarette. It burns out. And when it burns out, it leaves behind a heart burn ;) of a different kind. My skeptic friend is married with a kid now, after 5 years of whirlwind 'going out' with the girl of his dreams.

Being the non-conformist I had always been, I never quite paid any heed to my friend's observations. So when in schools I watched girls and guys exchanging notes, and eating their tiffin together (yes, that was romance in our days), I was pretty sure that love will come and sweep me off my feet soon. There were quite a few of us who subscribed to that 'vision'. Strangely though, none of use quite 'actioned' on it, we just hoped it would come our way.

As I awaited for love to knock, I also judiciously observed how love unfurled around me. Every winter it used to get very foggy in the mornings where I was born. But as providence would have it, we all had to still go to our respective private tutors at 6 in the morning trying to crack the frivolities of laws of motion, organic chemistry and Poisson distribution. Private tutorials were heavens for budding romances, writing on each other's copies, playing footsies and stealing glances. There was this one boy, who had particular interest in a girl friend of mine. He would cycle next to her rickshaw every morning, wearing a traditional monkey cap and mittens. He was not part of the same tuition, but would always be there to guard her in those foggy mornings. In him, love smiled.

One of the most memorable love stories of my childhood was that of a kaku and kakima's (uncle and aunt). She a talented singer, he a tabla player. They were the silent lovers type, always a team, always together. Today when I see myself or friends around me trying to analyse every single aspect of marital discord, I wonder how those two, without so much so having any disagreement in public, led such a loved life. He would look at her and know when to stop and she would pout her lips and make him forget his argument. In them, love lived.

A certain school mate of mine nurtured rather loving feelings for another girl. They had been studying together for 18 years, but never quite expressed their mutual feelings. Years later, the boy knocked at her door and told her that he has got a job and would like to marry her. She stared at him for a while. Today, they are happy parents of a lovely daughter. In them, love dreamed.

As the decades passed by, I've seen the various incorrigible enactments of love changing and metamorphosing from emails to psychedelic parties. 'Am not so sure if that is love as I see it, but every now and then I do see his eyes following her on the dance floors, a look that is torn between longing for a long lasting comfort and momentary comfort, a stare that wants to belong and the one that wants to explore. In them, love changed.

I do not want to define love, but I see love when my cook accompanies his wife to their village to attend her father's funeral, knowing very well that he won't be paid. I see love when he takes her on occasional evening walks in the park in between work, and she smiles shyly. I see love when the untouched side of a bed awaits for someone's return, I see love when my neighbour's wife smiles proudly at her husband's vegetable garden and I see love when someone narrates their love stories with equal passion as if it happened yesterday after 20 years. I see love when a friend cries profusely over a lifetime of separation, I see love when I see the couples holding hands, eating Indian food on Devon street, Chicago. I feel love when I ...

So with so many love stories and yet so many heartbreaks, is love overrated? A friend once told me, "Love is not overrated, romance is." Probably she is right, but I stay a die hard romantic, incorrigible, daydreamer for whom love is just plain beautiful.

What are your thoughts on love?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They see so many lives

(c) Durba Gupta

They see so many lives. Enacted. Every day. In front of their eyes.

Since I was 10 or 12, I always wanted to marry someone whose profession is driving. Just the idea of distance wheezing past you was intoxicating. Travelling for miles...to new places, to new lives, to new thoughts and new smiles. The idea always fascinated me. I remember we used to take long distance trips twice or thrice every year. We would hire couple of cars and the whole family would travel. It's not that we would go to new places every time. Mostly these were much frequented places, but every time that I sat next to the man behind the wheel, his eyes glued to the road, his hands firm on the steering and air on his hair, I would see the same roads bring out surprises on every turn. And when it rained, I would pull down the window, prop myself out and let the rain peirce through. People at the back shouted. He would just smile. When the family squabbles broke out, he would hide his smile. He saw our lives.

Over the years, being a scary chicken behind the wheels myself, I have mostly resorted to the guys who see lives enacted, everyday. Although I never got to settle down with one, as my dream at 12 would go, but I had my share of many stories of those who see stories everyday.

My flight to Richmond touched ground at 11 in the night. Although it was my second trip to the place, I was a bit worried for travelling this late. But I had to be in office the next day. As I picked up my luggage and walked out, sure enough there stood a man in his late 30s with a white board that read 'Duerbar Gapita'. I knew it was me. I said, you've got the name wrong. He smiled and blamed his boss. As I settled down on the front seat, he apologised for the smell in the car. He said, his friend had an unfortunate projectile incident in the car, last night. I said it's alright. He drove down the Chippenham parkway and narrated his story of hating late night driving, hating being stuck in Virginia and that I was in safe hands, made me wonder how easily I relaxed as he wheezed past those unknown roads, took a left turn from Red Lobsters and parked right in front of my hotel. He apologised again, and wished me a good stay.

Every now and then I would board a cab where the cabbie would be busy giving me advise. Around the safe route to take, how the petrol price is increasing, that his meter is not spiked or how he hates the traffic. But once in a while, I do get in a cab, where the cabbie discusses politics. In one of my rides back to my hotel, I once had the pleasure of riding with a Singaporean cabbie who discussed in details what the Congress government can do for India, that Sonia Gandhi is very capable and that with their second election victory Congress is going to stay in power for long. It is amazing how well informed he was, unlike many of my fellow countrymen and women.

Over the years the smartest cabbies I have come across hail from the big bad charming city of Bombay where they swindle a 500 bill for a 100 bill, their cabs decorated with all kinds of felt and velvette complete with chandeliers that bump on your head in their attempts at making a home in their little fiats, to the ones who would pass on their mobile numbers back in 1999 (long before Meru culture) to be an 'on call' cabbie! They are the smartest!

But the most entertained ones, 'am sure are from our old city Calcutta, where very animated parents, lovers, siblings and friends get in the cabs and vent out their emotions through words, actions and silence that the cabbies witness everyday. I still remember, in my late school days, me and a friend got in a cab. We were discussing some book and it led to his expressing those familiar emotions for me, and I started playing the familiar game of how he deserves so much better! By the time we got off the cabbie, my friend was still not convinced; the cabbie handed us the change, smiled at my friend and said, "Dada chhere din. Oshob to rojkar byapar. Ek cup cha khan matha thanda hoe jabe." (Bro, drop it. This happens everyday. Drink a cup of tea and chill!) My friend didn't take too kindly to him :).

So if I were to interview cabbies from various cities to share their experiences, 'am sure I will come up with an extraordinary novel. May be I should try that, couldn't marry one, but at least can finish my novel (I've written the first chapter and the last chapter.) with their stories.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

To the people of Leh

My prayers reach out for the beautiful people in Leh. I hope the relief measures are successful and the ordeal comes to an end soon for them. RIP for those who are no more...