Monday, October 13

Love and Happiness

The year was 1950. Having missed a prestigious Government position in Delhi by the proverbial hair's breath, a 24 year old youth from the south of India began to look for work elsewhere. In this land, destinies were & are made in Bombay. Fate decreed that this boy, called K, had been gallivanting around the backwaters long enough and directed him to the city caressed by the Arabian Sea.

Once he'd begun to work, his family wanted to check off the next thing on the list - a bride. K bluntly told his father that he was not interested in an arranged marriage, practically scandalizing everyone in the vicinity and a few ancestors for good measure. Predictably enough, his wishes were ignored and the hunt for a suitable girl began in earnest, culminating in a small town in Tamil Nadu. K was tersely informed about his upcoming nuptials and although furious, he acquiesced. Which should come as no surprise, really, as young men and women do so even today.

The bride-to-be was 20ish... birth records were not exactly reliable in pre-Independence India and much less so in the villages and towns. It was K's good fortune that she was a real looker... and a very capable cook. Having lost her mother at an early age, A had shouldered the responsibilities of house and home and done so ably.

Some time in April 1953, the wedding took place and the Iyer family, totalling 2, made their way back to the heat and humidity of Bombay. They made an interesting pair; him with his bright hazel eyes, sternly disciplined approach & brusque manner and her with the classical good looks and shy demeanour hiding a core of stubbornness and determination. Although he had agreed to the marriage, K vowed not to speak to his father and did not do so till the birth of his first child a year later.

In April 2008, A realized that she had been married for 55 years. She had lived in Bombay for 55 years. Always a delicate looking woman, the passage of time had seen that change into frailty. She looked tired, as elders are wont to do but it was her eyes that spoke volumes about the depth of her weariness. Mother to 3 and grandmother to 5, she had seen, heard and experienced a lot in the 5 decades gone by and the conflicts and tragedies had taken their toll. At times she felt that the almighty was singling her out for misfortune and this confused her... was she not sincerely devout ? Had she not prayed selflessly for her family's well-being, putting herself last ? What more could she do ?

Through the years, K had been there, her husband, providing unflinching support... but even he was mortal after all. At first, there were only murmurs from family... he had begun to make mistakes in keeping his daily accounts... he was misplacing things more often than could be attributed to absent-mindedness... he could not remember things and events that had taken place less than an hour ago... and it went on and on, his memory deteriorating steadily. His eyes, once bright with wit and intelligence, now looked worried and unsure. He withdrew from most conversations, preferring to focus on the wall-clock... the one thing that answered his unspoken questions with unerring accuracy. Without passing judgement.

The two of them bickered constantly; she because of her frustration at the world and he because the world was now a strange and unfriendly place. Family members could and did do very little because both K and A were still fiercely independent in many respects. On rare occasions, an ancient look flashed in their eyes. A look that still left one cowering. Their first-born grandson, about the same age as when his grandfather had been married, sometimes wondered how they stood each other. He was from a more cynical generation; as nonchalant about marriage as he was about the possibility of divorce & he wondered whether there was any vestige left of the feelings K and A would have had for each other all those years ago. Did they even think of concepts like anniversaries and celebrations ?

One afternoon, the grandfather and grandson were playing cards, while the grandmother was making coffee in the kitchen. The grandfather looked at the cards in his hand, paused and looked again... not at the cards, but around the room, making sure no one else was within earshot.

In his perfect Tamil... in a low voice, K told his grandson, " She is the only person I have... I cannot live without her". He then smiled and went back to looking at the cards.

There was silence in the kitchen... A, who had just been about to enter the room with the coffee, stood still. And also smiled.



Song for the moment: Here comes the sun - The Beatles

8 comments:

bhumika said...

love and happiness indeed! The last few lines brought a smile on my face.

~mE said...

:)

Vinod said...

:)

singhs log said...

Very well written.
Captures the subtle nuances of relationships which have lasted time.
We should all be this lucky :)

girish said...

bhumika - a smile is good enough.

~me & vinod - welcome to the blog

sameer - thank u... and yes, we should.

Mukti said...

Beautiful, and surprisingly tender! :)
-Mukti

Piggy Little said...

mesmerising. truly mesmerising.

girish said...

mukti - nice to see you back and I'll take that remark as a compliment.

piggy little - welcome to the blog.