Posts Tagged ‘romance’

Love is about hate

Five days ago, when a friend called to say that a couple we know very well were separating after 11 years of marriage, my wife said, “How could that be true? They were so much in love! Why did this have to happen, that too on Valentine’s Day!”

I responded with three loud, shocked OhMyGods.

The first one was because I realized it was Valentine’s Day, and I had forgotten it yet again.

The second one was because I realized it was going to be a year since I wrote a post. The last one was about forgetting last year’s Valentine’s Day.

The third and the least shocked one was for the news.

Surprised by my over-the-top anguish, my wife said, “Terrible, na? What to do! Unbelievable, they were such a lovey-dovey couple.”

“I’m calling off all my surprise Valentine’s Day plans. Really not feeling like it,” I said, shamelessly using a friend’s plight to my advantage.

“Yes, of course. Can’t think of a celebration right now. But I’m so glad you remembered!” she said and went out of the room to let me mourn in peace.

Not that I was heartless. Just that I had been expecting this a long time now. Here was another couple that made the crucial mistake of evaluating love with love. Wishes, gifts, surprises, occasions, cuddles, kisses are all great, but are no barometer of reality. The gushing answer you get to the well-timed “So honey, how much do you love me?” asked on a Valentine’s Day candle-lit dinner, can be so self-gratifying that it hides all the lurking dangers under the table.

“Love is not about the million things that you like about me, but about the really few that you dislike about me,” I had once told my wife. “They are like those small insignificant worms on some of those flowers in paradise. They are often missed in the beauty and magnificence of romance. But trust me, they have the potential to grow into anacondas and swallow the whole relationship.”

“You know what I dislike about you? Your idea of a conversation about worms and anacondas on a Valentine’s Day dinner,” she had said.

I never brought this up with her ever again. There are things that one can’t talk to one’s spouse, but can talk to the rest of the world. This is one such.

Honestly, even if I were to keep the creepy analogies aside, the fact remains this-

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Love isn’t about celebrating all that you love about each other, but about overcoming the dislikes, the uncomfortable zones, the irritants, the disagreements. Those are the weak links that snap at the wrong time.

It will do us good to remember that relationships are built by love, but always- always- broken by hate.

What’s true for love and relationships is also true for everything else in life.

Peace doesn’t depend on those who practise it, but on those who break it.

Goodness is never about how good a person is, but about how bad the person is capable of being.

Spirituality is not about how you live in the belief that there’s God, but about how you would live if there was no God.

Happiness is determined not by how you react to the good times, but by how you overcome the bad ones.

Power is not the influence you have on others, but on yourself.

Respect is not about how people treat you when you succeed, but about how they treat you when you fail.

I put down these thoughts and read them out aloud.

I let out three surprised OhMyGods, again.

This time, the first one was because I realized I now have a post! Finally!

The second one was because I realized how far I am from imbibing all the above.

The third and the most important one was because I realized my wife was standing behind me, hands on her hips, listening to the whole thing.

I grinned sheepishly.

She said, “You know what I dislike about you? You are so profound when romancing and so silly when philosophizing.”

This. Is. Silly?

In love? With love or loved one?

Here’s the thing about my wife and me.

After 22 years of our marriage, we might not know when to say what, but we know very well when not to say what.

So, five days ago when my wife asked, “Shall we go out for coffee?” I instantly said, “Yes, why not.” It should logically have been, “But why?” because both of us hate the coffee at coffee shops. We believe we make the world’s best coffee at home. She, hers. I, mine.

But that’s the way it is with us.

It’s never about what’s said, always about what’s unsaid.

So, for no said reason, but for a very big unsaid one, there we were, last Friday evening, walking up to the coffee shop down our road.

Sorry sir, you need to have something red on you. There’s a dress code for today.”

I was stopped at the door rudely, like an immigrant without a passport.

With a WTF expression, I turned around to look at my wife beside me, as if she owed me an explanation to this nonsense.

She wasn’t there. She was already in. A red stole that I had never noticed before, now prominently draped around her neck. She rolled her eyes that left the “I have given up on you!” unsaid. She took out a red handkerchief from her handbag with a flourish that one only sees in magic shows, and I was in.

Ah, so you knew the code?” I asked sheepishly.

No, I knew the date,” she said as we proceeded to the counter.

Today isn’t 9th November, so it can’t be your birthday for sure!” I said and laughed at my own joke, like the smiley people insert after messages.

Even if it were, my birthday would only be tomorrow,” she said.

Oh yeah! 10th November! Slip of the tongue,” I said, biting my lip.

As we waited at the counter to get our order right, I glanced around for our seats.

The cafe was almost full. Filled with gushing, giggling youngsters- couples in love. Most of them barely as old as our children. The whole cafe was an overdose of red, hearts and mush. For a moment it seemed that the whole world had abruptly turned love-struck and young. Until, I caught my distorted reflection in the glass window. It assured me that life wasn’t a fantasy.

When done, we chose the first available seats. Usually, I choose the one facing the TV and she chooses the one facing the people. Not because I love watching TV, but because she loves watching people and I hate people watching me.

Aren’t you wondering what all this fuss is about?” she asked looking around, as soon as we settled down.

Oh, it’s just a marketing gimmick,” I said. “Youngsters are suckers for atmospheres. Create one with loud music, psychedelic lights and suffocating smoke, and everything illegal becomes a hip thing to do. Create one of love and romance, and people are more than willing to go all lovey-dovey. The occasion becomes so overwhelming that most people are overawed by it and go about like cupid zombies. It makes them do stupid things. Like proposing. Worse, accepting. Look at that,” I said pointing to a table.

A boy had just then gone down on his knees in theatrical fashion and proposed to his girl, extending a rose and then flipping a ring under her nose.

We watched the girl blush on cue and pretend to have been completely surprised by his love, this proposal and the gift. With eyes welling up- with tears of joy I presumed, and not with the disappointment of the rock turning out to be smaller than she had imagined- she uttered a yes, and it was his turn to show that this was the most unexpected answer.

They hugged and kissed. We were the only ones watching. The others were busy with their own acts of romance.

How could a grown up man- okay, grown up boy- go down on his knees and plead: Will you marry me? And how could anyone say yes to a beggar of love. Love can’t be asked for, it needs to be earned, elicited, evoked, made to feel. The problem is that people fall in love with love more than each other. In love, like most things human, people miss the soul and hold on to the frills that come with it.”

How would you know! You never proposed to me.” she said.

My dad did,” I protested.

Yes, to my dad. And after they said yes to each other, do you know where you took me out for our first date?”

There were no coffee shops around those days,” I said in my defense.

Maybe, but surely, there were beaches, gardens, malls and movies? Of all the places, you took me to the Automobile Association of India’s office. There we sat at untouchable distance from each other on a rickety old wooden bench, cobwebs dangling from the ceiling threatening to fall on our heads, in an office full of dusty files and bored clerks on the verge of retirement.”

Ah, you remember all of it, so vividly,” I said trying to bring a little glee to the proceedings.

How could any girl forget such an experience,” she said.

Did she say forget or forgive? I wasn’t going to ask for sure.

Tell me, do you also remember our marathon call that would put all these What’s Apping youngsters to shame?”

Of course, from 10 in the night to 4 in the morning. I was on the phone when my dad went to sleep and I was on the phone when he woke up in the morning. It sounds so romantic, but do you know, I was yawning away at the other end? Because all you did for those 6 hours was describe your family tree- a large one at that. Who was who, and why the whos were so special. In such detail that by the end of it, I could have written biographies of them.”

And what about my love letters to you,” I asked excitedly.

Love letters? Where was the love? I remember every word of all the letters you wrote in the four months between our engagement and wedding. The most boring ones any man could have ever written to a woman. I’ve preserved them for posterity. One day they would make a great book titled What To Expect From Life After Marriage.”

Are you serious? You still have my letters?”

Yes, all 37 of them!”

And for the next 45 minutes, all through our coffee and our trip back home, she narrated parts of those letters. Agreed, they were terribly unromantic.

But even after 22 years they made her laugh, tease, ridicule and talk for that long. And I played along, like I have all these years, in the know that I have made this Valentine’s Day, unforgettable for her, in my own unique way.

I don’t know if the boy and the girl at the cafe that day would remember that cafe or the readymade card they exchanged, or the gift he gave her, 22 years from now.

But I am sure on every Valentine’s Day, they would be dressed in red, sitting at some fancy place that has hearts strewn all over and soaking in the perfect atmosphere for love.

I only hope it is with each other.

Heart aches at 50


I’m looking for astrologer Panicker. Does anyone know him? He was our family’s soothsayer through the promising 70s and potential 80s. Not seen after the disastrous 90s. I have some old scores to settle with him, and some new ones too. Not that his predictions didn’t come true. They have- in fact, each one of them. My problem is with the way in which they have come true.

On a bright sunny day in 1978, he had told my mom that my life would be a never-ending song-and-dance sequence of a Yash Chopra film. Well, not exactly that. He had picked a mallu director of the same genre. But you know how wretched fantasies are- they always go overboard.

After that day, every time I watched a Yashji’s film (Yes, I’m sucking up to him. You have a problem?), I would imagine myself in it- walking through mists and running through snowfall. His films kept changing, his heroines kept changing, his locations kept changing, but the mists, snowfall and the hero remained the same. I lived in this soft-focus, slow-motion hope until recently when my aunt had come visiting our flat.

She had looked out of our flat and said, ‘Aiyo, maybe this is what Panicker meant!’ I had looked out of the pigeon-shitted, feather-stuck balcony grill and seen the Ganpati visarjan song-and-dance rituals. The Lakshmi industrial estate was spewing white smoke and there was the thermocol dust flying around their packing area. Mist and snow indeed.

Through the 80s, Panicker had become our dream merchant. Selling my mom unrealistic expectations of me. He had once moved pebbles on his celestial grid and exclaimed to my excited mom, ‘Your son will remain an evergreen hero all his life, much like our Prem Nazir!’

‘Who amma?’ I had asked. ‘Equivalent to Dev Anand,’ she had said with an air of a star mom.

I remember stealing a glance at Panicker’s oil-stained, sticker-bindi filled mirror, and nodding in Devji’s style. (Yes, I’m sucking up to even him. I’m desperate and actually why not? He makes movies faster than I can post on my blog.) I had looked horrible, but at that age you tend to blame the mirror and are always ready to accept favourable lies as maybe-truths.

Today when I look at the mirror, I squirm. I do look like Devji. That rascal Panicker was right- about every wrinkle, every freckle.

By early 90s when we had first realised that my life was heading to where I’m today, my mom had panicked. So she Panickered! (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)

‘No worries, your son is a late starter. A slow-off-the-block stallion. Once he bolts, there would be no stopping him. At an age when people take sanyas, he would be having romantic heartaches like a teen! Evergreen romantic hero, your son!’

That was the last we had heard from him and of him. I would have forgotten about him too, but for what I have been going through in the last few days.

The aches, pains and pangs of separation have happened. I’ve been having this lost look, and a without-you-I’m-a-broken-kite expression at dinner table until someone snaps me out of it. I have written with water droplets on frosted windows and on dusty car bonnets the only two initials that matter to me these days- I and V. No, they don’t stand for the bikini model Ingrid Venosa, but for my damn Inner Voice.

Oh, how I hate myself for all this! Trust me, I have done all I can to shake myself off this nonsense. But the heart is no cookie jar to just upturn and empty it.

A few days back I even thought up a brilliant way out: Make Panicker’s predictions come true in a nicer way.

I cosied up to my wife in a younger Devji sort of way hoping she would in turn do a Zeenat or at least an Asha Parekh on me. She did snuggle up to me and parted the grey overgrown hair in my ears- to whisper sweet nothings and to nibble, I hoped.

She said in a husky tone, ‘Maid wants a raise, Rum!’

I blushed and said, ‘Someone’s talking dirty here!’

‘What dirty? Maid wants to know if we can give her a raise this month or no?’ she screamed into my bald ears.

That’s the problem with age. It’s never a lack of interest or intention, but there are simply a million more serious issues to talk, ask, worry, discuss, argue and decide than at 20. So, where’s the time for sweet nothings, tell me?

When I narrated this to our neighbour Jain saab, he said, ‘You’ve got it all wrong, Ramesji (wink, wink). The yog is not for romance but for heartache. And you can’t get heartaches from wives. Only headaches. But don’t you worry; I’ll take you to a one-stop shop for romance, heartaches and everything. Everything (wink, wink)!’

So that’s how that night I landed at this dandiya for the first time in my life. Devji in garba costume.

The atmosphere was heady. Music so loud that forget hearing my Inner Voice, I wouldn’t have been able to even think of it.

‘You are doing well for a beginner, Ramesji (wink, wink)!’ you-know-who said, as I got into the groove pretty fast. I swirled around like a pro, letting it all fan out like a circus tent, enveloping a few kids under it on the way. I swung, swirled and swayed from partner to partner- my dandiya meeting their dandiya, my smile meeting their smirk, my howdy expression meeting their WTF expression. I would have gone on and on but for three reasons.

  1. The million mirrors in women’s skirts were reflecting back my embarrassment a million fold.
  2. For some reason every time we stopped swirling, I landed up with Jain saab as my partner. ‘How is it going Ramesji (wink, wink)?’ was too much to take, and I was scared of Panicker’s predictions coming true this wink, wink way.
  3. I was completely out of breath. Forget heartaches. It was more like heart attacks.

I stopped and limped across to the Pepsi dispenser. I put in enough coins for a couple of cans. Nothing happened. So I fiddled with the buttons and when nothing worked, I gave it an old-fashioned bang. It whirred, whined and spat something on to my hand. Too small for a can for sure. Horror! It was a condom. Actually, condoms. Ten and still counting. Damn, who would expect a condom vending machine here!

I turned around to quickly escape. Too late. The music had stopped. I heard the DJ announce, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have tonight’s first condom buyer. On behalf of our Anti AIDS Mandal, I call him up on stage. He is our Eveready Romantic Hero of the night!’

That jerk on the console even threw a spotlight in my direction. The whole junta turned around in a surreally choreographed way. There stood Devji at 80 dressed in garba costume, with both his hands full of condoms.

The last I remember of that embarrassment was the DJ’s voice, ‘Give him a big hand, folks!’

Oh yeah, big hand (wink, wink), I thought and blanked.

Sitting here now, I can’t help but recollect what my Inner Voice had said many many years ago.

‘It’s not whether astrology or astrologers are right or wrong. The problem is that they begin to take control of your life and dictate every deed of yours. Life itself becomes an effort to either prove them right or prove them wrong. And remember, it’s always a worry if you make something outside of you more powerful than your mind, your soul and your self, because mind is a great master but a terrible slave.’

How I wish I could hear all of it again even if only to argue and disagree.


Bloody Panicker!

Psst…I’m going to be disappearing from your lives. But not for too long. Will be back on 3rd November. See if you feel the aches, pains and pangs of separation, too. 🙂

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