Emails of love and longing
I used my newly-opened Hotmail account to send emails to my obsession Preeti. I had also occasionally dropped in a line or two to Pom. Every day, before logging off, I wrote to Preeti without fail. I pounded on my keyboard and wrote lengthy emails. After office hours I had all the time in the world and I loved writing whatever came to mind. (I am a regular little literary snob just like anyone who is passionate about literature and books and warm tea/coffee). Preeti cast her beautiful eyes on my prolific emails and read them with much keenness. I’d afterwards call her and talk to her about them. For us our developing relationship mattered more than anything else; perhaps, with the sole exception of my emails making her day and mine alike.
Those days, I had a kind of dedicated approach towards writing and literature, books and soirees; I still am dedicated, but I feel that old spark is somehow missing. I have a passion for books and writing gives me some solace from the maddening world I live in. In my writings, I confess, every single detail is left to suggestion; I describe a lot almost to the point of overdoing it, use long-winding sentences, words that are normally not used or found on the daily lexicon of a person – all of them find a berth in the much-harried pages of my stories! And as a result of that, I have suffered deep pangs of guilty-pleasure generating from my natural inclination towards writing so many words that suffer from what I call deep claustrophobia. I never think of taking into account whether or not the person I am writing to really does have the time and inclination to read my laborious stuff.
Many a time and oft I used to feel sissy about the whole thing and abandon my curious, stuffy enterprise. But yet, you know, I preferred writing globe-swallowing stories no matter whether or not I stopped in my tracks and listened to a better opinion or two on how to do it the way it is meant to be done. To disengage from the vocation I am indulging in will never be on my To-Do list. Not yet. As far as writing emails to Preeti was concerned, I didn’t know when to stop my rambling, self-conscious prose and so I never did. I loved writing to her as much as she did reading it. Of all things that matter, writing straight from the heart was important. It is a time of plenty; blogging, tweeting and sms-ing are just a part of the big picture. And I am bumbling with fantastic enthusiasm and energy to write, write and write, and hopefully get read.
[Note: Getting someone to read your stuff (or anything at all) is a monstrous challenge, almost to the size of an untamed Dinosaur. I mean you can get some people to see a T-Rex in a man-made Jurassic-era like park, but to tell them to also read the swashbuckling Michael Crichton novel on which the film Jurassic Park is based is like committing some kind of hara-kiri… ! I prefer being eaten by a Dinosaur then! Problem solved! In a day and age when people have no doubt less and less time at their disposal, they have inadvertently become more and more adept at some kind of self-effacing tactics (often at no fault of theirs) – preferring instead the cushy pads of cellphones and getting stuck in traffic jams, and watching TV. The universal excuse is: We hardly get time to read a good book or two. I say it is just not done.]
A life-saver was my sweetheart Preeti who always got very anxious if the daily treat of my thesis-like emails didn’t reach her inbox. She never could think of giving them a miss, come hell or high water. That act of love was not only inspirational but a sure blessing for me. So I kept up my seriously indulgent writing as it is. I distinctly recall once when she had attended an official luncheon at Ramada Hotel. Pom and Padmini also were invitees there.
All throughout the day in my office, a torrent of apprehensions kept beleaguering me even as I had wanted to hear her voice just once over the phone and my day would have been made. Back in 1998, there were no mobile phones and so immediately calling her up was beyond question. I remember, I sat displeased in my office cubicle on the 5th floor of TSR Towers and was getting deeply anxious about her promised phone call. At last, Preeti called my office post lunch and I got talking with her. Great feelings of gratification had assailed me by from head to toe. By now I had known her intimately. Accustomed feelings of love and longing filled our pleading, embracing hearts. She teased me at first and narrated on the fabulous spread of Chinese, Indian and Mediterranean dishes: Chicken Manchuria, American Chopsuey (one of her favourites), Greek Salad, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, etc. – with the usual salvers of Dal Makhni, Tomato Rasam, and Tamarind Rice. We planned for a visit sometime.
In the following week, she called me to say she’s going to a pub with her office buddies. Somebody wanted to give a treat, apparently. The same night when she called back to say that she’s safely back home and propped on the sofa watching the movieThe Marrying Man on the cable television she seemed a little drunk, and for the first time in our relationship the ‘three magic words’ were expressed.
Now, let the truth be told, anything to do with Chicken usually revs up my craving and this incidentally had had me yelping away at Preeti and Pom when they called me from the restaurant on my office phone, and I gurgled: “baar aarahi hai mu main… !” (My mouth is being flooded!) The Hindi slang bemused them like crazy and a fit of super-duper girly laughter stormed my ears and in consequence of that it led me to double-up in laughter too in my office cabin. (I couldn’t help but give a sideways glance at our very own omnivorous cicada called Papita InTears, who sat cross-legged in the chair behind me breaking her heads off on the computer, turned a beetroot red (her trademark peculiarity) in her notoriously big spade-like ears! I sensed that she was getting unstoppably scandalous and continued snooping on my lovey-dovey telephonic conversation with Preeti and Pom like an enthu cutlet).
Nevertheless, I felt so acutely funny of myself and wet behind the ears: you know the inexperience of a baby, so recently born as to be still wet! Duh… !
I wrote to Preeti about plenty of things – my bike, breakfast, English flicks, office people, friends, books, restaurants, actors and Hindi movies. She nostalgically talked about Himachal Pradesh – her native, her love of pastel-hued salwar kameezes, chiffon sarees, coffee breaks, office people, long-drives and plenty other things. Once when the Patrick Swayze film Dirty Dancing was being shown at Sangeet, she went to see it escorting her office pal Ms. Padmini Srinivasan (alias Puma), who later became my friend too. Preeti loved my signature style ‘byee’. I always mentioned that at the end of every email I wrote to her.
I realized that I was in sort of elite company nicknamed as: Chaar Saheliyan, Chaar Paheliyan! From the gang of four like-minded girls like Pom and Papita I had befriended by virtue of my courtship with Preeti, Padmini (alias Puma) was the last one. (Their names all begin with the letter P – Paheli no. 1 is Preeti, Paheli no. 2, 3 and 4 are Pom, Papita and Puma respectively). Preeti introduced me to Puma at her birthday party which was being held at a small jaunt located somewhere near YMCA; the venue was not far away from their office on SD Road. I remember I had gate-crashed into that all-girls birthday party; I didn’t mean to but I had gifts to be given to Preeti on her birthday on 10th December. How could I miss her birthday! Two days before, I had visited Walden and bought two paperback books: The Diary of Anne Frank (by Anne Frank) and No Greater Love (by Danielle Steel) for her and fervently wished that my girlfriend would read them. So I dashed in to gift her with my presents.
A few days before, I drove with Preeti all the way to the south of the city to attend our alma mater’s convocation ceremony conducted at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. The auditorium was crammed with students, ex-students, coordinators, administrators and parents. We went onto the stage shook hands with Dr. Sugata Mitra, an eminent Physicist and received our convocation certificates from him.
[Not many people know that the book Slumdog Millionaire (also known as Q&A) written by Vikas Swarup was inspired by Dr. Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” (HIW) experiment.]
My broken love
Much later, when our vastly-complimented affair of love and longing began inviting envious stares and glares from the jealous people, it felt suddenly abandoned as if falling on the way side – yes, all thanks to the misgivings, misjudgments and back-stabbers and my own unintentional glowering at some despicable people of miserable gumption. It was tough fighting to keep the world of antagonistic crowd like Papita at bay. Open indignation and insufferable crudeness on the part of our own friends had become noxious for us to bear. My sudden and frequent lapses from my friends’ lives had led them to believe that as if I have been transformed into a sort of organism of deceit and self-flagellation to boot; that I have no other concern except Preeti, Preeti and Preeti. That was so very true but it was my business not theirs! What a world we live in! Hah! Thankfully, Puma had unwittingly become a person with whom I had my emotional bereavement shared for some measure.
The unforgiving realm of remembrances and memories began to tug at my shattered heart after we broke up. The truth is we never did really ‘broke up’ per se; we simply did not pursue each other anymore. Neither of us could ‘unbreak’ his/her heart to make amends. My relationship with Preeti – my ‘special someone’ – had ended abruptly. Needless to say, Papitas of the world were up and about throwing kitty parties to celebrate the end of my relationship with her. Yes, it’s no doubt true. What use a war of words with a loveless fawn like Papita would be? Nothing! But it really breaks one’s heart to even think of such a thing when one is face to face with a grief that is no less than a personal tragedy in itself. Satanic elements like Papita shouldn’t have been a problem to deal with. My little love story was fed to the unkind ferocity of misunderstandings that leapt up, with fangs bared, devouring our relationship wholly and completely – all thanks to the Resident Evil who shredded it at the first opportunity she got.
For one last time when I wrote to her, unloading all my heart’s contents on to the spreadsheet of my email, I found myself reasoning with her that if I had to take umbrage at anybody in the world for our love to have resulted to this end then it would be me, just me and my forsaken fate, and no one else but me. I have no doubt that I may have sounded a little duplicitous then. The truth is I had no way of telling her what I had actually gone through after all that had happened between us; but to shut my mouth and get lost was a better escape route. I had come round to concede that the onus was on me and not her; it was I who could not judge any potential damage slithering into our relationship slowly and ever so slowly; until it couldn’t hold and gave way to falling apart. I got no reply from Preeti ever again. All throughout the last parts of the last millennium, particularly the romantic year of 1998 so to speak, I had been yearning, more like a loser, for those glorious days that I had spent at Satyam to come back just for one last time; but I know they never ever will. God bless her… I knew there could nothing be amiss about Preeti choosing not to reply because stating the obvious was not her flair: our relationship has obviously ended, and what was I thinking.
One last strand of memory: Rarely but when I have to go towards the SD Road or towards the now-defunct Sangeet cinema, my heart remembers to tug at my chest and unfailingly craves to have just one last look at the much-familiar long staircase leading up to her 2nd floor office. So many times have I been there to her office climbing up the flight of stairs to meet her. So very often have we stood on the marbled steps and talked for long periods of time before I had to drive away burning rubber and breaking all speed limits on the way to my office on Raj Bhavan Road. And those gorgeous eyes that looked down at me from her position of one flight of step up. I can still remember very vividly: holding her hands in mine, tickling her chin, feeling each passing moment as if sent from heaven, amidst the fragrance of our love, and not wanting to leave her there and go away… I never went there ever again. Those memories will never be forgotten even if I want to.
[Note: The good old single-screen, 35 rupees balcony, Sangeet theatre has been razed to the ground; it is no longer there! (That’s reason enough for me to continue hating expensive multiplexes.) The last time I had been to Sangeet to see a film was probably in the year 2005. Back during the college days, I and my friend Armstrong once saw two movies there back to back. The first one was Sleeping with the Enemy and the next one was Pacific Heights. We both liked Sleeping with the Enemy better, although Pacific Heights was a good movie too. (That was only and the last time I ever saw two movies one after the other in a cinema theatre!) Many memories are associated with this much-loved theatre on SD Road. I remember, it used to feel so special and a warming experience altogether to visit it with friends and college buddies and see English movies there, often with a bottle of Coke or Thums Up in hand, and munching on chutney sandwiches, sometimes on egg puffs or onion samosas bought at the stalls – just too good to be true. Those days will never come back, ever again. I still can’t believe why do they have to demolish such a historic landmark and build a stupid multiplex there? A clear case of greed I suppose.]
After almost a year had passed, I had called Ms. Padmini Srinivasan (alias Puma) once in the month of July 1999 and shed copious tears. I remember the exact month because the Hindi movie Mann was released that month. I saw the film and thought the story was mostly similar to my own doomed love story, except of course Manisha Koirala losing her legs in the movie (that was really preposterous if you ask me). Puma had persevered to say: “nazar lag gayi… Arpan” So true. Her understanding of my puppy-love confusion and her perseverance and thoughtful reasoning were right on dot.
I, a late-bloomer of sorts, always been so, had been told that in the quest of my passion for Preeti Ranautra, I forgot to be “rational” and “properly sensible” and a little “radical in approach”. While one can make out words like “rational” and “sensible”, but “radical”? I still have no clue on that one. All that I read in books and saw on TV and experienced it myself is that love knows no bounds, no religion, no caste or creed and even no purport of words from the dictionary of Human language is required to define what Love is. What is required or one hopes for while in love, is simple, just and pure unconditional god-like love – the meaning of love which is propounded by the Gods and Goddesses themselves for the human hearts to take an everlasting shade under. Yeah, right! (See I grew up, guys!) People would either be in splits or wouldn’t really hesitate to asphyxiate me with their bare hands, if I try to talk about love ever again. Shoo!
Richard Marx has been “right here waiting” for his love to come back and so have I replaying the song – “where ever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you… ” – over and over. Is there an iota of truth in waiting for someone whom you once loved to come back? Let’s say it is true. Hope floats.
Whatever Love is…
Shakespeare said “Love is not time’s fool”, Virgil exclaimed “Love conquers all”, The Beatles suggested “All you need is Love”. According to Saint Augustine, God is the only one who can truly and fully love you, because love with a human lets in flaws such as: jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and contention. Euripides declared “He is not a lover who does not love forever.” Take your pick. Sure all of that is so damn true. Isn’t it?
Whatever Love is; I felt like I was breaking inside. I was blown into pieces, disintegrating. I could not hold on to the stark truth that Preeti is no longer there. Often times, I had thought of going away to someplace else than here to see if I can come back and make amends with her. What was I thinking? I could do no such thing; for it wasn’t entirely up to me to do so. Neither did she I believe was able to come round. So many years have withered away ever since I lost my one saving love. I may as well go back to the days I spent with here, but I can do that only in my memories now.
The desire to fall in love again is dead. Or have I lost my mind completely? If not, then how do I get a handle on such a suicidal ideation? It’s better to rot in hell than fall in love again. It’s hard to keep on going this way; with no hope of an absolution even. Memories keep on replaying endlessly in my mind. How many times of some “Therapy” would get me out of this morose situation? Thank you God for not answering!
The course of true love never runs smooth; if I had truly loved her, I should set her free – such oft-repeated banalities have however become a soul-food for me to survive on. I missed her so greatly that very often I ran up to the terrace of my building and cried my heart out. After being abandoned in love what could you possibly do? Except of course, pontificate? And hold it all out on the monstrosity of the seemingly merciless world you have to inhabit in! Or do I indulge in some meandering psycho-babble for my attendant friend who had come to stand by me to console me? And who, not knowing whether to make a head or tail of it, acknowledges your rush of emotions as “a kind cruelty of the surgeon’s knife!”
To be a man strong enough to see this thing through was very hard for my hurt soul to endure – which was already hard done by her. Whenever my imagination had a free run, I took her into my arms and never let go. Now, my thoughts reflect the loving hopes of my heart and whenever they wander they always take me to her. There was nothing more worthwhile in my life than purely love her. I realized that she is on my mind more often than any other thought; from the time I wake up till I close my eyes. Many a times, in the dazed afternoons, I have heard songs of melancholy that brought back the unforgettable memories of the past. A sigh or two somehow managed to escape out of my world-wearied soul even as my eyes betrayed tears of passion.
It is only now that I have learned what Sir Elton John always knew: that “it’s no sacrifice” because it is “just a simple word” and “it’s two hearts living in two separate worlds”. Can’t help feeling wasted away without the one and only love I had had sacrificed…
The great Pommy Candel Fishsketcher’s (a.k.a. Pom) pieces of “advice” and her Ramlila-like voice were no longer there (they were really required then!) for me to partake of; she withdrew and hurried away to the US and never looked back since. Meanwhile, Papita In Tears drooled on nonstop. There was no stopping it. This crude hourglass silhouette kept nipping away and tucking away and tweaking away at her well-preserved, properly dried, salted and pickled feathery mane of American dreams so that she’d be able to discard her desi life in a jiffy like old rags and fly away to… er… oblivion! She was never missed again.
Manpreet Jogi continues to foster his life good-humouredly and prudently. He keeps Life’s all trump-cards well within his reach; that is in most parts fascinating and in other parts interesting. His sense of humour as always is well-endowed and proper. As for me, I moved on to someplace else; I had to. Manpreet and I kept in touch perfectly fine. We call each other off and on to share our individual life’s feats and triumphs. Later when I returned back, we invited ourselves to some “jimmings” (his pun cum pet language for buffet meals) and went to see big-ticket movies at a lavish multiplex.
Thankfully enough, Puma’s kindly assertions and well-endowed reasoning had worked well like a balm. She said “we don’t love to be loved; we love to love.” Being extremely grateful to Puma’s agile sense of things was something of a saving grace for this brooding Devdas to recover from the accident of love. And to be innately thankful to her was my duty. Shortly afterwards when I was salvaged from going completely wrecked: I was brought back to life, and slowly as I began to regain some sense of proportion the grave dark smudges that had settled around my eyes began to fade away, Puma was not there anymore. She couldn’t announce her goodbye as she preferred without anything formally uttered.
The world has become a little more precarious place to live in. Everything has changed here. Even this city where I live in has changed (almost) beyond recognition; so many people (we are approaching a world of 7 billion people!), so many cars, bikes, rickshaws and so much of air, land, water pollution and rampant heritage destruction. Old giving way to new and how! The city is dotted with precarious flyovers that obstruct your way than ease your daily commuting problems. Traffic is permanently haywire. Flyovers have already become redundant. They don’t ease traffic anymore. We all are leading a life in the fast lane now with access to all kinds of moral-degrading, conscience-killer electronic junk. I am aghast at the way the world has moved on or moving on unmindfully of so many problems it faces. Aghast because no one stops to find remedy to the problems, but carry on regardless. I am not complaining because I too am part of the same mad mad world; an eager-beaver descendant of Adam & Eve‘s family heirloom, who were, let’s face it, famously kicked out from the Garden of Eden!!! The point is why do we have to live the way we live? No, not like Adam and Eve back again perhaps! But can we change for the real better? Is it a valid query to be asked? Or have I gone bonkers and hopelessly sentimental? Maybe; but I better give this argument a quick burial. Nonetheless, I had becalmed myself with knowing that it doesn’t matter whether my heart is still beating its beats for Preeti or not. She too had moved on and why wouldn’t she. No point wallowing in self-pity.
Goodbye, my dear…
The Hallmark cards and email printouts strewn around my cupboard, even Pom’s masterpiece: The Fish Sketch, were shoved away. I had carefully preserved them for many years but did not dare to look at them again until many years later in ’06/’07 when I had somehow persuaded my defeatist mind to see all the physical memories gone. I read and re-read all the cards and email printouts before clutching them in my trembling hands and surrendering them to the flames. I was greatly unwilling to do such a thing, but one day I really had to come to such a pass. That night in the backyard, in the veranda, I stood and cried staring at the querulous flames engulfing the stacks of my much-loved letters and souvenirs. I hid them, stored them for many years and now they are gone. Except three things: the old silver Parker, the maroon woollen sweater and the tiny brown teddy bear, which she gave me after we’ve exchanged the ‘three magic words’, nothing remains. For the life of me I couldn’t toss them into the flames. With the fires finally burning out I sat and wept inconsolably hoping for an absolution that I know will never come. Months passed away to become years and memories became immortal. Memories never go away; I have them safe in my heart. Goodbye, my dear…
My sagacious friend Sridhar Dali chided me one day out of the blue: ostensibly to steer my heart into a helpful perspective.
“No matter how intense or honourable your love is, Arpan, at the end it comes to rationality and reality part when things go wrong. And they go wrong all the time!
“Look at me baby… I had been in love too… I was once a certified full-blown Majnu!”
(Hmmmm… Now I know.)
“In the present day and age, if you have love like thing going then surely the world will find no place for you if you fail in it.
“So brace-up for reality… Let it sink in. It counts more than the utopia of love that these present day gals carry about themselves! OK… Umm… we boys are shoddy too. Give it a visharjan, now, will you!
“Girls don’t think the way boys do, yaar. Mark my words!” continued my Ph.D.-in-Loveology pal.” (May be, but I’m not into genetics and psychology.)
“Many people fail while very few succeed in love… didn’t you know?”
(I know, Bebo; after all, I am not a machine or a robot not to know.)
“No point wallowing in dejection and despair unnecessarily, Arpan. Dabur chawanprash khao mast ho jao!” admonished my rationality-personified friend Sridhar Dali.
Moving on to seek a fresh lease of life seemed a calming possibility, an escape route for the battered soul. A safer suggestion to pay heed to. But, yeah, that was something my heart never could approve of, initially. I never ‘moved on’ until the passing of many agonizingly sodden years when I finally did ‘move on’ to start afresh. Only after a lot of time and space and wallowing in self-pity did my heart relent to a new usher of life. Everybody moved on; one had to, and perhaps one way or the other Life finds a way…
I Arpan Monalic, would like to hereby affirm that I have survived the failed drool of love and thanks to my family and friends I have been able1 to move on too, finally.
End of Part 2. Concluded.