It was about 2.30 in the afternoon and I was sitting on the sofa in my living room. It was a hot and bright afternoon in Dublin. My little daughter was having a nap in her bedroom upstairs. The atmosphere was unusually quiet and serene. As I was sitting with my legs stretched, oblivious to my surroundings, I fell slowly into a state of trance. Memories started to traverse through my mind, not in any order but irregularly and quite deranged, in a grotesque fashion.
Now, I am walking on the busy, M G road in Bangalore city. People crammed into the street with an eternal hurry, they appeared lost themselves deep in the abyss of time. I always wondered, where these people are rushing to! Yes, the speed, it’s the quintessential quirk of people in this city, without speed, you would be shoved backwards in life here. Life here is not something that flows in tranquillity, it rather slumps on to you as soon as you catch up with its pace.
It was in this city I first met her. She sat near to me in the sleeper coach bus to Kochi from Madiwala, one of the busiest business hubs in Bangalore city. She was sitting on the window seat with an air of seriousness, with no intention for having any sort of acquaintance. It was a late evening when the bus started to move and we stayed as two perfect strangers. Bangalore city is magnificent at night, adorned by an ocean of lights which I hadn’t seen anywhere else in that size. When we sat nearby, not looking at each other, watching the exquisite view of Bangalore city, at some point I felt, the thoughts traversing through our minds were similar. I suddenly woke up from my day dream when I heard a shrieking noise from the bedroom, it was my daughter who woke up from her nap and went back to sleep in a while. A breeze sneaked through my door which was kept ajar. The red leaves of Japanese maple tree wavered in the breeze in a dancing motion. In a soothing caress by the breeze, I slipped back to my day dream.
Now we are sitting opposite to each other in a small but well kempt restaurant in Bommanahalli, slowly sipping the tea made of thick buffalo milk, served in small steal cups and saucers. It was a dull evening, the bleak golden shade of dusk shadowed on her face.
“I feel myself ….. Strange in our relationship…… When I am with you, I am not myself” she mumbled.
“when I am with you, I am like an innocent child shamelessly exposing himself” I told to myself.
” love itself is a disguise” she muttered. Her face was brimful of strong emotions. I sat looking at her, motionless but in a pensive mood. The poignant air between us was making me suffocating.
The sleeper coach bus is crossing the thick wall of darkness, leaving behind the garden of lights of Bangalore city. I was holding her hand, looking at her face, the cool breeze moved her curly hair in dancing motion. All other passengers were asleep, the atmosphere in the bus was touchingly silent. I felt very unease to speak, to break that silence as if we were in a house where someone is dead. “For love is strong as death” I was thinking .
I am sitting with her in a vineyard in Mandya, about 100 kilometres far from Bangalore. While I was looking at her face shined by the sun light drifted through the grape plants, I was conjuring up the allegorical biblical dialogue in a popular south Indian movie “Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages. Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves”. It was a beautiful afternoon. The vineyard was embellished by the sun light. Her eyes were telling me “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of valleys”. The radiance of that moment allured me deeply. I was intoxicated with the love, “for thy love is better than wine”.
We now are walking on the Narasimharaja street, quite close by but lost in silence. I felt my footsteps so heavy, the gravity of that moment was pulling my legs downwards. We walked as if we were strangers. Well, had she ever been known to me? Whenever I tried to know her, I was always shoved back. She stood in front of me as Himalayas to a naive mountaineer. When I tried to embrace her, I was washed away by an avalanche. When I tried to read her, she laid herself down in front of me as the magnificent ‘Ulysses’ which I always wanted to read but couldn’t understand a single line of it. She was the jewel of my library which I never read.
Once, we went to see the 1000 pillars Jain temple in Moodabidri, in southern Karnataka. We came to spend a weekend with our friend who was working as a nursing lecturer in Alva’s nursing college at the time. I was tired after the overnight eight hours journey from Bangalore to Moodbidri, the land of bamboos and 18 Jain temples. We sat on the floor on the veranda of the temple surrounded by numerous beautifully carved stone pillars. The atmosphere was quiet, there was literally no one else other than us. She seemed so moved by that ambience, a peculiar feeling gleamed in her eyes. “I hate temples thronged by people rushing to do rituals. Every temple should be like this, desolate, waiting for her vagabond to arrive”. She said in a low pitched voice.
It was dawn, the crimson shade of clouds was shining on the bus. The bus was moving, I was moved by a turbulent flux of memories but the atmosphere was deadly silent and motionless. The bus broke that silence and stopped very slowly in a little town. I sat with my head down, she stood up, walked and disembarked from the bus. I was able to see her, although I wasn’t looking, her bleary eyes, disturbed curly hair and quivery hands. The bus moved slowly, indifferent to that poignant moment. Suddenly, a loud cry fell on my ears “why did you leave me alone?” I startled and woke up from my dream, saw my little one standing in front of me with a worried look.