Saturday, April 14, 2012

A love story



[The following endeavor is my first experiment with fiction and any resemblance of any place, incident, character howsoever with anybody dead or living is purely coincidental. This post has been written for the Castrol Contest on Indiblogger.]



I would be lying if I said I had the galls to dream of something so grand. No, it is more than a dream come true. Life in New Zealand and my doting husband, both.
This story is one of finding life after near death, finding love after the bitterest of estrangements and the beauty of unpredictability. It chronicles my ‘experiments’ with hope, my ‘tryst’ with redemption and my ‘life-long love affair’ with love. 

A few years back, I would have laughed if given a hint of what my life is, today, but then life is what happens to us when we are busy making our own grand plans and I am loving every bit of my life.
Harsh and I landed on this country 10 years back, both on separate work assignments (myself on a writing assignment and he on one for research on bio-fuels) from separate places of India and exactly 9 years, 6 months and 29 days ago, under providential circumstances, we decided we had fallen in love deep enough to tie the knot. Both of us had failed ‘arranged’ marriages behind, so it was and wasn’t much difficult at the same time (the former for me and the latter for him) to get the go-ahead from our respective families. A little birdie even told me that another ‘arranged’ marriage was on cards for me!
Things fell in place however, before our plans of elopement (to a 3rd country!) could materialise and the two of us had a nice little Hindu wedding in a sylvan suburban place near Auckland, the place that has been our home ever since. We were eager to slip into the cordons of certainty lest the winds of change swept away our nubile dreams and our bitter experiences had in no way diminished our trust in the beautiful bond of marriage. 



As I type this now as a soon-going-to-be-a-10-year-old-bride, our whirlwind romance is still fresh as dew and the baking aroma wafting from the kitchen tells me that except for the 9 anniversaries we have celebrated in the meanwhile, nothing has changed between the two of us. I still haven’t learnt how to bake and to his credit, he still hasn’t learnt how to ride a motorbike.

A cake and a motorbike- it is funny how much of a role the Providence granted these two silly things in our story.



It was raining buckets that day. Now I was no experienced motorbiker and the rain made it terribly difficult for me to keep myself and my handsome pillion rider from skidding off with our bike. What made matters worse was that this young man, breathing heavily and desperately clinging to me was profusely bleeding and we had to get to the nearest hospital as soon as the rain allowed us to. On top of it, it was the first time I was having a taste of wet asphalt and blue and green rainbows on the road. No complaints, however, because the rain slicked highway was, nevertheless, still a highway, calling out the biker in me and though it was an unfamiliar model I was riding, riding a bike after a gap of some years and the clouds were hell bent on draining all their pent up rage, let me tell you that ever since I was 17 and learnt how to ride a motorcycle for the first time in the congested roads of my hometown, I have got goosebumps at the sight of a wide open highway. 


God had deliberately made the waters rough, I deliberated, so as to make a better navigator of me. Yes that must be so, I decided.
There was no more deliberation. I rode like there was no tomorrow (there might as well have been none, for even I was wounded, incidentally) and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that particular experience, however shamelessly hedonistic and insensitive that may sound. The details of what had happened to us, where we had met, why we couldn’t get anyone to help us, why we couldn’t wait for the ambulance to arrive and how I took a wrong turn once which made our journey last 15 minutes more in the deadly rainstorm is insignificant. Even the fact that my pillion rider and I were both in need of immediate medical attention is insignificant. 
What is significant is that that ride proved to be the prologue to the story of my life which was soon to be written.

Contrary to what you might have expected, he was not Harsh. An unlikely candidate I know, but so was it- Harsh's cousin Viren, who had, as a matter of course, no significant role to play in my first rendezvous with his cousin (I had gone to interview him) but who did make it end on a flying note when he told that I had saved his life in an act of heroism and let out that I was a superb biker and that Harsh must not wait to get a haemorrhage to be my pillion rider! Since Harsh had not been able to see me at the hospital that day a week back, he was pleased to have met me finally. He thanked me profusely and invited me to dine with the family. Viren’s wife Heena joined in and I demurely replied that I couldn’t refuse them a second time. The truth was I couldn’t refuse Harsh, even a single time. A heavy mist of nervous anticipation (of God knows what) hung around in the ether that kept making me dizzy, dizzy in the positive state that is (I think hypnotically drunk would be the word) which made it impossible for me to throw away a chance to keep the ‘interview’ going. I won’t say I was smitten by this shy, intellectual and extremely polite man in his mid-thirties but I won’t be amiss if I say love was 'almost' in the air. The hopeless romantic in me has somehow never believed in love at first sight, but I was perfectly aware then that something was brewing and was to materialise in the form of if not anything else, at the very least a poem very soon.

That dinner proved to be the icing on the cake as the ice had already been broken between the two of us before the interview, and during the interview itself I had come to discover many things I found interesting to ponder over. The dinner gave me the opportunity to know this man and his background more intimately. Heena had taken an instant liking to me and she made things a whole lot easier than what would have been without her warmth and womanly intuition. She had figured out quickly that it was due to her brother-in-law that I had agreed to stay on and she had enough of feminine delicacy to not let the two of us have our way in doing most of the talking at the table, and she graciously left us alone in the garden to further the ‘interview’ by sending her husband on what I thought was a silly errand.
Before I proceed with my story, it is imperative to let my readers know (who are still with me that is) that I was the ‘science and technology’ correspondent of the magazine ‘Innovation and Lifestyle’ for the 1 year I was to work as an intern in a publication house of New Zealand.


 I was there on a scholarship in the last year of my master’s degree in mass media and communications. After my marriage bombed, I had left my cushy job in the corporate sector to pursue my passion. I had a bachelor’s degree in journalism before I did my MBA and the numerous heights I had touched as the Assistant Marketing Head of my company helped in getting me into the hallowed portals of one of the most prestigious institutions in India for aspiring journos. Just getting into that institution had signaled a fresh beginning for me and I remember having tried every wild trick in my hat to show my family and relatives that I no longer cared about what people thought about me and that I was ready to listen to my heart and my mind alone and not anybody else’s. I had, however, failed miserably in being self assured. Because in a way, I was still worried about others’ opinions. I used to be constantly in a sort of rush to prove myself to the world, particularly to my family and ex-husband who had taken me to be an extremely emotionally dependent person who couldn’t walk one step alone. And then had New Zealand happened.
Harsh was the Operations Head of the Indian team, in the project‘Technology for a Greener Future’, a collaboration of Australia, New Zealand, India and Japan in making biofuels more feasible for mass usage in the near future. Biofuels didn’t terribly interest me but since the man to be interviewed was an Indian, I had done the requisite research and went for the interview myself. Looking back, I am glad I took that step for that was to be the first step in the most memorable journey of my life which still continues.
What followed that night was ahem..a rainstorm again, which made me wink at God and marvel at the divine intervention for I was not allowed to leave the place until Heena thought it was safe for me to go home! 




Before that of course, plenty of water flew under the bridge. Just after the dinner, we indeed went on a ride together. He had confessed (or made it up perhaps!) that he loved travelling on a motorbike but didn’t know how to ride one since he was gifted a car when he was 16 and had been riding only SUVs ever since. He had been on motorbikes very rarely; only during his college days. “Could he have the pleasure of inspecting the skyline of Auckland on his nephew’s bike, with me as his ‘driver’?” he asked in a manner that made it seem like I was the most important person on earth right then and he wanted nothing, nothing at all more fervently than my ‘yes’, though otherwise I would have been at pains preventing myself from having a good laugh due to the choice of words. I couldn’t have said no under any pretext, not after the way he put forward the question.
It amazed me how similar our lives were. I loved riding bikes (not just travelling as pillion riders unlike him) but couldn’t do so very often first because of my mother and then because of my mother-in-law and finally because of the conditioning I had had by then. Here in New Zealand, all three were too far to make me hesitate.
This ride proved to be one I would never forget in my life, unless of course, someday I am hit at the wrong place and I develop retrograde amnesia. What a beginning and what a climax, which, I must tell you, might as well have been an anti-climax! 


The air smelled clean after the drizzle in the afternoon and the roads were inviting to say the least. I strapped the helmet around my head while pondering aloud that riding on an open highway to Coatesville would be more suitable in that rush hour than going right into the heart of Auckland to look at the skyline, which anyways we get to see every night and which we could inspect after having come back from the countryside. Harsh readily agreed and I almost swooned in the anticipation of an hour long motorcycle ride in the rolling Coatsville jewel green countryside with the person I was falling in love with. Straddling the bike, I rested myself on the seat and was instantly in the 'zone'. This was the same bike I had rode on a week back with Viren on the tow and I smiled myself into the realization that it was just 'my type'. I flipped the kill switch on, turned the key to ignition and pushed the start button gently and the engine came to life, all while Harsh stood by my side watching the maneuvers with that glow in his face and eyes twinkling with amusement. "Did he find such acts unfeminine?" I chided him into an apologetic smile and he said he had never come across a woman who carried off so masculine things in so feminine a manner. You'll soon see more, I chuckled. I gave him a couple of minutes to be comfortable with my way of riding and started increasing the speed to suit myself with the traffic in mind. 10 minutes more, or 15 minutes at the most, I kept telling myself, when I would be able to let go, let go of every vestige of whatever I was holding back. Harsh didn't say anything but I could see in the rear view mirror that he still had that amused smile on his face. C'mon I haven't shown you anything to be amused of, I thought and in a couple of minutes found myself at the mouth of the wide open highway I was long since waiting for. I felt the warmth of a blissful blanket close over me as my motorcycle gathered speed and perhaps the vibrations of that bliss reached Harsh too for his expression I caught in the rear view mirror again was not of amusement, but contentment. None of us spoke for a while, and that I didn't feel the need to fill in the silence told me I was comfortable with this man. "Dhriti, could I ask you something? I mean, is it OK if I intrude in the conversation you are having with the bike?" "Why, yes. Go ahead." "Well you may find it funny, but I'll ask it still. What exactly do you seek while riding a motorcycle? I can see that you are quite a connoisseur, you know, what Viren told me about your riding in the rain the other day, the way you went about it all just now and the way you feel about it, which of course, comes across easily in your face....what does motorcycling mean to you?" I stopped and got down. We were right in front of the Coatesville Diary. I removed the helmet, went close to the man who had asked me a question I would most love to answer and letting the breeze lift my hair to caress his face, I replied, "You have a good question Harsh, and it is not funny. I'll give you an honest answer though I must tell you that you will be the first person on earth to know it. Motorcycling, to me, means, well... setting off to my utopia. Yeah, that's how I'll put it. It satisfies my 'need to escape'. When I ride on a motorcycle and switch on the key, I forget about my earthly bonds. I don't ride a bike to do errands, ever. Every time I have touched a motorcycle, it has been to escape, to a better world- never to go buy grocery or go to college. Last week was a first of sorts for me. Do you understand when I say motorcycling lets me forget about the chains I am bound to, emotionally? That experience can never be emulated by a four wheeler, never. When on a motorcycle, I feel lifted up, I feel ecstatic, I feel buoyant. You may choose to call me an escapist Harsh, but chasing impossible dreams has its own exotic beauty and at times, the muck and mire around gets too much anyways." Sensing that he was about to present his side of the argument, I went on to quote Oscar Wilde, "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at, for it leaves one country humanity is always landing at." The amused smile was back, "The more I get to know you, Dhriti, the more your enigma overpowers me. Tell me more." What followed was a long conversation about how I had rode on motorcycles not more than 6-7 times in my 31 year old life, how my ex-husband had made me understand that he didn't appreciate it at all, how he had gifted me an i-20 on the first day of our marriage so that I would never ride a motorcycle now that I was his wife, how I had still not broken the promise even after the marriage broke....





Everything came out like a volcano finally erupting after a century long slumber. One thing that amazingly stands out in my memory is the way Howard listened to me that night- his gestures, his words, everything. Now that I know him better, I can say with surety that given the same situation, his words and expressions will still be the same. I was dangerously falling deeper and deeper in love with this man. The way clouds were appearing from nowhere, we decided it would be wise  to hurry up but apparently it was too late as the moment we started back, the buckets of water drops came pouring on us in a rage. Lest you have already forgotten, I must remind you that there as a rainstorm that night (this was the could-have-been-anti-climax I was talking about) so instead of going back to my place, I stayed at Viren's where Harsh was put up. I got along very well with the nephew Shlok and helped Heena in the kitchen prepare salad (that's the most I could do in a kitchen back then). It felt like being back with family, a family I never had. We chit-chatted for sometime after the dinner and Heena made me write a poem on Shlok which she has kept till date with great care. Everything was so nice, I didn't want tomorrow to come; I didn't feel like leaving the next day. 
Now all I needed to figure out quickly was whether this man was just being chivalrous or he too had the same feelings for me that I had developed for him in a day, miraculously. This was not very difficult, for after a long late night conversation about our past, the first thing he told me in the morning at the breakfast table was that he loved my company and it wouldn't do him much harm to spend the Sunday with me on a ride to the nearby countryside in order to be sure that the emotions he had felt himself living through the previous day were not in a dream. This surety, he said, should help him gather the courage to tell me about ‘those emotions’. This was not the witty, self-assured man I had talked to a day back and why me, any clod could have seen that he was terribly nervous and was in torment to say the least. Making somebody miserable has never been my idea of fun, but this I found interesting that he should suddenly be so involuntarily expressive and to see those raging emotions inside him finding outlets in his face for a while longer, I announced that I had to prepare a fair draft of the interview and submit it the next day, so he had to excuse me right then. 

“Could he have just half a day with me?”
“Could he have just an hour with me?”
“Could he simply take me to the nearest cafĂ© for a quick chat?”
I said yes to the last but we ended up going to the countryside as both of us equally wanted to.
This ride was again magical; more so due to the things he said in my ear as soon as the bike took to its wings and this time we didn't get down to savor our last few moments together by looking into one another’s face: he proposed and I said yes, and we took those vows all lovers take in their initial days, all on wheels. All throughout the years when I was single yet again, I had not lost hope- the hope that I'll find true love. This was my reward. 10 years after that night, I can say 'Harsh was my reward'. just when everybody around was making me feel like it was me who had been wrong all the time and that redemption was not a possibility, Harsh happened. And the journey continues with him.
Things have been smooth ever since. Harsh’s work is such he has to trot the globe for most part of the year, but I am no longer the person who could once be labelled emotionally dependent so we have had no issues on that ground. He is no longer the kind who was called in some point of his life a chronic workaholic. It was contagious perhaps and it rubbed off on me, and now it is me who has to be dragged away from her laptop. So no issues on that ground either. 




We have fitted to each other’s life like lock and key and he has started writing poetry and on my part, I have started taking more interest in bio fuels. I am more reality oriented now and he has become utopian. We never tried to change each other, but knowing that the other person was just about perfect the way he was, it was impossible not to imbibe some of that perfection. This has made our understanding stronger and at the same time, we are still exploring each other, still stumbling across something or the other to marvel at everyday. There have been disagreements, but too few and too scattered to be remembered. Cakes and motorbike rides have made the going all the way smoother. Oh! I didn't tell you about the cake, 'that cake'? Well let's reserve that for another day, another post. As of now, here I thank Castrol and Indiblogger who made me chronicle the story of my life here.

6 comments:

  1. Had to read every word...
    Well, would for sure like to know if he knew to bake Cakes or not :)

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    1. Haha m so glad you made it till the end for I don't think many will...
      Thanks, but yeah part 2 will take its time to come due to the untimely entry of that villain of all villains- university exams :(

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  2. excellent penning. gripping tale.

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  3. Thanks Sir. Coming from you, this comment is highly valued :)

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  4. u will go ahead with this very space..write a book...jst try..it will b a huge success..who knws u will b the next chetan bhagat..

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  5. Hey that's really very flattering. I'll definitely write a book some day, that's been a goal since my childhood but I don't really think I would like to be the next Chetan Bhagat :D I understand what u had in mind when u said that and I am deeply humbled that my first attempt in fiction could draw such a response but I still need to do lot of work before I can convince myself that I can write good fiction.

    Keep coming back :)
    Encouraging responses do mean a lot to a blogger. I write only for myself, but I post those musings of mine in this blog for my readers. Comments do egg me on, and hence, a big thankU :)

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Hey there! Your comment might prove to be just the push needed for me to write more frequently and with a bit more thought and planning. Do take out a minute or two and tell me what you felt about this blog or this post of mine and any suggestions you think might prove to be useful. Your comment is highly awaited...