I was seeing her after 4 years. We had discovered each other through social media after 23 years of remaining incommunicado. That was about 8 years back.
During our 27-ish years after giving up on one another, we had met thrice, in three different cities. Her husband kept changing jobs and cities, and I ‘happened’ to be in those cities on work and ‘chanced’ to bump into her. A cup of coffee always followed, with new updates and reminiscences.
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This time, it was different. She was meeting me with her daughter. Her daughter was in a residential program at a renowned dancing school and she had taken a break from her household to be in the city.
She was making the most of her time in the city. A workshop on classical Indian literature in the lap of the hills, sessions on Natyashastra, taking a train ride through the rural parts of the state to ‘explore’ old temples – she reminded me of the reasons I had fallen for her all those years ago.
How they met
I was in the thick of cultural activities and it was easily assumed that at a place where the male-female ratio stood at about 1:20, I would be privileged with feminine proximity, with promises of more.
I was a rationalist, even back then. An engineer-to-be from the rustic Hindi heartland, I steered clear of the girls at the Institute. These girls were mostly from the convents in the metros, well heeled, well-versed in the language of the Queen.
She was different. Very Indian, so deeply aware of its ancient lineage and traditions, interested in music, dance and theatre, the doctorate in Psychology that she was pursuing seemed incidental.
We had met through the rehearsals of a play that was never staged. Our shared love for the written word and similar choices in music had brought us closer. I graduated and she continued with her research.
Then they parted
Letters were exchanged, as was the norm of those mobile-less ages. I wrote poems for my only reader. Smileys were not in fashion, messages were not instant, yet I was sure my letters, and the poems within, made her smile and wait for more.
We met later at different points, once by sheer chance inside an elevator in a town far away from either of our homes, and our bond deepened. The intellectual proximity led to an obvious romantic one. We gradually became co-dependent.
One day she asked the question. The ideal world caved in for me. She was from a prosperous, wealthy and cultured family. Her education was superior to mine, though my degree had more market value. She had gotten into a clash with her thesis supervisor and had already dropped out of the programme. I had met a fresh and young neighbour and was building air castles about a future with her. Oh, did I say that she was about a year older than me? Clearly, I was mentally drifting away from her and drew a defence about my turning her down being about me saving her from a future she didn’t deserve.
…And met again
In front of me, there she was in the café with her daughter, all of 16. A bright and charming person, she looked like a younger doppelgänger for her mother. She squinted while making a strong point, laughed liberally at the words that amused her, was quick to the defence of Indian classical dance when I doubted its relevance in modern times. Just like her mother would.
I was amazed at her warmth. I was enjoying her banter with her mother.
A difference of 36 years between them, and how seamlessly they morphed from mother-daughter to sisters, to daughter-mother!
There were so many shades visible in their relationship that a normally verbose me was reticent and immersed in the charm of a world I had never experienced before.
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I had lost a lot in life, professionally and personally. The sense of loss overwhelmed me when I met people from my past. A special bond like the two of us had, which prompted her often to share the titbits about her life, the snippets that one shared only with the people who would understand, that bond would have brought out a lot of rants and ruminations. The meeting could have been sombre. This angelic light in front of me shone brightly, however, and made me wish, a bit loudly perhaps, “This life could have been mine.”