I have travelled back in time. I find myself in the little park perched in the middle of our college campus. This park was witness to our budding, teenage love – the triumphs and joys, the tantrums and tears. It is abundantly sprinkled with memories from the past. I am seated on a bench under the canopy. I eagerly welcome the myriad sights, sounds, smells; each an old accomplice; each unleashing a flood of recollections.
During the lunch break we made a beeline to this spot every day; to avoid the tumult of the college canteen. Those were precious moments of privacy tucked away from prying eyes – often, the only time of the day we met, between busy schedules of lectures and lab work. We each laid claim to half a share of my lunch box, while having long-winding conversations about poetry. Tea after lunch was an everyday ritual. At the other end of the park, visible beyond rows of flowering bushes, was the tiny stall which served steaming hot tea in kullhads (mud pots) – masala, elaichi, tulsi for added flavour.
I waited endless hours on this bench – the obligatory step to graduate into a seasoned lover. A book in hand, I tried hard to lose myself in the plot, to make the long wait pass more quickly. And just as the knight raised his spear to slay the demon, he appeared, apologizing profusely; guilt writ large on his face. But the abyss always vanished in a jiffy, as he pulled out the tattered, old diary from his earthy looking shoulder bag to recite the most recent poem he had burnt the midnight oil on.
Will our love withstand the blows of life outside the campus? Will your family with their preference of sea- fish-only take kindly to my freshwater-fish-eating family? Will we be able to earn enough to rent a living space in this expensive city? We lobbed these questions at one another on lazy, hot afternoons of no classes, often only to ward off drowsiness. But our musings were always interrupted by a chance downpour piercing through the mesh of the canopy; we scampered into the shelter of the nearby ice-cream parlour and dug into coconut flavoured ice-cream, while watching the park bask in its newfound freshness.
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Together, we crammed endless lecture notes, hours before the examination, on this very same spot and then marched into the exam hall brimming with confidence. The future outside campus was then only a distant possibility and did not bother us. It was perfectly normal to not think beyond the 4-month cycle of a semester.
Today, as I sit here in deep contemplation, we are two years into our marriage. The larger obstacles we anticipated have already been conquered. Our parents are now a reassured lot. We have settled into a cosy life in this big city. After the early torrent of emotions and excitement, life seems sluggish. The drudgery of routine weighs heavily on our spirit. The growing familiarity stops us from being fully sympathetic and responsive to each other. We shy away from embracing pleasure, dreaming big and living life more fully.
Today, seated under the very same bench under the canopy, swimming in the dizzying currents of nostalgia, I relearn some important lessons of love and companionship from my own past.
I learn to not be burdened by the tedium of everyday living, and be
appreciative of the larger hurdles we have vaulted over together, to
reach this stage in life.
I learn to make an unhurried confession that life has given us more joy than we sought, and feel grateful. And as I rise to leave, my heart has emptied itself of fear, guilt and resentment, and is bubbling over with love that is innocent, carefree and hopeful.