My mind is hardened by philosophy
But my heart remains soft with love
– JMKhapra, 2013
My heart lay bare. The walls around it crumbled little by little inconspicuously each passing day I was with you. Now, it loves like a child unfamiliar with sorrow or betrayal. Without reservation. Without hesitation. Ever trusting. I delight in the rawness of my emotions. I feel alive. I feel human.
Your heart lay bare. You did not build a wall around it. Ever. You love like a child unfamiliar with sorrow or betrayal. You always give yourself fully. Without reservation. Without hesitation. Ever trusting. The frankness of your emotions killed the cynic in me. It feels wonderful to be alive and to be with you.
To feel like this is beautiful and bitter sweet like poignant lines of a poem. Happiness and sadness, joy and pain add salt and pepper to life. Without it you are dead. Dead inside.
It is a good thing I did not give up on love. I was about to but I met you.
We are so different yet so much alike too. I am perpetually in awe of you.
You keep me whole, together, cohesive, sane. I will be lost without you.
With each passing year our love never faltered. It grows, it soars, it intensified.
If I ever did believed in fairy tales and happy endings then it seems my dreams have finally come true.
-JMKhapra, for my husband on our 6th wedding anniversary.
” They should thank the ruthless fate that separated them when their love seemed still to be at its height. They might suffer, but they did suffer in beauty. They were spared the real tragedy of love. “
-Somerset Maugham, Red
“You don’t know that. My ex-boyfriend looks just like you.”
I regretted uttering this inane statement as soon as I saw the expression on his face. I saw a glint of hope in his dark cunning eyes.
I still cannot believe that it only takes muttering those few words for someone to be absolutely obsessed with you.
Fast forward to a couple of months, Cris was in front of me crying, begging for me to love him back. I was enraged. I was in love but not with him. He had done all he can to come in between me and the man I loved.
It was raining and I was working late. I left my work station to get a cup of coffee from the vending machine installed at the editor’s lounge .
” You too, huh?” Ryan said softly from behind, startling me.
I smiled, shrugging my shoulders . ” Yeah, my deadline is looming. ”
We took our coffee and sat on the sofa facing a large glass window. The rain outside poured incessantly. We sipped our coffee in a companionable silence.
” I like working in the night. It’s more peaceful to work when half of the employees are not here.”
” Yeah, though I don’t like sleeping during the day. It disorients me.”
Ryan chuckled. ” I don’t even notice the difference.”
My heart skipped a beat seeing his smiling face. He did not smile that often but every time he did, it was a ray of sunshine. I reached out to touch a curly lock that escaped from his ponytail.
” I really find these adorable.” I whispered, smiling a little. He took my hand that was holding the curls and gently pressed it to his lips, looking intently into my eyes.
We tried not to make a sound while inside one of the cubicle in the women’s restroom but I could not suppress my giggles when he showed me his underwear, grinning like a little boy . Printed on his boxer briefs were numerous little yellow round smileys. His whole body shook with silent laughter as he pulled me towards him.
I was sitting between Ryan and Cris at the cafeteria. Cris invited himself when he saw Ryan and me on our way there. Ryan was whispering one of his stupid jokes in my ear and I was laughing in spite of myself. Cris hated our happiness. But at the same time he was drawn to it. Cris was in love with our romance.
His jealousy was palpable as he looked at me while I was wiping Ryan’s spoon and fork with a paper napkin.
” Ryan, I spoke to Leo, I told him I want you on my team.”
” Wow, that is great man! Thank you. It is a great opportunity to work with you.” Ryan shook his hand enthusiastically.
I looked at Cris, coldly. He looked back at me, smiling with malice.
Cris made sure Ryan and my schedule never synched. If I was working at night he would assign Ryan to a day shift and vice versa. But Cris made sure his own schedules matched with mine.
” I know what you are doing. It will not work.”
” You just need a chance to get to know me more. I will also include you in a bigger project than this one. Besides Ryan is just a pretty face. You can do better.”
” That is none of your business and I am doing well on my own. I don’t need your help.” I retorted, staring furiously at my computer screen.
” But you don’t have to work this hard if you are on my team.”
I looked at him with utmost hatred.
” Don’t force me to leave this job. I will, you know.”
He went pale and left my room without a word.
” I’m sorry. You know I needed this opportunity. It’s like a regular income for me. It’s like a two year contract. I don’t have to wait for random assignments anymore. And I can learn a lot from Cris.” Ryan told me over the phone.
It sucks to fall in love with a weak man. Why did I even fall for his charms? He was beautiful, I’d give him that. Lack of sleep could really impair one’s judgement.
” I guess we are not on the same page in this relationship.” I paused. ” Oh, excuse me. We are not in a relationship.”
” I am really sorry, Gia. You know I really like you. I am even in love with you but I really need this.”
” So you do not care that he is obsessed with me? ”
” It’s hard not to.” he said with his usual naughtiness. ” A lot of men around here are envious of me.”
I sighed. I thought I had fallen in love with a man. It was heartbreaking to realize I was in love with a boy.
” What is wrong with me? Why not choose me? ”
Though my heart was filled with hatred for Cris, seeing him drunk and sprawled helplessly on the ground, my heart softened a little for him.
” I am not attracted to you. I was just being nice when I said those words. You were feeling so low about yourself.”
” You are so cruel. I was a drowning man. You don’t throw a lifeline like that only to eventually hang me with it. ”
” I’m sorry.”
He grunted and passed out. I called Ryan to help me take Cris home.
” What a memorable christmas party, huh? ”
” He is really a nice person when you get to know him.”
I was putting on the seat belt but my hand stopped in mid air.
” You’re kidding right? Are you advocating for him now?”
Ryan placed his hand on my knee.
” The poor guy is really in love with you, sweetheart.”
I swatted his hand away.
” You have read Somerset Maugham’s short stories, right? ”
” Have you read his short story, Red? ”
Ryan turned his head to look at me. ” Yes.”
” Cris is Neilson and you are Red.”
I heard Cris mumbled something unintelligible from the backseat. Ryan withdrew his gaze and stared silently at the road in front of him.
“The tragedy of love is not death or separation. How long do you think it would have been before one or other of them ceased to care? Oh, it is dreadfully bitter to look at a woman whom you have loved with all your heart and soul, so that you felt you could not bear to let her out of your sight, and realize that you would not mind if you never saw her again. The tragedy of love is indifference.”
― W. Somerset Maugham, Red
Copyright 2013, JMKhapra
From the moment Babar stuck out his little pink tongue and licked my fingers I knew I would love him very dearly. But an even stronger bond developed between Babar and my husband. I guess boys understand each other more. I am too much of a hugger and most of the time Babar would wriggle out of my embrace. He enjoys the wrestling game he plays with my husband more. When husband is at home I am ignored, well until he gets hungry. Only then will my face gets licked non-stop. Haha.I love how much they adore each.
Babar and hubby’s portrait of mutual adoration. Loved working on this painting. It was laborious but I am happy about the result.
The Unbreakable Bond, Oil on Canvas
copyright 2013 JMKhapra
At two year old, Babar still displays his puppy cuteness once in a while but sans his tasmanian devil-like energy which nearly drove hubby and I to the mad house when he was just months old. Our house has resumed its peace and order which in two years I have almost forgotten what feels like. He also stopped stealing pillows and wrestling with it. I can make up the bed without keeping the pillows inside the closet or out of his reach. I can again display my favorite Indian cushions on the sofa without its guts getting ripped out.
I have also returned my books to a low bookshelf ( almost level to his snout) and arrange it together with some wooden knick knacks we collected during our travels without worrying them being knockdown and chewed to pieces. I even placed some hard bound books on the coffee table without the fear of him snatching it and tearing the pages apart. Oh how I mourn the literary casualties my book collection suffered during one of his manic moments. A book of short stories by Saki lay wounded and spineless somewhere in one of the cabinets. Baudolino by Umberto Eco is defaced, hidden in between his other books. Continue reading
A gash exposing his raw pink flesh underneath the skin tears my heart out every time I look at it. His once boisterous disposition now reduced to lethargic limping saddens me. It hurts to see him hurting. I feel helpless as I can help very little to ease his suffering.
I tried to hold my tears at bay when hubby brought him home, injured. A car almost ran him over hurting his right paw. I could not stop the irrational anger I felt. I could not even look at hubby for a while. I used to see this kind of reaction from women on films and read it in books whenever a couple is confronted by a loss or accident . I thought then how selfish of the woman to feel this way when clearly the husband needs her understanding and support in a crisis. Yet I did the same thing. I was ashamed of myself for withdrawing emotionally from my husband while I quelled the panic rising in my heart. I knew this was wrong. I was fighting the urge to blame him. He was already so distraught for he love Babar, our dog very dearly even more than I do and his burden of guilt is heavy. He sought reassurance from me that I was not angry at him. But I could not give it until I got over my shock. I have to cry. The pain I felt when I saw Babar’s condition surprised me.
I can only imagine the distress parents go through every time their children get hurt, even if it’s just a very minor injury. I now understand why parents tend to be over protective. The thought of anything bad happening to our kids is unbearable. I always used to make fun of my father by teasing him that he will only stop worrying about our safety if none of us, his children would ever go out of the house or move at all. Now I get it. For I never felt this kind of pain before. It is almost physical. It’s an arrow piercing one’s heart. When you deeply love someone this sensation seems to be inevitable.
My husband loves fully and is not afraid of the pain that comes with it. I on the other hand try to shield myself from this feeling by resorting to logic and rationalization. It worked a lot of times for me before. I was able to move on, burying past hurts, calling it experience and compiling it as a guide book for future heartbreaks. There was a time when I forced myself to feel emotionally numb. But I would have also forgotten how to love had I remained that way.
My husband held me quietly while I unburdened my terror through shedding a few tears.
” It is painful to love.” I exclaimed when I was calmer. My husband chuckled gently caressing my hair softly.
” It is okay to feel hurt sometimes as a consequence of loving. ” He said, hugging me. “Don’t try to escape it. You love and that is a beautiful thing.”
Thankfully the doctor said he is going to be okay in a few days.
“He destroyed in her the knowing, doubting, sophisticated Ella, and again and again he put her intelligence to sleep, and with her willing connivance, so that she floated darkly on her love for him, on her naivety, which is another word for a spontaneous creative faith. And when his own distrust of himself destroyed this woman-in-love, so that she began thinking, she would fight to return to naivety.”
― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
” I don’t understand how can you let yourself get so tightly ensnared in the grip of this hopeless romance.” Rahul shook his head while titling a bottle of beer to his mouth.
” I am recapturing my fading youth through my memories of her and escaping from the dullness of my present mechanical existence.” No sooner than this statement escaped from Ashok’s mouth did he realized it to be true.
” Ah my friend.” Rahul exclaimed with satisfaction. ” I am glad to know you can still see things for what they truly are. I thought I had totally lost my friend to this sentimental sap sitting before me.”
Ashok drank his beer silently.
” My college days were awesome. Best times of my life. Man. Who does not what to experience all that again. And the girls. ” Rahul laughed throatily. He was half drunk already.
Several empty bottles of beer littered the floor near their feet. Rahul’ s wife and daughter were already fast asleep. Alone in the balcony both men felt free at last to talk about things they kept hidden in their hearts during day as they fulfill the roles of loving husband, father and hardworking CEOs.
“I had one or two affairs after marriage.” Rahul whispered. ” Nothing as passionate as yours of course. Just with some young girls at the office. You know how it is. Those naive wide eyes eager to please.”
Ashok smiled dryly. ” The youth of the young is truly contagious. Some of the vigor do rubs on you for sure.”
” Ah, yes. Nothing like a beautiful tight ass to get my motor running. They are just so full of unsoiled dream–”
” So you make sure they don’t remain unsoiled for long.” Ashok interrupted and both burst out in boisterous laughter.
” It was kind of sweet really,” Ashok said, his voice more somber now. Rahul looked at him with sympathy this time sobering a little himself.
” How did you meet her anyway? I don’t remember you telling me the whole story. You came back here after four years of college so flustered with love and then that whole business with your parents and you getting married all of a sudden. I don’t remember us really talking in detail about what happened between the two of you.”
Ashok smiled remembering. ” She was a little crazy even then I think. Can you imagine me approaching a girl just like that and from that foreign country.”
Rahul laughed. ” I was wondering about that. You were never the type to chase after girls. So serious and brooding all the time. I was not even sure if you like girls. Ha haha. But of course you had that girlfriend in school.”
” Oh Mina, she was the one who courted me. ” Ashok laughed remembering the young awkward girl who followed him around everywhere all the time leaving everybody assuming they were going out together. She was a nice girl. He remembered liking her eventually and falling in love with her.
” It was the same with her. Do you remember how much I complained being lonely abroad and not having any friends? ” Rahul nodded. Smoke coming out from his mouth swirled around his head.
” Well on my first year over there it was like that. I was having a hard time adjusting. They made fun of my accent, of my clothes and my hairy arms. After my shift at the burger place I worked for to augment my allowance I usually skulk off to the nearby beach during the evening to blow off steam. She was there too almost every evening. Walking by herself. Listening to her iPod, plugs in both ears lost in thoughts. She was also a part time barista in one of the cafe’s around there.
Rahul remained quiet, listening to him while looking dreamily up the dark star studded sky, smoking a cigarette and drinking beer alternately.
” It went on for about a month just like that. I, sitting on the rock facing the sea, she, walking along the shore by herself. I was somewhat interested but never had the courage to say hello. There were days when she did not come. Then it caught me by surprise when suddenly I realized I was missing her silent presence there.” Ashok paused to put the bottle of beer on his lips. After gulping a fair amount of alcohol he took a puff from his cigarette and continued.
” Then one day out of the blue she walked towards where I was sitting and sat by my side. She started talking to me as if picking up from a middle of a conversation we had before. She said, ‘ So I told dad I am going with a couple of friends to Mexico and we will go backpacking for sometime. Like for a month of two. Of course he went ballistic.’
I was caught off guard with this information which was suddenly unloaded upon me. But I found myself responding, ‘Well I can understand your father. Who are you going with anyway? You might get into trouble you know. It might not be safe to go without an experience guide with you.’
She stood up suddenly. Irritated. ‘You sound like my father! That’s exactly what he said.’ Then she laughed and walked away from me without saying another word. I told you. I thought she was nuts. I thought are women from this country like this? Of course that was not true. She was quite, ” Ashok paused looking for an appropriate word. ” unique. Nuts but unique. Well I was intrigued after that. I could not stop thinking about her. I reviewed that little incident a million times over in my head. Putting different meanings on those statements she made. My heart was beating with anticipation the next evening I walked down the beach. I waited for her but she did not come nor the next day after that. When it stretched into a month I concluded she must have gone to take that trip after all. How I agonized over her return! But two months passed I stopped going to the beach and made new friends. I also started dating another girl and I have forgotten about her for while.”
Rahul sighed. ” Ah young love. Sweet indeed. I find myself envying you my friend.”