Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Thursday, 1 March 2012

Of Men and Magic Moments

I phoned my friend, Shoba because I could do with a little hard-headedness. My cousin had just told me, a week ago, that my long-ago love had died two years ago. And I didn't even know. How could we both have lived in Kochi for years and not known of the other? I felt diminished as though a tear had appeared, again, in the fabric of my tattered psyche.
   Of all the men that passed me by or dumped me, he is the one that has stayed in my head for all these fifty-eight years. A slight man, full of words like me, determined to improve the world, he used to say. And slightly eccentric, definitely not the usual Malayali man. He introduced me to the writings of Vivekanada and we discussed Rajayoga. For heaven's sake!
   A Malabar courtship: we never met without an advance security detail of relatives hovering around. But none of them really knew English and we had that. And books.
   He sent me novels. The one I remember most is 'An Indian Day,' by Edward Thompson. It carried a sense of purity and purpose, and wisdom that I needed badly. I was nineteen, naive and extremely silly. Our dialogue was conducted with letters, sometimes two a day, delivered by Gopi, our postman, who had brought letters to our road, forever. He tilted slightly from the weight of that red post-bag and I would wait at the back of our house to see him come. On occasion there would be two a day; these came on red bicycles, with bells, by Express Delivery. I felt well-loved and cherished. But a mobile phone would have come in handy.
   And then the letters just stopped. No one told me why, so I made my own reasons. Top of them being how I was not really attractive to men, not wife-material.
   I asked Keshavettan, my confidante, why. 'I'm fair,' I insisted. 'That's pretty, isn't it?' And he pointed to the kitchen wall.. 'That wall is white too. I wouldn't call it pretty,' he said. Thus he destroyed forever my confidence in my looks. But he had a point.
  There were so many puppy-loves before. When I was fourteen there was a young man who came to our house to sit his S.S.L.C exams. I saw him only when Velyamma served him dinner on the floor, on a tin-plate, in front of my study-desk. I was flushed and excited, he was so handsome; I would lift the flap of my desk and hide behind it till his meal was over. After the exams he went away. Bala-something-or-other. He was an incipient doctor, I found out later.
   There were several Balas after that. A just-gowned lawyer, a police officer who dazzled in his Khaki shorts and his arrogance, a commandant, he called himself, and a young man who played tennis on the District Court premises. We, Mabel, Ida, Mani and I,  took a short cut every day walking home from College. His forehand ended up in the nets when I walked by and I was pleased.
   Where did all of them go?
   And then there was Ron, much, much later in life. For him I am eternally grateful. My husband, another Bala was rapidly becoming history by then. My husband did not deserve me. With a nice Malayali woman, he might have been a lot happier and his marriage might have lasted forever. But he got me- there's the wonder of arranged marriages for you.
   Ron was short and bald and sizzling with the next thing to say, to do. He was naughty and hysterically funny. He had a desperate need to love and it was not important to him whether he was loved in return. I lost him to the width of the Atlantic Ocean when he went to work in The Caribbean and I stayed back in the UK.
   He transformed me. I came of age. I could now take on the world - and I did.
   At seventy-six I can only remember the two that counted. The others are ghosts without outlines.
   I am thankful I had those two. But Shoba is right. Maybe that eccentric young man stayed in my head because we never really got it together. Babes in the wood!  Before the time of mobile phones and e mails, remember.


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  2. Love this one, too! I love learning about you, Anand. It's been so long since our talks and time together back in Salone. You're writing is beautiful.