Continued from Out of the Blue (I)
Today we began by talking of rain. With monsoon just round the corner, we were both behaving like giddy school kids on the verge of the two month summer holidays. The glee in our voice would have been obvious to anyone. Monsoon is very personal to both of us. It’s a very us thing, if you know what I mean.
Barely five minutes into the conversation, there was a lull. He said, “You aren’t lonely anymore”; out of the blue, for no reason at all.
He has the disease of generating categorical sentences out of nowhere too. That’s another of those us things. We know we do this inexplicable thing; just as we know we love rain- and that we are lonely.
When they come, these statements, we know better than to argue. We hate these statements with equal fervor. They rip off our pretense at normalcy. They break down our inner structure and throw things in terrible disarray. There is no arguing against them, however.
We’re both lonely. We have our distinct, personal brands; he has his and I have mine. Neither of us is the answer to the other’s loneliness. In a way, it makes us comfortable. There is never any fear of hidden agendas jumping out at you and hijacking your friendship. There are no wily expectations lying in ambush when you are off into a rollicking conversation. It is a major relief.
It leaves us both free to talk about our respective ire with a universe which would not pull strings and give us the solace of repletion and fulfillment. Even though we were at liberty to expound at length on our shared sorrow, we never did so. We knew we could, and that was solace enough. But we acknowledged the loneliness, without saying it so many words, or making a song and dance about it.
Thus it was that today Anup said to me, “You are not lonely anymore.” His voice betrayed neither happiness nor sadness nor indeed a sense of betrayal. He is a devious one, is Anup. When need be, he can maintain the passivity of a stuffed frog. His craftiness is wasted on me, of course. But he doesn’t desist from his droll subterfuges, imagining me flummoxed. Ha.
“What do you mean?!” I demanded, miffed.
“Don’t be daft. You know what I mean. You aren’t lonely anymore.”
“How on earth can you say that? And don’t use the little birdie stunt on me or I’ll scream and fracture your eardrum.”
“I don’t need a little birdie stunt you little pest! I said it because I know, okay?”
“So WHAT?” I loved to needle him.
“Tell me why you aren’t lonely anymore, nitwit!”
“Oh that?” I asked grinning with glee.
“Alright, okay! Don’t go ballistic on me!”
“Scared you, huh?”
“In your dreams! Sure you want me to tell you?”
“Do you want me to courier you a few sticks of RDX?” He had a nasty side to him, did Anup.
“The thing is, I know you. You ask me to explain something and when I do, you call me pompous and scoff at me.”
The dig felt good. I hadn’t forgotten the last time this lad had spread himself out on one of my similar explanations. Never mind what he said. Suffice to say that he was far from complimentary. This time I would nip the disease in the bud. I wasn’t about to be the butt of his wretched jokes for the next six months. Kill the monster when it is little, basic survival technique- ask anybody.
“Alright, alright, ALRIGHT! I promise. You can preach and be pompous until my toes curl up and you won’t hear a whimper out of me, okay?”
“My word is bond”, he declared grandiosely.
“Not your name, thank God!”
“It might almost have been if I were born in the UK”, I could hear the grin in his voice. “Jokes apart though, tell me what’s happened to you. Is it love?”
“Ah! Love!! Nah, it isn’t love. The male homo- sapiens inhabiting this blue planet of ours seem to find me a bit much to handle. Not that I blame them.”
“Well, not everyone has steel appendages like yours truly. If it isn’t love, what is it?”
“I don’t know really Anup. In a way, I think people like us are doomed to loneliness. There will always remain an underlying emptiness in us, no matter how busy and involved we get with life. Perhaps I don’t seem lonely to you now because I have made my peace with it. It is always going to be there and I know it. I have made a place for it. With time it will merge with the other misshapen walls and not stand out like it does now. Maybe one day I will even stop noticing it.”
“You were never the kind to give up. What’s happened now?”
“Where is the line between giving- up and acceptance Anup? Where is the wisdom to know the difference? What cannot be changed must be accepted.”
“This stinks of defeatism. You were never a defeatist.”
“And I am not one now. If my loneliness is to find succor, it will. It isn’t in my hands. Let God do his job without interruption from me and let me do my job.”
“What is your job?”
“My job is not to let this gnaw of emptiness skewer my worldview to such an extent that I forget to be grateful for what I have. There are people without vision or hearing; without one limb or any or other terrible handicaps. There are people who have nobody to care for them and no support at all. Yet, they are grateful for what they have. Surely I am better off compared to them. What right have I to be glum?”
“I’m not convinced. I do feel lonely. The early days with Radha, our courtship and then marriage, were so very beautiful. I miss the zing that existed between us. I don’t like this typical married couple non- zing, non- sparkle routine we have settled into. I don’t want to settle into a dull life with her; the thought of chugging along makes me want to bash someone’s skull in! I want our early days back. What’s wrong with wanting it?”
“Who said there is anything wrong with wanting it? You can surely want it. You can also work towards it with all you have. More than that, what is in your hands?”
“Does that mean I should accept defeat?”
“Perhaps you should drop the last word. This really isn’t about victory or defeat. God isn’t playing a game with us in which we can lose or He can win. How many people in this world would give their right hand to experience what you and Radha had once… or experience it for just a day and live with the memory of that for the rest of their lives? How many people have dreamed of such a love and have never even had a pale resemblance of it in their lives? How many die without having found love at all while their soul thirsted for it?
“They must also have their moments of despair, I am sure, for the human heart is inclined to dissatisfaction with its lot; but they rise above their despondency. My job is to BE
with someone who can make me happy. My job is to be the person who makes other people feel a little less lonely. Maybe I have seen the answer to my prayers now because I am now looking in the right direction. Who knows?”
“In other words, you’ve turned into an insufferable prig. I always knew the day would come when you’ll become Ms Goody Two-shoes! But don’t expect me to like it. Acceptance be damned! I miss the zing I had with Radha and nothing will stop me from hating it as vociferously as I can. Not even you!” He sounded peeved.
“So who’s the nitwit now?”
“Don’t give me any of your lip, you ball of sticky rice! It’s a low down trick to take advantage of a man who can’t put you across his knee and let your cheeky posteriors smart, merely because the said man is on the phone. I think you are getting soft in the head!” He seemed cheered by the thought. The fool.
“How long will I need to listen to you silly rhetoric before you admit that you see loads of sense in what I’ve just said? How long before you agree that I am right in thinking the way I am? How much longer do you want to be a stubborn old fool? Not that I mind, bless you. As far as I’m concerned, you can remain a fool for the rest of your life.”
“Usually, I love talking to you but when you act like a self-important know- it- all, like you are acting now, I wish I’d never met you!”
“Ha. Was that meant to be funny? If so, why aren’t you laughing?”
In mock threat he began, “One of these days….”
“… you and I won’t have a cuppa together and talk all night until dawn…” I finished for him.
“Yeah, that one”, he said drolly. “May you slip on a banana skin and break your silly neck. I am going now.”
“I adore you too, you revolting idiot” said I, with equal affection.
With that he was gone, back into the blue.