Wednesday, August 31, 2011
In Love- To My Children Series 22
Love has a cupid and a devil playing in its vicinities. When cupid takes the upper hand love happens. But to let the cupid play a role in your life, you need to let the devil also play his role somewhere. Cupid’s effect is felt only when the devil in you becomes so determinant to make you forget things so far happened in your life. The devil was always there in me, lingering in and around my eyes, my lips and my finger tips. He made me remember the insults and he forced me to explore the velvety darkness of wet dreams. He was ruthless enough to make you one in his own resemblance. His power was so much on me that I could just forget the girl who was giving me all her love, her innocence, her smiles, her tears and her youthful intelligence. I could just walk over her shadow and sit next to a person who had just happened to my life on that fateful day of our fun trip to Kallar.
The one whom I pushed into the gutters of oblivion was one of my students who came to my home to study English. She was studying in one of the best convent schools in Trivandrum. She was fun loving. Adolescence is a phase in life that either puts everything into the zone of triviality or joviality. You live on the edge during that phase. Even the fluttering of a leaf could send you into ecstasy. A whimper of a baby could make you cry for the whole night. Wherever you look at you find only beauty. I am not talking about those hapless children who have been made destitute by fate and circumstances. I am talking about those kids who are blessed with protective families and caring people around. My student was from one of those families.
The relationship between her and me was more than that between a student and teacher. She came to me for classes one hour before her school bus came. She always came in her school uniform. She wore a light blue skirt, a cream colour shirt, a blue tie, plaited hairs tied with white ribbon, white socks and black shoes. Girls have a special fragrance. I have always tried to discern what it could be. I check out the smell of all the available talcum powders and body sprays. But when the girls pass by your side, from their presence there emanates a sort of fragrance that is unique to each of them. It is quite surprising that even in a park or in a gym where generally people sweat it out, girls have a fragrance. They smell good always.
She came with such fragrance that made the poet in me intoxicated with imaginations. I taught her lessons and her friend who also came to study with her gave us full support through her covert glances and pinches on her thighs under the table. Girls are like that too. I am talking about a time when it was a taboo for a girl to be over friendly with a boy. During those days, girls conveyed their feelings and messages between and amongst them through covert glances, pursing of their lips, pinches and giggles. I have always observed that girls could speak eloquently through their eyes. With a single glance they could comprehend a whole world. Often I have observed girls crossing men in the streets. From a distance they look as if they were looking directly at you, scanning your face and so on but the moment they come closer to you, however you try to make an eye contact, they just look through you. But today I think things are a bit different, with desire machines overworking in the public domains, girls and grown up women have learnt to look at strangers straight into their eyes.
This girl was in love with me. I was in love with her. But there was no definition to that love. We were not thinking of the future. Any simple mention of the future from my side would make her giggle endlessly. In certain occasions, she used to become very serious. And when she became serious and when she spoke at length about our future, I also laughed it off because I knew that we were not prepared to take up any of those grand ideas at that time. But the popular films that all of us watched in those days made us think in a different way. At times I also thought of eloping with this girl and setting up a family elsewhere and live a life of hardship and struggle. The imagination was quite sentimental and naive. I thought we would elope. Then we will go to a place and live in a shack. I will go find some work in a local workshop of somewhere. Then by evening I would come back with grease all over my shirt and pants. She would be waiting for me with love and food.
That part was not so palatable. We were not prepared to live either in a shack or work in a workshop. So we continued with your respective lives as students and a couple of years went off like that. Now she was a pre-degree student in the Women’s College, Trivandrum. We were not meeting that often during those days. So we planned to meet at my college. She was planning to wear a saree only to appear before me as a grown up woman. But things were happening in a different way. A day after I had asked her to meet me in my college, I had this tryst with destiny in a bus on the day of our fun trip. When the girl in her saree came to meet me with a couple of friends in tow, I was sitting with my new found love at the threshold of one of the classrooms in my college. From a distance, my student could understand what was actually going on. She just passed us as if nothing had happened. She had come there just for me and I was sitting with another girl and from the way we sat she could read everything. I told you, girls could speak to you through their eyes. There was an ocean on pain in her eyes. The devil in me prompted to forget everything. It was time to explore a new paradise.
I did not know whether I was going to explore a paradise or a hell. But for the time being it looked like I was at the threshold of a paradise. I pushed that girl out of my mind. I chose to avoid the places where I could bump into her. I stopped going to the alley where her home was located. Something different was happening in my life. To describe the story further I need to find out a name because the girl who fell in love with me on that day at the threshold of a classroom is still alive. She leads a married life in some part of the world and interestingly, after eighteen years we happened to meet each other in facebook. All these years I have been waiting for that one meeting. And that happened. You may ask how was it like. Before I go into those details let me get on with the story.
Let’s call her ‘Kalpana’. Kalpana in Malayalam means ‘Dream’. Today, with a smile I could say Kalpana made me an art critic. Had our love affair been a success story and had she become my wife, my life would have been different. I often think what would have happened if I had married her and settled in Kerala. Definitely, I would not have taken up a government job. When I was desperately wanting to marry her by the end of my Post-graduation, to prepare myself for the life ahead I had already started teaching in a few parallel colleges in a nearby town named Attingal. For one hour of Shakespeare I was paid Rs.20/- I knew it was not going to work. If at all I wanted to make it work I had to spend all my life in these parallel colleges. In the meanwhile I got a job as a temporary lecturer in a Senior Secondary School. I was grappling with so many things at that time.
When things became really serious I placed a few options before me. I was learning the lessons of practical economics and I felt the urgent need to make some money. Some of my friends were in the gulf countries. I thought of going there and making some money before I could come back and marry Kalpana. But then my friends told me that I should have some job skills. What job skill I had? I knew typewriting. I knew teaching. But there was no surety that I would get an office job in Dubai. Also there were no parallel colleges in the gulf countries. So I needed some job skills. Which was the skill that I could gain in a month’s time? Someone told me that one could learn ‘gas welding’ within a month. In my village there was a welding workshop run by a person I knew. So I approached him and placed my demand. Are you serious, he asked me. He could not have imagined that a person with a post graduation in English literature would do gas welding for a living. He asked me to sit and watch his work. I did and within a couple of hours I realized that I was not cut for gas welding.
Today you may find this very funny. I also feel the same today. But then the feeling was different. I was going through the thick of it. There was not a single night that I spent without shedding tears. My mother was threatening me with dire consequences. My sister was crying because I was desperate to get married at the age of 21. There was a Eureka moment in every one’s life. I found it one of those days. I used to be an actor in school level dramas and also had worked with some professional drama actors in some amateur dramas. Television serials were catching up with the people in general. I thought of becoming a full time actor. Then my mother asked me a question: Suppose, your character needs to drive a car, what are you going to do? It was then it dawned upon me that I should know a few basics. So I went and joined a driving school and in a few weeks time I obtained a driving licence. Deep in my mind I thought if it was not becoming handy in acting, at least I could become a taxi driver somewhere.
I wanted to hone my skills in all the departments of acting. May be, yes may be my television career would launch me to the real cinema. Then I should have been prepared for that. I was already doing Karate in a local dojo under the training of Sensai Siva who was the first black belt holder from our village. Sensai Siva ran the dojo for a few years and one fine morning he had a revelation; he needed to find his Guru. Leaving everything behind, Sensai Siva wandered all over India, searching for his Guru. Each time he sought the chosen one, he was shown the way to elsewhere. Finally he found his Guru in an old man in a village near Kollam district. He went through several years of penance and yoga and came back to our village. Then he made a house on a tree and lived in the tree for a year or so. In 2009, I was sitting in the lounge of the Trivandrum Airport and an old man with a strong presence came to me and asked me whether I was JohnyML. To my surprise I found it was Sensai Siva. Now he looked like a saint with all those closely cropped white hairs and beard. He appreciated me after making an overall look at my body. “You look fit,” he said. I told him it was all thanks to his training. He smiled at me and gave me a copy of his book which detailed his journey from being a Sensai to a Yogi. He was on his way to Dubai where he is settled now. From there he runs a yogic life centre.
Sensai Siva trained me well. He did not know that I was preparing to become a ‘star’. I knew that things would not happen just like that even if preparation was on. So I decided to start my own ‘institute’ to earn for my married life. Marrying Kalpana was the sole aim of my life at that time. ‘JohnyML’s Institute of English’- a sign board saying that came up in one corner of the plot where my home was located. People started looking at the board and wondering what I was up to. It was purely an one man show. I went to Sobhana Press, a rotary press that printed bills and notices and got a notice done. I went around the village by a cycle and distributed the notice that announced the inauguration of my institute. On the opening day most of my neighbours came to attend the function. I called all of them ‘Chechis’ (elder sisters). The class was run from a small one room and one veranda house built specially for brining Kalpana as my bride because I thought that my mother would not allow me to live in the main house.
Most of the time I lived in that small shack and taught students in two shifts; morning and evening. It was a summer vacation time and the parents in my village wanted their children learn English from a fresh post graduate. They all were supporting me with a lot of love and care. But they did not know the hidden plans I had in starting this institute. I knew that people would be shocked when they come to know that I got married in a few month’s time. Again, within a few days after commencing my institute I realized that it was not going to happen the way I wanted. Though I was ready to marry Kalpana and bring her to this shack I was not cut for a limited life. That was just a temporary arrangement. I wanted to make it bit in life. Marriage was the first step towards that though later on I realized that marriage could be as helpful and detrimental at once to your growth in life and career.
My nights were painful because I knew that Kalpana was under house arrest and I was not allowed to meet her. I was trying to reach out to her through some friends. Kalpana’s parents were negotiating with some of my family members through some of the important people including an MLA in the Kerala Assembly. They all wanted to tell me to go back from my decision to marry Kalpana. But I was adamant. I wanted to disprove them by proving my worth in some way. So I decided to appear for the IAS Examinations. Brilliant Tutorials, Chennai was one of the most acclaimed coaching centres for the IAS aspirants. I joined the Brilliant Tutorials, got all their notes and started spending days and nights in mugging them. I was like a possessed person. Somehow I wanted to get Kalpana in my life. I was ready to even become an IAS officer for that. But things were not happening the way I wanted. Man proposes and God disposes. One fine morning, without telling anyone, I left everything behind and went to Baroda. Was I running away from a reality that was too bitter and heavy?
Kalpana smiled at the stains of the flower petals that the other guy had crushed under his shoes on the previous day. She told me that the whole night she was thinking about me. I found it really encouraging. And I told her that the moment I met her in the class room I knew that I was in love. We sat at the threshold of a classroom just opposite to the place where the bus had left us on the previous night. I was looking intently into the big eyes of Kalpana. It was when the girl in saree walked into the campus. Kalpana did not take any particular interest in the people who were just passing by. So she did not notice this girl either. But she had seen everything. The girl in saree gave me a look that had all the sadness in this world. But she was so good that she left without a huff. I saw her walking away with her friends as if nothing had happened. Did she curse me at that moment?
They days went by. My relationship with Kalpana grew in leaps and bounds. One day I asked her to come with me for a movie. In those days, going for a movie with a boy or a girl, that too without the consent of the parents was a one of the biggest crimes that the college going students could do. It could even mar the marriage proposals of a girl had she been seen by someone. It could have given rise to major scandals and so on. So we went to the movie hall after taking a lot of preparations. We entered the hall just before the movie started. Throughout the movie I was making all the efforts to be normal and decent. I did not want to give her a hint that I was a lecher or I wanted to make use of the opportunity to touch her or caress her or kiss her. So I kept myself away from her even if my hand graced against her hand accidently I profusely said sorry. I was playing a perfect gentleman’s role. After the movie like two thieves escaping a place after pilfering nothing but with a sense of terror and inexplicable guilt, we left for our respective homes.
Next morning I went to the college with a strong sense of pride surging in my heart. It was in late September. The sultriness in the air was rather less with the cool breeze wafting through the layers of greenery around our class rooms. I had this habit of reaching the college early and standing on the platform from where the teachers lectured us, singing poems loudly till other students came in and became my audience. They like me reciting poems. And they asked me to recite certain poems by certain poets who were very popular in those days. Balachandran Chullikkadu was very famous amongst the college students. His poems ridden by existential angst recited in his gruff voice enthralled our generation. His cassettes were huge hits of the time. Then came O.N.V.Kurup, the lyricist and poet, whose poems were rich in romantic allusions and lyrical quality. He recited them in his cut glass voice and I was a great fan of his poems too. Then we had Madhusudhanan Nair, whose ‘Naranathu Bhranthan’ had become a rage of the time. Nair not only recited his own poems but also recited the poems by other modernist poets of Kerala.
My tape recorder was a very old one. To listen to all those poems in their crystal clarity I had to go to my cousins’ place who had amplifiers and stereo boxes in their rooms. I spent endless hours in their home. They were kind enough to let me listen to the poems to my heart’s content. In fact the boys in that house liked me a lot and they encouraged me in whatever I did. Listening to these poems used to take me to a different world. I could levitate there and wander amongst the clouds as Wordsworth did above his Lake District. I had only the Chakka Canal to hover above. And it was on the shores of this canal, my friend John Jyothi Raj was living. He also liked poems. The interest in reciting poems reached its crescendo when I got an opportunity to recite my own poems in the Trivandrum Dooradarshan. The poem was titled ‘Avivahitante Nisaa Smaranakal’ (Night Thoughts of a Bachelor).
Doordarshan was the only television channel in those days. So on the day of telecasting my program, I called up a few people and told them to watch the program. I was wearing a red striped shirt and a grey pants during the recording. With shivering limbs and a racing heart I sat before the Keltron Television set (Kerala Electronics, a Government of Kerala Undertaking. And this company, always running in loses provides the traffic signalling technology all over India. You may notice the logo of Keltron in Delhi traffic signal lights also) with my mother, sister and a few neighbours. The program started. The set was designed as if I was sitting in a park bench. I sounded good and I was very happy. Next morning, my cousins told me that I should wear the same shirt and pants when I went to college so that people would identify me in bus and streets. I did not know they were joking or were serious. Anyway I repeated the dress code and as far as I remember none was turning their necks to see me for second time.
This appearance in Doordarshan’s poetry section and the publication of poems in magazines and local journals gave me an added confidence. Besides, I became friendly with poets like Dr.Ayyappa Panicker, D.Vinayachandran, Kureeppuzha Sreekumar, Anvar Ali, Madhusudhanan Nair and so on. Thanks to these connections I started getting offers to go to villages and recite poems in the Kaviyarangu (poetry sessions). I remember travelling with D.Vinayachandran and Anvar Ali to some obscure village near Trivandrum for a poetry session. We were served with baked tapioca and black tea. But I found a problem when I was sitting along with these famous poets. I was not able to remember none of my own poems. I tried my best but in vain. Then I asked Anvar Ali whether I could recite a poem by Balachandran Chullikkadu. Then he told me that it was always advisable to recite one’s own poems. Finally, with my brain malfunctioning on that crucial evening, I recited a poem by Balachandran Chullikkadu.
I was a fan of Balachandran Chullikkadu’s poems. I could recite most of his poems from my memory. Chullikkadu was the ideal of the 1980s. He was a wanderer. He acted in Aravindan’s movie ‘Pokkuveyil’. The character that Chullikkadu represented in that movie became an ideal for most of the rebelling youth of the 1980s and early 90s. They all copied his walk with his drooping shoulders, long loose shirt and white mundu and rubber chappals. When Chullikkadu was in the peak of his poetic career, he was invited by the University Union and he came to recite his poems at the University Students Union Hall near PMG Junction. I was one amongst the audience. I think Chullikkadu was drunk on that day. While reciting he forgot a few lines and he was fumbling a bit. Then from the audience I got up and recited those lines. The moment he got the cue he continued with his recitation. After the function I thronged at the door to catch a closer glimpse of the young and famous poet of our times. I pushed myself through the crowd and went and shook hands with him. He did not smile. He just looked at me and walked off with the university union leaders. Years later in 2000, when I was working as a special correspondent with Tehelka.com, I had the opportunity to interview Balachandran Chullikkadu at his residence in Eranakulam (Kochi).
Balachandran Chullikkadu, in mid 1990s, through a magazine article expressed his decision to withdraw from the intellectual circle of Kerala by stopping writing poems. He said that he was no longer interested in poems as a vehicle of expression and he preferred acting in television serials and films. We all were shocked. I was in living in Delhi and the news was scandalous. Though Chullikkadu had acted in Pokkuveyil, we never thought that he would become a full time actor that too in the soap dramas and tear jerkers in television. But his stance was clear and he said that as a human being he wanted a dignified life and poetry was not helping him to meet his ends. I thought I understood Chullikkadu well as I too was struggling in Delhi to make my ends meet. However, when I see Chullikkadu today acting as father or caretaker of senior actors like Mammootty and Mohanlal, somewhere something stings. Chullikkadu has a different image in our minds; that remains strong till today irrespective of his forgettable roles in tele serials and movies. It is heartening to listen that he started writing again in magazines and started publishing books.
The craze for poetry amongst the general Malayali public was so maddening during early 1990s. We had a modernist tradition of reciting poems and it was made popular by Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, Dr.Ayyappa Panicker, Sugatha Kumari, D.Vinayachandran, Kureeppuzha Sreekumar, Kilimanoor Ramakanthan, Prof.M.P.Appan, Pazhavila Ramesan and so on. Inspired by them even school teachers used to recite poems written by themselves in the school functions. Any literary program was incomplete without poetry sessions. Kadammanitta, D.Vinayachdran and Kureepphuzha Sreekumar had star status amongst the poets. Then the cassettes of Balachandran Chullikkadu became the rage of the youngsters. It was carried forward by O.N.V.Kurup and Madhusudhanan Nair. There occurred a situation in Kerala that even in the marriage halls and public functions, people started playing these poems through loud speakers. Kattakkada Murukan gave a new edge to poetry recital after Balachandran Chullikkadu. Today, thanks to several television channels (in Malayalam) and youtube, young poets recite their poems and poems are once again getting public attention in Kerala.
My interest in poetry recitation comes as I grew up in this modernist milieu of poetry recitation. My village was next to a place called Kayikkara where the famous modern poet, Kumaran Asan was born. He was born on 14th April and every year there used to be grand celebrations for almost a week at the make shift pandals erected at the sea shore of Kayikkara. I used to be a regular fix of these celebrations. My mother helped me to join the poetry writing competitions and recitation competitions. Generally I used to be the winner in both the sections. My mother used to take me to the literary meetings held in those pandals. All the famous poets came there to recite their poems. And some of the poets were dead drunk. Some rebellious guys in the village even joined the recitation competition only to express their anger at these poets by mimicking them in public. I also remember, in this small village, a Senegalese Poet Dr.Sedar Sengor had come to receive the first Asan World Prize for literature. People, like my father, small people like school teachers, government servants and small scale business men were thinking about bringing internationally acclaimed poets to a small village like Kayikkara. Today, that glory and grace of the place have gone into oblivion. Every year on 14th April just for the sake of it, they celebrate a Kumaran Asan’s birth anniversary by lighting a lamp and having some cultural programs.
Class rooms used to give a good sound effect through echo. So it was always good to recite poems and listen to the textural and tonal qualities of your own voice through the echoing sound. I was madly in love with my own voice and also my classmates encouraged me to recite more and more poems for them. And it became imperative that I wrote a poem every day and practiced it in the class. I was on the platform and was reciting some poem. It was then Kalpana came inside the classroom. I stopped reciting the poem and I looked at her. She, though the movement of her eyes asked me to stop the recitation and follow her. I did so promptly. And we went to the corridor and sat there at the threshold in silence. I wanted to ask her whether she enjoyed watching a movie with me. She did not say anything. Then to ease the tension in the atmosphere I told her how gentle I was in my behaviour in the movie hall. “I did not even touch you once,” I told her proudly. Hearing this she just exploded. “I was waiting all those two and half hours for your touch. You are a stupid,” she said. It was then it dawned on me that girls also cherished similar emotional responses. Since then I was a different man.
Slowly my classmates also knew that there was something going on between Kalpana and me. Soon it became an accepted relationship in the college. Even the ferocious union leaders did not interfere in our affair. Lecturers and professors also thought that it was something quite natural. Then we, the people in the class decided to make some changes in the seating arrangements. We broke the age old norm of girls on the right side of the class and boys on the left. We started sitting intermingled. It was one of the ways devised by the loving pairs like Kalpana and myself to sit together throughout the day. I brought my tiffin from home and she became so demanding that I had to feed her everyday with my hand. It was seriously embarrassing for me in the beginning and slowly it became a habit.
There is always a villain in any love story. The villain in my love story made his grand entry in the form of our own professor. He was a good friend of Kalpana’s father, who was a leading advocate in Trivandrum. Our professor conveyed the message to her father and soon her movements were restricted. Initially, her family acted as if nothing had happened. Then, her father started coming to college to drop her at the gate just before the college hours started. I used to wait for her, singing poems and entertaining other friends in the class. Once she came in we went to our world.
Before things got really complicated, once I fell ill. Though there was a phone connection in her home, I was barred from calling her. So writing letters was the only way of communication. Even when we were meeting every day I used to write to her every day. The ritual was like that I brought the letter to the class and then read it out for her. She took it home read it several times and replied once in a while with similar intensity. As I was a compulsive writer and addicted to writing, I could finish several pages in a night with the words of wonderment and praise for her. So I sent a letter to her through one of my friends and she decided to come and visit an ailing boy friend.
She came and nobody was at home except this ailing young man. The moment I saw Kalpana my fever flew miles away. I was a different person. I looked into her eyes as if I were launching my boat into the unchartered waters that stayed calm in the depths of her eyes. I held her shoulders with both of my hands. I drew her to my chest and I could feel her softness against my body. Something moved. The eternal serpent that waits to raise its hood at any given time. I took her to my bed. The Keltron television set and the National Panasonic stereo tape recorder stood in silence watching me doing things that they had not seen me doing before.
Kalpana closed her eyes. I kissed on her eye lids. My lips started exploring the landscape of her body. I remembered Kalidasa explaining Parvati in Kumarasambhavam. The rain drop falling on the forehead of Parvati. It rolls down to her nose tip, then to her lips and to her chin, then into the spongy route between the breasts and splashing into her navel like a whirlwind only to become a watery feeling in the valley. I was just turning into a drop of rain; a big big drop of water. And I travelled the same route shown by Kalidasa and under me a forest sprang up into spring. My fingers plucked the flowers and the canopies were obstructing the easy movement of my fingers. With a twist of her hands she removed them and threw it on the floor. Now like a portrait painted by Modigliani she reclined before me.
“No, you should not,” she told me. If you are not a rapist, a woman can stop you with a glance. She can send you into the depths of shame with a single word. She could unnerve you and send the serpent back to its hiding with a single twisting of her head. I could not go further and she got up and dressed herself up. Crestfallen I too got into my role as a sick boy. Kalpana stood before me as if nothing had happened between us before a few minutes back. She made tea for me. This was repeated in a couple of days more and a normal fever cannot be extended to eternity so I had to go back to college after a couple of days putting an end to the unexpected but interrupted entry into a secret.
When young boys used to discuss their existential pangs with their confidents, they open up several things, which would shock the listener. One day a friend of mine told me how his father, in a fit of rage explained how women were all over the world. “They all stink,” his father said. My friend was very sad because his father said it to his mother. I did not understand why his father said it either. In my observation, each woman has a different fragrance. They don’t stink. But all the women have the same taste. If you taste, you get this slippery salty feel. Then you may wonder why you did it. There is no explanation for it. I think this slippery salty flavour drives the world. But knowing this is one way of demystifying the relationship between a man and a woman. Kalpana also tasted slippery salty.
The river life never runs smoothly, so is the river of love. The more you are into it the more you are troubled by it. Then your flow is obstructed by a huge dam. This time the dam was built by her father. Kalpana was put into house arrest. She tried to send me messages through some friends. It was almost the end of the second year and we were all going to be post graduates with small and big ambitions. As I told you, my one point agenda was to marry Kalpana. Now she was in house arrest. Then one day she reappeared in the college. She was wearing a white churidar with red flower prints. She did not look particularly sad, but she was silent. She walked into the class like an apparition and I was not expecting her on that day. I was in an emotional turmoil. I just walked out of the class while the professor on the platform looked at this drama with some sort of confusion. Now when I review this particular scene, I feel a bit funny despite the remembrance of the pains that I had gone through in those days.
I spoke to Kalpana and she told me that she was going to give examinations and will be put back in house arrest in his uncle’s house. I was depressed. The exams were over and we were communicating through letters sent across through the Indian postal service. Every day at noon 12.30 I waited for the post man to come and deliver her letter. I could not send replies to her as it was censored by her uncle. But she had taken one of her cousins into confidence. She was doing the courier work for Kalpana. It was during I did all those things mentioned at the beginning of this chapter; including learning gas welding, teaching, driving, karate and preparing for the IAS examinations.
The pressure on my family and me was tremendous. I was called to Kalpana’s uncle’s house. When I went to meet him, I could see Kalpana’s face through a window. She was locked up in that room and she was anxiously looking at me. Even in that critical moment she was complementing my new pair of shoes with her glances. Her uncle spoke to me at length; mainly about the pros and cons of a life like that. And he put a condition- I could marry her. And that should happen in a couple of days. It will be a register marriage and I should leave my family and live with Kalpana at her uncle’s house. I was not ready to listen something like that.
I looked at him and told him I was not ready to agree with both the conditions. Then he told me that then they had to think differently. I told him that if she really loved me she would wait for me- all those usual stuff that takes place in such situations. I left Kalpana alone in her confinement and came back to my home. My nights and days were becoming intolerable. Meanwhile, her people were mounting pressures on me and my mother. I remember my relatives were of no use in this matter. Politicians, advocates and other socially important people were sent to me as envoys. All of them were asking me to back out from this relationship. Some people threatened me and some people used soft words those were more threatening than the actual threat itself. Finally her father decided to meet me.
I was called to Kalpana’s father’s private office in Trivandrum. He was very calm and silent. He looked at me for a long time; then he asked me to drink tea. I sat before him. He did not speak anything about my relationship with Kalpana. Instead he spoke to be how as a father he felt. He said I was free to marry her but things would not work out the way I expected. Somehow I felt that this man was telling me the right things. He was winning me over. He was calling me son. I knew it that he was aiming big and he finally shot. “You can marry her but tomorrow itself and leave your family.” I got up to walk out. But he made me to sit.
Something was exploding in my head. I told him that I was ready to walk out of this relationship than yielding to their pressure tactics. He was waiting for this moment. He won the round. The he pulled his table drawer out and took out a bundle of letters. Suddenly, I felt like laughing because I could recognize them. They were all written by me. He handed over them and told me that it was now of no use. I took them back and carefully put them into my bag. “You should destroy all these letters,” her father told me softly. I smile at him. “And you should return all those letters given to you by Kalpana,” he said firmly. This time I was really laughing through my tears. “Sir,” I called him, perhaps it was the first time I addressed him, “Sir, all these could be destroyed and her letters could be returned but what about me? I would be alive. If you are thinking that these letters will be used against her at some point, I will destroy them. But I will be the biggest threat, right? How are you going to deal with me then?” He looked at me and he said calmly, “Sorry son..I should not have asked you this. Go in peace. I am happy that you are out of it.”
Within three days I found myself sitting in a train to Baroda. I left everything behind. My students, my IAS notes, my aspirations and ambitions. It was the beginning of my exile. In Baroda I was received by Shibu Natesan. It was summer vacation in Baroda. I was a lonely man. I moved around with another lonely man like me. One day Shibu Natesan brought a letter from Kalpana. I had given my address to her through a friend. The letter said that she wanted to meet me just to know whether I walked out on her or not. She wanted to meet me urgently. Without thinking for a second, I took the first train to Mumbai.
Mumbai, Pune, buses, Ferries, boats and finally I reached Kannur. My friend from Kannur was travelling with me. He was the one who suggested a travel by road. From Kannur I got into a train and reached Trivandrum. In the letter, Kalpana had explained the place and date of our meeting. She would come to give a competitive examination for some job. The examination centre was a school in Trivandrum. She would meet me there immediately after the examination.
I went to that school well in advance. Mingling with the people and candidates I learnt more about the exams and seat divisions and seating arrangements. From the candidate list on the board I found out her hall number. And I went into a class room which was not used for the examination and hid myself there. I positioned myself under a desk from where I could see the main gate of the building. The first floor was a vantage point for me. Just before the exam bells were rung, I saw a familiar Fiat car coming and stopping in front of the school building. Kalpana came out of it and walked into the compound. I waited under the desk for three hours. Just before the last bell she came out and walked along the corridor. I came out from behind the door where I was standing to snatch her in and pulled her inside the class.
Kalpana looked into my eyes. I was heaving like an animal after a race. I leaned against the wall. “So it is over, right?” she asked me furiously. I said, yes. She slapped me left and right. I stood there taking her wrath all over me. She scratched me with her long nails. I could feel skin peeling off from my stomach, neck and cheeks. She slapped me again and left the class room. I stood there with my eyes closed. I was crying. I sat there till I became calm.
In a month’s time I was again in Baroda. This time I was a different man. I had already made up my mind to join the Faculty of Fine Arts to pursue a post graduation in Art History and Criticism. I got a room in MA Hall in the Boy’s Hostel campus. One evening Shibu Natesan brought me one letter written in an inland. It was raining outside.
I took the letter from Shibu’s hands. With a single glance I could make out that it was sent by Kalpana. With the letter I walked to the window. The rain was pouring with shrieking sounds. The wind was howling through the branches of the trees in the campus.
I tore that letter into pieces and threw it down through the window. I could see them whirling in the flow of water and disappearing from my vision. I did not know what she had written to me in that. Still I don’t know what she was trying to tell me in that letter.