Off late I have been making wandering visits to coffee shops, pubs, old world shopping arcades like Connaught Place and even to weekend flea markets. Not for fun or recreation, but to find pieces of life I had lost. Moments that now seem too distant to be real, yet so real to be close. I am turning into wanderlust!
In one of my wandering visits to a quaint coffee shop that also served hookah I met this seasoned wanderer. A wanderer who traversed through life like a smoke screen. He was now beginning to blur at his edges, getting sort of translucent, almost like a watermark. Yet he held on to his stories, his experiences, his only definitive definition.
My privilege of getting to know him was a result of a lazy Saturday afternoon that had hordes of people flocking the coffee haven. Unlike the super-commercial Cafés of the times, this one had an old world bookish charm. I had to park myself at the only available seat in the joint, and with due permission of this gentleman who didn’t seem to mind having company on the same table, at such close quarters.
I ordered my hookah to be made ready and a mug of Cuban coffee along with raisin croissant. It took about ten minutes for the order to be served, and during these ten minutes I had started to write something in my diary… totally oblivious of my company.
The gentlemen spoke, “I remember you, I had seen you years ago. So frivolous you were. Full of possibilities of defining the world as you deem fit. And look at you now; you are falling into the same pattern as I have.”
I looked up at this unwelcomed rhetoric. Hoping to snipe back… but looking at him, into his eyes, my tongue froze. I was transfixed. I was his slave until he deemed fit to relieve me. He had some kind of supernal power over me. I gave in.
He said, “I need you to write my little story, my little thought bubble, on this piece of paper.”
I started to write as he spoke – “I have been wandering through this life in search of something that I haven’t found until this date. I have tried life, love, lust, longing, labor, trust, adventure, alcohol, drugs, coffee, wine, women, god, truth, temper, fear, levitation, and the list is endless. I have tried all there is to try. But I still am unquenched. My soul still longs for completion and cessation.
Of all things, I gathered through this tireless and unending journey, it is my memory that I cherish the most, my memory that I hold close to my heart, like a lover who keeps image ethereal images of his first love.
And I want you to write this as I remember it. Word to word. The story of my love, the stories of my love. I am incapable of not being in love. The one state of being foolishly in love defines my core. As my memory serves me right, I do not recall one moment when love was not washing me ashore. Sometimes like gentle tide of the frothy ocean and at other times dashing me to the rocks, until I bled through my eyes and created the Red Sea.
For all these years, I am constantly falling in love. It all started when I was a young lad, probably four or five. I saw this girl, big black eyed, huge face like a full moon, and I knew that for that moment and forever I wanted to be with her. We were in our first grade, we spent three wonderful years together in school before my parents moved to a new place and I had to switch schools. I love her until this day. She might have changed ever since, might be all old and wrinkled, but I still remember her as my morning sun. I wish she could read this. I wish.
Then years went by, switching two schools since then, I fell in love again. This time with the perfect Juliet of all times. If I were a writer like you, I would cast her as Juliet in every story. I was in my sixth grade, I had fallen head over heels with this silky haired girl. I could see no further, I knew that she was the girl I would like to grow old with. Boyhood dilemmas played havoc with my young innocent beating heart. I could not gather courage to walk up to her and paint her red with the teenage mush that I was the prime originator of. The opportune moment passed by and I experienced what we melancholically call a one-sided love. The prima- genitive of all of the poetry in this world. I then realized the bridge over the troubled waters could only be crossed by the true poet and the lover had to concede to poetry at this juncture. I became a poet.
Then life trudged on and I had frequent bouts of love for new women and recurring occultism of unending nature of all my loves. They all came back to me in my head and made it a timeless museum. They came in hordes, they outnumbered me. Yet I always had unwavering and abundant love for all of them. I was feeling like the giver of thoughts, the cornucopia of love for all those who were flushed with my heart. My sanctuary grew in space and in humble numbers, I fell in love incessantly, repeatedly, with the same women, finding her in new faces, in gazes, in new chases. I fell for her every time, through voice and mime, through whisky and lime, through cedars and pine, until I lost what was hers and what was mine.
Many summers went by and the winter’s cold kept at bay, by the unrelenting lantern of love. I was now a young man, all of twenty two solar revolutions old. And love my boy was the perfect bride I was waiting for.
And she happened. Love happened. Yes it did. Again.
I stepped into a room full of people who were hoping to make the cut into the post graduation school. I saw this timeless beauty, somehow knew what her name was, went ahead and called her by her name and she answered. Surya. The sun goddess, the miracle of light. The poet in me was now dancing in the ecstasy of a new found love. The poet was on a song. A rockstar! We started connecting at levels where consciousness ends. We exchanged thoughts through mere gazes, understood all before anything was ever said. It was the dream run, this machine was waiting for. But little time played its tricks. It was to be my mnemonic to move on. She got married, I got wasted. But that was that, for we before parting exchanged our art. I gave her my poetry and she her sketches. Our love had consummated. The meeting of the artists. Those dizzying heights of artistic playfulness when we knew what our hearts and arts meant.
Then for a while I was down, blood drunk in the darkest corner of my poetry. Like a ship wreck, I floated up unto the far reaches of eternity to find my love’s longing back. And in one of those eclectic visits to the other side of the universe, I felt a strong need to go back to where I came from.
When I reached life, I found my dear friend, morphed into my love. She and I, I and She, we fell in love. We loved. For years, we were together, we married each other. She was, presumably my best foil. Then my destiny cornered me. We fell off, but my love endures. Forever it endures. For it endures, I give it the least footage in the story. This is the meatiest part, hence hardly any need to marinate. She taught me, for the first time, how to love when you fall apart.
Through all this surreal and often chaotic experience of loves in my life, I found this sharp-eyed half-real women. Instantly fall head over heels with her. In her kurties I see pagan symbols of my own life, mocking at me, yet I fall in her, until a time that I would indulge in my root’s call and the shape would shift, the moment would drift, the veil would lift. Till that time it is “Aradhana”… the scorpion at the night, the lotus of fire, the balance in my lunar aspect, the conditioner of the moon, the disciple of the divine spark.
My love train stops at no station, no passengers abode, just the driver and the guard… set perennially apart by the manifest, by the jest, by the infirm test, by the world and the rest…”
Just then, a voice interrupted, excuse me… here is your hookah and your order. I looked up to the waiter in daze. He smiled and placed the order neatly on the small redwood table and walked away. I looked back at the gentlemen. But he was gone. Although, the book he was reading was lying on the table. The cover of the book read… “The song celestial”.
I felt an irresistible urge to cry and I cried in the coffee shop for hours after this episode. I cried when I came back home. I cried for days. Whenever I think of this episode, I explode into howling cries. And it made me remember what love is.