Urban Loneliness: Please Rate the Entire World
Aren’t the rains beautiful?
The smell of moist soil engulfs all your senses at once, and somehow manages to elicit a smile from my burdened soul. The dark grey tufts of elusive clouds that are whisking away to somewhere, and the boisterous wind that is trying its best to corrupt my mind, perhaps know how lonely I am.
I had married my two daughters five years ago in one ceremony, for want of money, as my son was pursuing his engineering then, and his college fee burnt a hole in my pocket every six months. Being a single mother, money had always been a bone of contention between me and life. Ever since my daughters got busy with their own lives, it had been just me and him in this house, largely just me if you know how young boys are. My days went by teaching english to twelfth standard students in a prominent convent school in the city and Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Tempest were my daily staple. So were mundane evenings , lonely dinners, mindless surfing on the TV and Facebook, and restless nights that never seemed to end.
Raising three children alone is a battle I had bravely fought. Apart from the mountain of challenges that I had faced right from when my children were small to when they were independent, the fact that I will probably never have a companion again pierced through like a dagger. The fact that I will never love or be loved again kept making me feel years older. Till one day, which I lived for myself, and have done so since…
I met this man inside a flight from Delhi to Bengaluru that I had never thought I would take. Being claustrophobic, I had avoided flying for the past ten years, but this time, there was no beating around the bush. Your children are perhaps the only people who can make you do things you would never do otherwise. It was my son’s convocation ceremony, and since back then I was an important part of his life, he had declared that he would not receive his degree if I wasn’t there to witness. Even though he was aware of my morbid fear of closed places, he made it clear that not coming was not an option.
I could hear my heartbeats in my throat when I as the plane. I had gulped down two pacifiers half an hour ago and I decided to look down at the floor and not up at the compact aircraft. I had occupied my window seat and started looking outside when a tall handsome man nudged at my elbow. He was smiling. Taken aback at this sudden physical contact, I gave him a puzzled look. In a soft tone, he told me that I looked a lot like his mother and that such close resemblance warrants of a probable acquaintance. I tried to dismiss the matter and concentrate on the door of the place which was about to close. But he constantly kept asking me questions about my lineage and birth place. The questions gradually became more absorbing and soon we were sharing a good laugh.
After we landed in Bengaluru, he told me that he had noticed me getting extremely nervous at the airport travelling alone, and had purposely kept me engaged during the flight. However, harmlessly generous this may sound, we both knew that it was platonic; and like teenagers get to know when there are invisible sparks every time their eyes meet, we too had had a rendezvous. The eyes somehow always know it.
Departing from the airport, I told him I was returning to Delhi two days later via the same airline. To my utter disbelief, he was at the airport to board that flight too. Never since I had lost my husband, did I feel the way I had felt that day. I was neither supposed nor expected to feel that way. I was a mother first. I was a mother last.
Widows are not supposed to have feelings anyway. They are supposed to have burnt their wishes and desires along with their husband’s pyre. They are supposed to lead lives of longing and sacrifice. They are supposed to make their children the fulcrum of their existence and the epitome of their dreams. They are never supposed to question what will become of them once their children flee and leave them to the mercy of solitude. They are only supposed to be what they want them to – available and theirs.
Nevertheless, we started talking over the phone and he visited Delhi once a month for a coffee date that we both began living for. He was based in Bengaluru and had never married for want of the “right” partner – a reason quickly becoming the norm. On a day that we both knew was coming, he proposed marriage and I was suddenly in a storm. With courage I did not know I have, I called up my younger daughter who had been my best friend once upon a time.
After asking about my health and routine, she began pensively, “Did you hear about Payal’s mom, Ma? She has married someone at this age! I don’t know whats wrong with these oldies of today Ma! I mean how can they just not think of what repercussions this will have in their children’s lives! How can they be so selfish and lustful? Shameless people.”
That night I had to force music into my ears to cleanse where her words had reached, because they refused to die. After spending an hour in the balcony, I got up and walked like a zombie towards my room. My son who is usually blissfully unaware of my presence in the house, was holding my phone and staring blankly at the screen. I immediately knew what this was. I felt like a culprit. I felt abased. I felt a piercing twitch in my belly. I felt embarrassed for something which had never up till now felt wrong. Perhaps I had morals to live up to, ethics to abide by, progeny to answer. I felt like I was sentenced to a life in prison without a trial.
The next morning, he packed his bags, and left the house without a word, which now had me officially alone. His anger and disgust was apparent. But my guilt and shame was not. I somehow didn’t feel the need to explain to him anymore. Deciding to hold back my tears, I took a sabbatical and moved to Mumbai to live with my mother for a while. It was a conscious decision to get away physically and emotionally from the mess I was in.
One evening at the beach, right after sunset, while I was staring at the horizon, and wondering where my life was going, I happened to notice an old couple. The lady was having trouble holding her feet in the sand, and perhaps wasn’t able to make much sense of what’s happening around her. But her husband, who was himself senile, was so patiently and lovingly holding her hand, that she didn’t seem to need anything else. The constant gibberish that they were speaking to each other perhaps had left no space for emptiness in their lives. Suddenly things became clear.
The sky over the sea began smiling at me. It was about time I made a choice, a choice for myself.
Four years have passed since then. And the only person whose life changed was me. It changed for the better. I started feeling that there was still love for me in this world. There was still more life I had to live. There were still more dreams that I could hope would come true. And I was right. I always had the Right….