So, that was another Valentine’s day that went by and as usual I was thinking that I should have been in the flower business. I tried not to be as cynical as I generally am when it comes to the 14th of Feb. After all, love is something beautiful and one should try to celebrate it whenever or wherever we find it. But the trouble is that we often don’t recognize it when it stares there right at our face. I think one of the reasons probably is the way we have been conditioned to look at it as something between what we think of as a “beautiful couple” – young, glamorous and good looking! We set it against the backdrop of the beach, moonlight ,candle lit moments, sunsets and sigh “ Oh how lovely!” .
So this year I tried to look for love as it usually is – the Sambar saadam/ Thayir saadam / daal-roti type. You know, comforting and nourishing. And I was surprised at how easy it was to find it. I found it among strangers on a train that I was travelling in and between my favorite couple ( my parents)
There was an interesting young Tamil couple on the train to Hyderabad that I was taking. On the face of it they were like any young married couple – except that there was something special about them. The young man was polio affected with a pronounced limp. But it was lovely to see the way he was taking care of his wife- a young girl who was probably travelling for the first time in an AC compartment on an overnight train. He was travelling on work to Hyderabad and had decided to take his wife along so that they could do some sightseeing around Hyderabad when his meeting was over.
After arranging their luggage and settling his wife in he went out bringing in an arm load of snacks for them. He made two trips up and down the train to make sure he had what she would like. And when the time came to turn in for the night she decided to take the upper berth. She was obviously inexperienced in climbing up, so he did all that he could to help her up and then made sure she was properly covered with a blanket so that the AC draft wouldn’t hit her straight on her face. At that point , I would not have been surprised had he broken into a lullaby to put her to sleep!!
Then there was another couple who made my day on that train! He was probably a decade or so older than her – thin and tall with grey hair. She was short , fair and plump. Both of them were from Orissa but one did not have to understand their language to get the message of love that they were conveying to each other. Beauty, they say lies in the eyes of the beholder. And in his eyes this plain and plump girl was obviously very beautiful. He kept clicking her pictures using his phone camera. Every time a vendor passed by he got her something to eat. She giggled at the drop of a hat and one could see the happiness in his eyes every time she did that! Both of them were travelling RAC. When their berths got confirmed they were “separated” to two ends of the coach. I felt that if this was a movie, it was probably the time to bring out the violins and let them screech!
Now, people may say that in both these cases the men were probably physically at a disadvantage when compared to their partners and were therefore trying to impress them. But how many disabled or older men would take the effort to make their partners happy? In our patriarchal society it is often enough to be just born a male to expect female adoration and servitude. Older men often expect their much younger wives to act older so as not to feel threatened by their youth. Disabled men have been known to have a lot of insecurities! It is only a very understanding woman who can deal with being their wife.
This post will not be complete if I don’t mention about my favorite couple- my parents! I bought them a couple of roses on Valentine’s day and got them to give them to each other. Appa of course had his own explanation about the roses.
He told Amma “ Meera must have got these roses free from the Horticulture exhibition” .
I was annoyed at the way he was jumping to conclusions. So I told him I had paid for them.
“ How much? “ asked Amma the family accountant.
“Oh must be Re 1 or 2” said Appa the impractical economist.
“ What do you mean? I paid Rs 20/- for each” I said indignantly.
“ Rs 40/- wasted on two flowers” scolded Amma.
“ But today is Valentine’s day” I protested.
“ What is that?” she asked.
“ You don’t know ?” asked Appa.
So I asked him to explain it to her. Poor man.. he did not know anything about it either. He told her something about ads on TV etc
My return journey had its own flash of love – this time an elderly couple. They got into the train moments before it started. The lady was scolding the man in Kannada mixed with English. She then turned to me and narrated their story. Apparently they had been waiting at the station for nearly an hour for the train to arrive. When it did arrive the gentleman in question had seen a board on a coach that said “ Erode-Chennai- Hyderabad” and had assumed it was not their train. It was only moments before the train was to leave that the lady had noticed another coach which had “Hyderabad-Chennai” written on it. She had made some inquiries and found out that it was indeed their train and that was how they came about making their dramatic entry into the coach. “ I cannot trust him to do anything by himself” she told me, sounding like an annoyed mother. She also called a few relatives on her mobile and repeated to them her adventure traveling with her absent minded husband. I was feeling sorry for the way this news about him was traveling faster than them to Chennai. But he was not bothered. He seemed quite proud of her presence of mind in finding out the correct information about the train. He then went on to read out to her snippets of news from a magazine that they were carrying -“ You know there is a news item here that says Karunanidhi’s daughter attempted suicide but did not succeed” he said reading out from THE WEEK (and making it sound like a failure on Kanimozhi’s part). They had their dinner and reflected together on whether they should switch to eating chappatis every night from now as it was healthier. I could not help but smile. I guess this is what is meant when people talk about “Soul mates” .
I wonder why these relationships are not recognized and celebrated as“love" ? These are beautiful couples in their own way. They carry with them the fragrance of fresh love, simplicity and decades of experience! Isn’t that what life is all about?