An untragic romance
At the centre of every great romance lies something tragic. Otherwise, there is no point in calling it a romance. It could instead very well be an affair, or an indiscretion or a dalliance…you get my point. So in the spring of a certain year, I stumbled upon what I then thought was a romance.
Kamal had a thick mop of hair, each curly strand was fiercely coiled, ready to spring forth at a moment’s notice. That still remains my most enduring memory of him. That and the fact that he thought I was worth staring at long and hard, every time I crossed his line of vision. In small town India, by the time a boy hits 20 he is a fully formed raging Romeo with eyes that express hunger either for food or for girls. Nothing subtle. Just plain hunger, openly expressed.
I relished the long glances. The way they slid over the surroundings without taking in anything and then slid back to me. I deliberately hung around waiting for his entire attention to snap back and then lock on to me. It was ego massaging at 800+ megahertz. Only I could feel it and almost hear it. The rising crescendo of his desperate desire to seek me out. Everywhere.
But like all good things, this one too had a wrinkle in it. And it was I. The object of this adoration. All that intensity and being the cynosure of his pent up passion (which my youthful arrogance assumed it was), had left me a wee bit bored. Like a ripe fruit that was borderline decayed, he had fallen into my lap. There could not be anything interesting, after that.
All summer I was pursued, ardently. My every glance, smile, gesture, movement, mood….was studied by those brooding eyes beneath the thick mop of hair. I preened and pirouetted to those glances much to his delight. His gangly looks and the fact that he wore his trousers shorter than his sideburns never really mattered. I was high on life. At eighteen, nothing can be more of an aphrodisiac.
The summer days started getting shorter. The heavy warm air was turning cooler. The hibiscus didn’t seem that radiant and colourful. The season was gradually turning and so were my feelings. The rush was beginning to fade and my sights were set on a horizon that was not too distant, but definitely hard to reach. The boy next door whose presence in the balcony, cigarette casually dangling from between his fingers evoked tingles in the subterranean corners of my mind and body. An entirely new climate of feelings was rising on the horizon.
I’m not apologizing, I would like to state that clearly. Apologies are given by those who doubt their profanities and their badass-ness. I don’t. And I didn’t. Passive, loving looks had become so last season. I was now moving forward towards a different adventure with frictionless ease.
But this one, fell through. The ‘cigarette dangling from his fingers’ guy turned out to be a damp squib. He carried too much baggage…too much arrogance which sat heavily on his slight shoulders. No one should carry so much weight on such a slight frame.
And then suddenly there appeared a twist in the tale and she had a name. Just when I thought that cruising through potential romances was going to be my thing, there appeared the hint of a shadow on the Kamal horizon. I had not really abandoned his adoration completely. It remained in the background, almost like white noise, giving my ego a leg up ever so often.
Her name was ….wait… I forget! Years later when I look back on this sliver of a moment in my life I just remember her face with its vacant look of incomprehension and a smile that revealed a gap in her teeth and very little intelligence. Maybe I was jealous that the focus had shifted from me. Or maybe I felt insulted that I had been replaced by a less worthy person. Whatever it was, the pair of eyes now turned their focus on her and I was history.
I felt deflated, angry, irritated, smug, superior and some other minor emotions that I’m not sure have names, in turns. But youth is extraordinarily selfish and resilient. I leaned hard against my feelings of disappointment till they gave way. And then I stood up, straight. Resolved. Focussed. Stronger. Because the self-pity had been beaten out of me. I figured that I was destined for bigger victories and no gap toothed, vacant faced woman was going to take that away from me.
It has been decades since that moment of awakening. I continue to saunter through the alleyways of life nonchalantly. And occasionally I look back in the hope that I may encounter a pair of piercing eyes under a shock of tight curls. A gentle massage to the ego never really hurt anyone.