The Absence Of Presence

Sometimes, it’s your presence and not your company that matters more to someone! That does not mean they don’t appreciate or need your company, it’s just that your presence means a lot more. I realized this very late in life.

Normally, one thought that if you asked someone to stay: be around, it meant you wanted their company. You wanted to chat or perhaps wanted them to help out with something, unless you had given a specific reason. And if you didn’t engage in chitchat or gossip, didn’t give them a big chunk of your undivided attention, they’d feel redundant, dejected, disappointed and would want to leave. You’d be labeled boring, thoughtless, crazy or any such epithet that really didn’t apply. They couldn’t understand why someone would want them to hang around for nothing.

Through all my childhood years and youth, I never did want anyone’s “presence” to that extent. I was happy if I had a sibling or parent around, not to keep me “company,” but because I was scared to be alone. If I wasn’t afraid, it wouldn’t matter whether they were home or not as long as their absence was brief.

But just wanting to see them or know they were around because their absence created a vacuum; that was never a reason.

After I married, my husband would be out on tours twice or thrice a month, and each trip would be between 3-4 days. So I was by myself a lot. I welcomed the alone time. That might sound strange to some. The thing is I was a bookworm. I loved to bury myself in a book whenever I found the time. TV and the gadgets we engage with these days didn’t exist until the early 1980s in our part of the world. So, with the hubs away, I’d have uninterrupted reading sessions. No guests dropping in. No visits to anyone’s place (he was the more social one)! No need to cook three times a day either!

Then, along came the kids. Schedules changed and I took up a job when the younger started preschool. My day’s agenda was jampacked and I had little or no time to indulge in reading. As the boys grew and would be out for games at school or with their friends, and their father on his tours, I relished their absence!! I felt light and reveled in the sense of ‘freedom’ I had to put my legs up and just be – quiet and still. Listen to the sound of silence and allow it to seep into the pores of my skin. I’d relax as I couldn’t with the presence of the three men. I didn’t feel the weight of their expectations on my shoulders.

Not that they were demanding. Far from that. It was my own expectations from myself for them – does that make sense? I had set the bar way too high for myself as a wife and a mom. I’d be constantly on my toes, except for my scheduled short breaks, doing something or the other so they wouldn’t be bothered by little things.

Even though I had a maid to see to the cleaning, laundry, dishes; the dhobi to see to the washing of linen and thick or heavy garments as well as ironing, and a gardener who came in weekly or bi-weekly, as required, I still had a lot on my hands. I had to do a little of all the hired helps’ work too! That was me. And I kept the cooking – three meals a day – entirely as my domain.

As a teacher, in those days, we had anything from 38-45 kids in a class and there were times when I’ve had a bit more students than that. So, I had a lot of checking work coming home with me: notebooks with homework! Classwork notebooks I’d check during free periods in school. Our system back then was demanding. We had to give HW on a regular basis and check the work in time with corrections and remarks/notes where necessary. There was classwork too. All written work in class had to be checked in time. Both classwork and homework notebooks had to be kept up-to-date with corrections.

Add to that the class tests, quarterly exams, half-yearly exams, and then, the big one – Finals. If you were a language teacher, you’d have a bigger load to check. Two exams so two big bundles of papers to go through: Language and Literature. Each was a separate exam. Now add to that, that I was teaching language & literature to three classes. All at different levels – 8-10. Saying that I had my hands full is an understatement. Add to that the extra work if you were a Class Teacher as well! And I was both. There were the marksheets to be made. Shown to the Principal to decide if any child deserved some ‘grace’ marks to pass. Then the report cards to be filled in. Remarks for each child.

Did I mention that these were all handwritten? We weren’t digital then.

All this to say, I had a lot on my plate jobwise, and I raised the bar of my own performance level at home too because – well, because that’s who I was then. None of my wonderful men at home thrust that on me. So, I never missed anyone’s presence. I enjoyed their absence. But with time, I realized, while I relished the alone, quiet time I got with them gone, the boys found it difficult if I were to go for a meeting or something during a holiday. They missed my presence!

I’d have done all that I had to do so they wouldn’t have to do anything. Everything would be the same as usual, except, my presence. And that’s what they missed. They wanted to know that I was around in the house. They wanted to see me there even if I was busy with domestic chores or sitting and and drinking my tea in the garden, or just sitting around. And if they had to go out for whatever reason, even to meet a friend in the neighborhood, they wanted to be assured that I’d be at home when they returned. They wanted that reassurance whether they hung around at home or not. They missed my ‘presence’.

I couldn’t understand this, and sometimes, when the hubs would grumble about a teachers’ meeting on a Saturday or, if necessary, on a school holiday, I’d counter with the argument that his tours also kept him away most times during my holidays or offs.

“It’s different,” he’d respond.

“How is it different?”

“You don’t miss us the way we miss you,” he shot back.

“Nice argument! Haha! I’m flattered but not convinced. It stinks of bias and disguised male chauvinism.”

“Whatever. The home is not the same when you’re not in. You are the Queen of this Queendom.”

This word he’d coined, queendom, always made me smile. I’d smile, flattered mightily. But not fully comprehending what they missed.

And then, his time ran out. Was 39 yrs any age to go? The angels came and he travelled on a one-way ticket into the blue.

In the years that followed, I finally learned what it was to ‘miss someone’s presence.’ Not what they did for you. Not how they helped you personally. Not the tangibles and physical help – what I missed was his presence. There was a huge vacuum in my life.

His presence, even when he was on tour, had always remained with me in spirit. It was this physical and spiritual connection that created the presence for me. The connection of two souls. With his physical presence gone, there was an empty space. It was saudade – a permanent absence of physical presence.

I realized that earlier, the temporary absence of one person, for a few days in the month, did not manifest in any kind of longing or the feeling of absence because I knew, at the back of my mind, he was very present in my life: in flesh and blood. But, I needed more space to just be. Quiet. Silent. Be with me. Me needs my exclusive presence too. In fact, the wait, on the day he’d be back, was a delicious anticipation that would reach the heights of joy when I’d see him enter the gate.

It only hit me much later that, for me, his physical presence was huge, but it was also one I took for granted. The support I got from him through his love, actions, strength, and consideration, filled in the vacuum of his physical absence. It remained a spiritual presence… emotional presence… one so strong in thoughts that it didn’t leave an empty space. Besides, the few days would pass off so soon and he would be back well before that sort of longing and missing happened.

The finality of death is awful. Heavy. Painful. Debilitating. Crippling. And for the first time I understood what saudade meant in the true sense.

What missing the “presence” physical, and of the spirit and soul meant: an eternity of absence. Knowing there was no returning ever. I could stare at the gate, waiting for his tour taxi, and the clang of the gate all in vain. That’s when I felt the tremendous weight of loss – in body and spirit.

That’s when I realized that actually, the relief I looked forward to, when I was alone, was my own need to fulfil some of my own desires (of quietude and solitude) and time to pursue my personal hobbies. It overshadowed the absence that I might have felt and helped me keep my equilibrium in an overcrowded daily agenda. And also, in an unobtrusive way, helped me to do things independently without expecting help in domestic chores, and kept me organized, disciplined, and emotionally strong.

Now, I’m living with SAUDADE – the constant feeling of the ABSENCE of PRESENCE. A particular presence in my life. An empty space that nothing and no one can ever fill.

I can be surrounded by family: my dear sons and grandkids or even extended family. I could enjoy their company to the hilt, but it only heightens the longing for that one presence that can never be replaced. I’d wish he were there. Of how much he’d enjoy it.

It is immense love and great grief. Love that cannot be shown or expressed. And grief that has no shoulder to lay its head on. No place to go. No person. No presence.

Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

– Jamie Anderson

It is SAUDADE!

Cutting Down

I was going through a blogger’s post on how she was getting rid of the ‘unnecessary’ clutter in her closets and store. She was recounting how, over the years, her pain and sadness at giving away or discarding things that she was very fond of, attached to and couldn’t give away had died down with each declutter situation. If any pain or regret was left, it was but a mere twinge.

Her post brought back my not-so-dead feelings connected to this. I told her, “I get what you’re saying. I’ve had to give up many things with each move I made.”

My mind went back to our shifts within the country… it wasn’t so bad. The most important things I cherished didn’t get left behind. With movers and packers to move things, the only precious things that got left behind were my friends.

But the biggest “cutting” I had to do was when I moved to another country! That’s when some things I was loath to part with were either given away or left behind in (supposedly) safe keeping… the family albums and hundreds of loose photographs stored carefully, some personal items I loved and didn’t want to lose. But the albums and pictures…These were the memories of my entire life. I couldn’t take them with me. It hurt like mad. I consoled myself with the thought that I’d return and take them with me.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t see them again. Not because I didn’t return but because the people who had taken it in safe-keeping didn’t have them anymore. They weren’t even kind enough to tell me where or what had become of those things.

When I had just begun to accept the loss and look at it pragmatically rather than emotionally, I had to move again from Chile…

…to another country.

Now, more of the little I had, needed to be cut down further. It didn’t hurt so bad this time. Though, I admit, I was sad. Today, I think about it with a tinge of sadness, when my grand kids ask me about things I could have shown them. I sense an emptiness, but nothing that weighs too heavy on me. I’m still to get to that place where I don’t even feel that little twinge of regret or pain. I’ll get there!

Right now, I am at a place where I am numb inside. I have come to see myself as a gypsy…traveler… literally. While I think my situation of wheels- on-my-feet is ended and I will stay put, I have a nagging fear that whispers, “What if…?” My heart skips a beat. No, no more. I want to put up my caravan and stay. I can not take any more of cutting down.

It’s not about the material things so much now as it is about the intangibles… the memories, the places that hold significance in my life… the peace I might have found reading, writing, or just sipping my tea as I gazed out the window in a particular cafe. The familiar faces and the familiarity of surroundings. The daily walk routes, and the smiles or ‘hellos’ of fellow walkers I pass by more often. The sounds, sights and the flora and fauna that surround my dwelling and that I’ve got used to now.

I’m at a point where I am like a pendulum; swinging at the behest of time. I am slowly resigning myself to God’s will and my destiny which he holds in his hands.

In cutting down and clearing out the material things I had attached myself to, I have learned (not so painlessly) that I was also clearing out unnecessary attachment and value to a lot of replaceable stuff. Except for my photographs, now, I don’t think much of the other things. I am grateful for that freedom from attachment to replaceable material goods.

In retrospect, while I might have lost many material things… some of material value too… I have gathered experiences, insights, memories, connections that are of more value to me and my wellbeing. I have not just gone through it, I have grown through it.

It will take a bit more time for me to say, in all honesty, that the cutting down through the years doesn’t hurt me or sadden me at all any more. There are a few more itty-bitty cobwebs stuck in the corners of my mind! I’m getting there, that’s all I can say.

When Normal Changes

My notes on Good Friday!

A lot has changed since Good Friday 2019 and today.

The kind of change we have never experienced before.

No church services, and it’s been that way for a long time.

No Holy Communion,

no church community gatherings for coffee after the service on Sundays!

A big part of our weekend routine and custom has been changed by a virus.

A virus that has descended on us out of the blue and struck us with fear, anxiety, and dread.

But, it has also opened our eyes to many things and set us thinking.

Introspecting on our past, our deeds, and greed as a human race;

our failings and our disregard for better sense and judgment. 

We turned away from God, and now we return to His mercy seat and beg for His grace and mercy.

My prayer for all – May God’s blessings be upon us and save us.

TTSP (this too shall pass).

May we come out of this wiser, humbler, kinder, more generous, and more considerate of others, and the earth.

Life is a gift. We cannot take it for granted.

The only similarity that day was… snow!

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The only similarity, of sorts, between Good Friday last year and this year:

We were heavily snowed under last year.  And this year, it snowed too, but unlike the previous year, it was a light snowfall. 

Thursday night, I was surprised to see it snowing when I peeked out the window.

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It didn’t appear heavy and I expected it to end before morning.

But it didn’t.

It was snowing in the morning too!

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The feeling of Spring; the grass beginning to turn green again, the weather warming up, has taken a step back.

It looked more like winter than Spring. 

I felt the cold, dark gloom of a Good Friday, ages ago.

The lockdown and social distancing irked more than it does daily and exacerbated the pall of gloom that had descended on me.

But hope springs, ever renewed.

Holy Saturday brought out the sun.

And then…

Easter dawned! Bright and beautiful.

Hallelujah!

The churches are empty, but so is the tomb!

I rest my hopes and prayers on Him,

who defeated death.

Chile Diary- 12

“I go to sleep alone and wake up alone. I take walks. I work until I’m tired. I watch the wind play with the trash that’s been under the snow all winter. Everything seems simple until you think about it. Why is love intensified by absence?”-Audrey Niffenegger

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve.

Volcan Mocho-Choshuenco and Lake Panguipulli, on the way to Huilo-Huilo National reserve. The visible volcano is Mocho, the second one Choshuenco isn’t in the frame.

I’m back from my ‘workation’. I was away in my home country visiting friends and family. I did a bit of blogging on the side, whenever I found some spare time. But this story was on hold! I’m back now and trying to catch up with my blogs.

This chapter carries on from the previous one and surprises me. Click the link to read an introduction to the mom’s guests in Chile Diary-11.

The Mom’s Guests

I set up my computer on the dining table and began to write. If I was looking for common sense to guide the mom and her guests, I was disappointed. Common sense was conspicuous by its absence.

They continued to sit around the table and chat in the high-pitched, sing-song tone most Chilean women use. My head was beginning to ache. Just as I thought I should pack shop, the whole jingbang got up and left; mom included.

Hallelujah! I broke into a happy song. It was a premature celebration!

About half an hour later, they trooped in and the women began setting the table for tea. It was past 7.00 p.m. OMGosh! I moaned, not again.

The gossiping, laughing, and chomping went on and on. I glared at them from time to time but it was useless. Their total concentration was in the cake, bread, ham; the paltas (avocado), crackers, butter, and the tea and cold drinks they were walloping as they kept up the steady high-pitched conversation.

By then, my head was throbbing. I held my temples and looked directly at each one. I saw their mouths open and close but I couldn’t hear them talk! It was that bad. It was time for me to get up and leave. I wasn’t in good shape and if I stayed longer, I knew I’d say something and it wouldn’t be anything very nice.

I’m over that rant. It’s over. The day’s ended and with it the mood.

Or is it? The next day didn’t help. Looks like I’m in a mood these past two days! I discovered today that Indian beauticians are way ahead of their Chilean counterparts. Besides, they charge so little for the amount of work they do. I needed to give some attention to my feet so Manu took me to a salon nearby. I got a less than satisfactory pedicure. I’d have paid this amount for more and better quality of work back home.

If it weren’t for my back and knees that prevent me from cleaning my feet thoroughly and cutting my toenails, I’d skip a pedicure in Chile. Thank God, Roxanna colored my hair at her place! I’m glad Manu warned me not to even try the manicure. After the pedicure, I wouldn’t have anyway!

So, thus went my day into the dumps.

No more to write so I’ll wind up. Then what? As usual, I’ll stare at the walls and then lie on my bed and try not to think sad thoughts. For some reason, these words of an old Hindi song pop up in my mind. I’ve written it in the Roman script and I’ve tried to give you the best translation of the song. The lyrics are beautiful though melancholy!

 

“Aye mere dil-e-nadaan,

tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart,

don’t let sorrow worry you,

one day this world will understand your story.)

Armaan bhare dil mein,

zakhmon ko jagah dede,

Bhadke huye sholon ko,

kuch aur hawaa dede.

Banti hai toh ban jaye, yeh zindagi afsana.

(In a heart full of dreams and expectations,

allow a bit of space for hurt and pain.

The embers have burst into flame,

fan them a bit more.

If your life has become a story; let it be so.)

Faryad se kya hasil,

rone se natija kya?

Bekaar hain yeh baatein,

in baaton se hoga kya?

Apna bhi ghari bhar mein,

ban jaata hai begaana.

(Nothing comes from complaining,

and tears bring no results.

These are useless things

and nothing is achieved by it.

In a split second,

even our own become strangers.)

Aye mere dil-e-nadaan, tu gham se na ghabrana.

Ek din toh samajh legi, duniya tera afsana.

(Oh, my naive heart, don’t let sorrow worry you.

One day this world will understand your story.)

 

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” -Hermann Hesse

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Forgotten pages; revived memories

An almost abandoned blog on another site. Yes, that’s where I landed up today. I say “almost” because I remember I have this blog which I visit, once in a blue moon, to read through my thoughts and experiences over the past years.

 

Life; my life, has taken an undulating, circuitous route in the past two decades and it’s interesting to go back to these pages and read some of my feelings at a point in time in my life. Or laugh at some amusing anecdotes. Sniffle as a memory evokes emotions and longings for a moment of joy, the togetherness not found in the present.

 

And today, I clicked on a draft which turned out to be a draft about a draft… uncompleted posts that found no closure. Perhaps the pain was too hard to bear. Maybe, I was too tired to write about it beyond letting out some of it; enough to get back up and get along with my life.

 

So, without bothering to complete it, I’m giving it closure by posting it here. It is complete as it is and needs nothing more added.

 

The initial post, I wrote in 2013 before I set out to a land and culture totally unknown. It was the first time I was moving without the material belongings that had made a house a home for us. Some things were invaluable for me in their sentimental worth. I was leaving them behind, in safe-keeping with someone, but it tore me inside; I might never retrieve them again!
Five years down the road, that fear is a reality. I don’t know where these precious memories, stored in albums and loose photographs are!

 

So reading that unfinished article convinced me that I had to put it up and out where it was meant to be… and in doing so let it go. I have to let it go so I can think about it without the gnawing pain and regret. Just a memory; no regret, no anger, no bitterness, no wrenching pain. Just the joy of having had such a great experience. I’ve lived, loved, learned, grown and enjoyed the journey. Let that be all that remains in my life. So here goes… 

 

I have no plausible reasons why I have written nothing here for so long. There are reasons, but they sound so lame, almost like a shirker’s justifications for not doing what she has to do! I wasn’t disciplined and gave in to momentary lows and highs that kept me yo-yoing from Cloud 9 into an abyss, leaving me exhausted.
Today, I firmly decided to visit…which is what I’m doing here…and since I was here I thought I’d run through the post list. I found many drafts half-written, or not written at all with just a header indicating what I had wanted to write about but never got down to doing it. I’ve cleared out most of them but decided to keep this. It records my feelings of the moment, at a time of a big change in my life. A change I had opened myself to decisively, but not very confidently. My mind was set, but my heart fluttered   

The countdown is on. I have barely two days in this house. On the 28th, I hand it over to its owner. Is all my work done? Is everything packed or suitably disposed of? Well, till yesterday morning I thought it was a glum situation. There were a few things that had no takers. But this afternoon saw quite a few things going out. So, to answer the question, almost all are either packed or suitably disposed of.
Memories
When we move to another place within the country, it’s all about Packers & Movers getting the job done. It’s all about cartons and trucks. We take every bit of household stuff we want to cart, from a tiny pin to a car. And if you own the house but have not given it out on rent, you just leave things behind.


I am not moving to any place within the country nor do I own a house here. So it has been tedious, and in some cases, a painful task of disposing of my not so meager belongings. I am one of those sentimental fools who attach memories, fond ones mostly, to a thing. And therein lies its value. A book, an old stuffed toy, a chair, a curio….actually I must rephrase that; it’s not about ‘a’ thing; it’s about ‘all’ that’s there. So when memories abound with all and sundry, kitchen knives and cutlery too, what can this ‘sentimental fool’ do without her photographs!


My entire life is wrapped up in these albums. As I leaf through each one it rolls out like a biopic. The yesteryears in black and white which move into a color frame. A picture speaks a thousand words they say, mine unfold like a movie, vivid memories flash in succession as a whole. But I cannot carry the albums and photographs with me. There are too many and they weigh too much. So they are placed in a carton carefully and left behind for safekeeping. 

It gives me relief to put this down here. Why didn’t I do this on the blog I had started it on? I really don’t know. Perhaps, it’s like my life… a new place, a new perspective. A stronger mind and spirit. New lessons learned and applied. 

Maybe, I haven’t let go completely, yet! But here, I will move on and leave behind the pain and retain the lesson; the wisdom… will I? I intend to.

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Between Christmas and New Year

The shopping frenzy to get the best gifts, the hottest deals at Christmas is over and done with. All the gift wrapping you were so careful with lies torn and scattered as eager little hands {and big ones too!} try to get to their presents as fast as they can. Christmas parties are over. And there’s a vacuum. I find myself in limbo… neither here nor there!

The build-up of excitement, anxiety, happiness, worry, the joy and the mad race to meet deadlines before Christmas is a heady cocktail of mixed emotions. Past Boxing Day, I feel empty. There’s been too much in the past couple of weeks and now I’m deflated… like a burst balloon.  But the inner joy remains because that’s what Christmas season does and sad that it’s over and I have too much of time on my hands and nothing much to do.

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The cooking, parties, shopping, church events are over for the year. And as I await the New Year, I’m lost in memories of past Christmases. It’s a strange feeling in the time between Christmas and New Year.

Lost! That’s how I am.

I don’t notice what day it is and I don’t care.

I don’t know what to do and I don’t care to ‘DO’ much. In the hustle and bustle that preceded D-day, I hadn’t much time to dwell on reminisces. But in this time between, the memories come flowing in – as waves upon waves – and I’m submerged.

As I walk down memory lane I’m not aware of who I am…

… a girl at home with mummy and Daddy. A teenager in love. Young mom with a baby. Alone with my world turned upside down; a single mom trying to make ends meet. A grandmom… here, there, and everywhere, I zip through decades, gathering the joy of Christmases past like bright, shiny tinsel balls to hang on my Christmas tree.

I love Christmas and I keep it in my heart through the year but I’m always lost in the time between Christmas and New Year! That’s how it is…and I love this too. My memories are so beautiful. Old photographs revive happy moments. The nostalgia might make me lose myself in the present moment but I get back refreshed as if I’ve just holidayed in some exotic Caribbean island.

But I’m between this and that until then!

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You Sang To Me

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I celebrate Valentine’s Day with golden memories, like these!

It all started when I was eighteen, at a dinner hosted by my parents. Mrs. Joel had called up to ask if she could bring her brother David along. He had arrived that afternoon to join a new job in our city. My parents said he was welcome.

As the party progressed, the youngsters present began to sing and dance. David joined in. He asked if he could do a solo number and we cheered him on. Soon we were rolling with laughter as he sang a parody, the funniest, I had ever heard. That was definitely the first time I ‘noticed’ him. I never met him again for months, till the big Convention.

Mr. Joel, who was in charge of the choir, was conducting the auditions. I didn’t think I’d make it but I did. I got into the soprano. David was singing bass. Choir practice had never been so enjoyable before.

Then the week-long Convention was over. I got busy with college and David with his job and teaching guitar at weekends. It was some time before I ran into him again.

The Youth Fellowship had to conduct the Sunday service and desperately needed someone to sing bass in the choir. One day to go, no luck. We resigned ourselves to what we had.

Each one of us was assigned some work in preparation for the Sunday Youth Service. I had to see to the flower arrangements on the Altar. The fresh blooms arrived in the evening and by the time I carried the big bunches of flowers into the church, it was already getting dark outside.

I’d never been in the church at this hour and looking down at the rows of empty pews, from where I stood on the altar steps, gave me an eerie feeling which I should not have felt considering I was in a church! So I gave myself a mental kick and set to work.

Did I imagine it or was that a guitar I heard? I turned around slowly. The pews were unoccupied. I looked further, at the Choir Stand – no one. Ghosts! I thought and then shook myself. Can’t be. This was a new building. That was a reassuring argument!! It took all the courage I could muster up, to walk down the aisle and cautiously peer into the Choir Stand. There on a bench doubled over his guitar was David.

“It’s you,” I exclaimed, more relieved than surprised.

“What are you doing here?” I continued.

He stopped strumming and raised his head and looked straight at me, he was so handsome and the way he looked at me just took my breath away.

“Playing for you,” was the simple reply which got me flustered and at a loss for words.

“Oh,” I blurted, turned and walked away so that he couldn’t see the blush that was spreading all over my face.

What’s he doing here was all I could think. He doesn’t ever come to church. I walked back and continued with the flowers. He continued to play, and the melody seemed to seek me out as it reverberated off the walls and filled the void.

I was confused by my own feelings, so kept my mind on the flower arrangements instead and wasn’t aware that the music had stopped. I was startled when I heard him speak just behind me.

“I see you’ve almost finished. Can I help you with the bucket?” he said and without waiting for a reply picked up the bucket with the left-over flowers, and walked out. I walked behind in a trance.

That Sunday the Youth Fellowship choir outdid itself with the new bass singer.

It was back to study and exams. I didn’t see David for three months. With the exams finished, the Summer holidays loomed over my head in a rather dreary way.

“Would you like to learn how to play the guitar ?” asked Daddy.

“Of course, if I could that is,” I laughed.

The next day my mother announced that my guitar lessons would be starting on Saturday. I gaped at her.

“Well isn’t that what you wanted? You better be punctual for practice. Mr. Joel is very particular,” she said.

On Saturday, as I was getting ready to leave for guitar classes, the doorbell rang. David stood there with a guitar case.

“My brother-in-law will not be able to conduct classes for a while, so he has sent me to teach you at home. And here is your new guitar. Can I come in ?”

I realized that we were still at the door. I mumbled an apology and told him to come in.

My heart was beating like a bongo. This Adonis was going to teach me how to play the guitar! It seemed like the entire universe was indeed conspiring to create some magic here.

At some point, the guitar lessons took a backseat as our conversations took over. Then it was cycling, walks, movies, sitting in the coffee-shop nursing our coffees that had long turned cold.

A year later David sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song to me on our wedding night.

The years that followed were full of fun, laughter, song, and romance that made the ups and downs that much lighter. At every get-together with friends and even at parties David was always asked to sing. He’d pick up the guitar and while he checked the notes and took a while to decide the song he should sing, his eyes would surreptitiously seek me out. This was our little secret and our very special moment. Because wherever David sang, whenever he sang there was always a special song for me. He would catch my eye across a crowded room and silently dedicate his song to me.

And then one day, the angels came.

David joined the heavenly choir above, leaving behind a neverending interlude. How was I to survive in this vacuum, I thought to myself. I needed strength and right then I didn’t feel very strong. Neither in mind nor body.

For years he had told me over and over again that I was his strength… now I looked to him to make me strong.

I dredged the past and picked each special moment. Like pearls, one by one I strung them on the thread of melody that had bound us for sixteen years. And as I battled with denial and then depression, I managed to hang on to a sliver of sanity that kept me and my two little boys afloat.

My beautiful string of pearls will always see me through. When despair threatens to drown me, I shall finger each pearl like a rosary.

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” –Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

PS: I still love that old melody he was playing in the church…

Ek ajnabi hasina se, yun mulakaat ho gayi.

(I happened to meet a beautiful stranger.)

Phir kya hua, yeh na poochho, 

(Don’t ask me what happened next)

kuch aisi baat ho gayi…

(it was something like that… it’s hard to explain.)

 

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