I don't particularly like Bollywood movies. Still, I have grown up watching them. I have often wondered why all of them revolve around a love-story and why half of those love-story reach their climax on railway-stations or airports. What is so special about a train whistling away or an announcement of the departure of a flight? I always believed that there was something special in every cliche but my mind could never fathom the reasons behind this strange liking for airports (or railway stations).
Even before railways came into existence, love had become the favorite cliche of all artists. At the age of 17 or 18, I fashioned myself as The love-poet on Orkut forums. People often commented that I have endless topics related to love to write about and I knew that they really questioned my ability to write about anything else. I wasn't offended by that question. I will tell you a secret. I think they were right. It wasn't a handicap to my limited writing talents, it was an inspiration. Love and the pain it had brought in my life. Love and the other word it had added to my silence: rejection.
I had a score to settle with love. Love, that was always present in my poems and conspicuously absent from my life. On that bronze colored afternoon, she was talking about love and I was sitting near the stairs, listening to her. She told me, her casual voice belying the seriousness in her light brown eyes, that she didn't want to find love, she wanted love to find her, she couldn't take the risk of "rejection". She wanted the perfect love. I wasn't listening to her after that. I was just looking into her eyes and they didn't shy away. She was one of the few friends I had in my new college. I knew the language her eyes were speaking. I thought of my own little tussle with love. Love finds its strength in its ability to catch you weak on your knees. I had a plan. To rob love off the surprises, the sweet tickles, the flush of emotions it can cause. I loved her like I woke up every morning, like I breathed, like I went through the daily chores of my day. I gave her love that she deserved; that I had also deserved... I had decoded the secret of love. I had made it a deliberate indulgence and a conscious decision. Commitment needs an honest will, not a malfunctioning heart.
I know she would never like what I did. But she could never know. She is happy. For three years, I have been trying to make (not "keep") her happy, every day. I tried, not with the blind faith of a sufi-devotee, but with the consistency of an honest bank-clerk. I mingled my love with thousands small insignificant moments. I failed too, at times, but, only briefly. I made sure every night to say everything she wanted to hear before she went to sleep. It worked for us.
And then the time came for the college days to be folded neatly and to be hidden in the photo albums and telephone directories. I told her not to be sad, that the distances don't matter, that we would stay "in touch" and that we would meet (for the perfect ending). She kept fearing, she cried often and time kept slipping between our fingers. It was time for "the" good bye. I hugged her tightly. I stood smiling as she went into the airport. She looked back from across the glass. My voice couldn't reach her. I touched the wall of glass between us but I couldn't hold her hands. My mind had gone blank. My calculations were blowing in some unknown storm. I could hardly breathe. And then she disappeared to collect her boarding passes, to catch her flight. And I sat down on the sidewalk. I cried silently and love smiled. Now I know, all the while, love had a plan too. To make every insignificant moment of my life wholesome, magical and love-like. And what better place than an airport for me to end this war and accept my defeat happily.
(c) Ankur Srivastava