Love is a Privilege

All my life, I tried understanding love. And then I wrote this verse.

Mohabbat kya hai jaan ne k liye

Ishq karna shart nahi

Ye voh jazba hai

Jo maujood ho kar

Mehsoos toh hota hai

Magar adam-maujoodgi me

Sach me pehchana jata hai…

I was a fortunate child. My father was a rich big shot. My mother complimented his personality and status like another skin. I don’t know if they ever loved each other, but they did love the prestige and reverence money brought along. They loved the awed expressions of the world. They loved social approval.

I don’t blame them. Isn’t man a social animal after all?

But it deprived me. It deprived me of the tender love and care I deserved.

No, it wasn’t like they didn’t make time for me. In fact, my mother cooed more than I could bear. We had weekly dinners, at the very least. The reservations were always of five star restaurants. I had a room full of toys which included soft toys to transformers; playstations to drones, you name it and it belonged to me.

For the world, I was a spoilt and a pampered chid. And if I really count my blessings, it doesn’t look good when I complain.

But what to do? Love is a need.

Mom and Dad never loved me like they should have. I don’t know how, but they followed some written protocols about ‘loving’ me. They did what all parents do. Provided, ensured my education as well as recreation, made time for me yet I never felt the warmth, the love that I could see in the eyes of so many mothers and fathers when they looked at their children.

Our family dinners were public appearances, where media could capture a beautiful family ritual of having a meal together, of a mother cooing her child and making it to page three. I don’t define it as a publicity stunt; but it wasn’t out of affection either.

We did things because they are done like that. Because this is what family does. We followed some well-defined rules which ironically and supposedly do not exist in love based relationships.

I would not say that I am not attached to my parents. Blood-ties carry a residue of love no matter what. It is something uniquely unexplainable…

But love, I don’t think I ever had the privilege to feel it in twenty-eight years!

Did you just laugh?

Or did you raise your brows in disbelief?

But it is what it is.

My father may have not been very warm as an individual. But he taught me to look skin deep.

He does that in business. He does that with people, places and investments. He would always look for a greater perhaps, the big picture, the greater good.

This rubbed off on me in the exact same manner. I met many attractive girls, women. Some were fiery and had more than beauty as their USP. Some were shy and innocent. Some were meek, some confident. Yet no one radiated the warmth of love I always longed for.

I am not a poet. Yet I wrote that verse, and only that verse. They say you can only put into words the emotions you feel. And I have only and always felt the absence of love. I have always craved for the overwhelming joy of compassion. I have always wanted to feel safe and warm and stated with overflowing love.

On my 18th, Dad gifted me a car. It freed me. It freed me from my constant need and want. I found something very close to love in mountains and rivers and solitude. In nature, I found peace.

I drove and wandered from place to place. I stopped partying and birthday bashes. Everyone thought I was getting on to become a spoilt brat. The magazines rumoured my travelogues to be an extensive attempt to hide my drug addictions and dire need for sex!

I couldn’t care less about what the world had to say about me. I was just seeking peace in travel. So what if I missed everything my mom and dad hosted? It wasn’t like I was expected to serve drinks there.

Anyway, the constant pressure my father was handling and the helplessness with which he pleaded when he told me to stop my travelling routines lead me into actually giving it up.

I joined business, made it to dinners and parties and social gatherings. Fake-smiled till my jaws ached, flirted back with women who flirted with me, danced with old ladies, discussed economics and politics and everything dry that could possibly exist on earth.

But I didn’t let it kill my spirit. I found a new passion. Work.

I raised my father’s company to a standard where even he had never dreamed of being. I worked day in and out and I achieved like no one ever had. I won laurels and titles and everything there was to win and get.

Everything but love.

If you’re thinking I am going to tell you a typical love story, maybe you are right.

Maybe whatever I am going to say has happened to you and happened sooner and in a more efficient way. But that is the thing about love. It never gets old.

Why do we all watch the same old stories put in different scenarios over and over again? What changes? The setting? That’s all, isn’t it?

A person meets another. They bond. They develop respect, trust but mostly love and they pledge to remain there for each other forever. Every story has the same plot line and it still appeals because we all hope to find a similar story in a different scenario for ourselves.

Here, I did not generalise it to be between a man and a woman as it would mean restricting an ocean in a small box. Love has wider horizons than romance. Because modern day romance is seldom based on love. But romance has its perks.

When you are romantically involved with a person, you are their first priority and responsibility. You have rights and duties, grounds to expect and express. This kind of freedom does not exist elsewhere. Hence, even if romance is over-rated; it quite deserves that rating.

I realised this only when I met a woman.

It was my birthday and no matter what the world would say, my birthday bash meant a long drive close to nature; alone. I never partied on my birthday. It was my way of showing the finger to the social norms and expectations. With time, everyone had learned to respect my choices.

I’d set out in my grey sweatshirt and black tracks, glares and a baseball cap protecting me from the sun rays that sifted in through the windshield. I hardly ever got to dress so casually and hence I made the most of it.

As my favourite band echoed in my car I marvelled at the lousy irony of life. Here I was set out to tend to the call of the mountains; but the traffic was delaying my conquest. Impatient, I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel when my eyes landed on her.

She was literally dragging two huge blue plastic bags onto the divider. She was probably looking for a cab but to no avail. As she stood by my car on the divider, catching her breath, I lowered my window.

It was a very instinctive gesture. I like helping people. It makes me count my blessings; keeps me humble. And I was in the last lane, right next to the divider.

So, when I actually saw her, I was gone for good.

She wasn’t the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Nor did she take any efforts to enhance her appearance. She looked plain if you put the harsh truth upfront. Her face was sweaty, brows furrowed, shoulders drooped, lines on the forehead yet she looked remarkably strong. I don’t know how you see strength on someone’s face; but I did.

“Can I help you?” I could not help asking.

And she looked at me like I had said the most absurd thing on earth. She furrowed her brows further and the lines on her forehead increased. Her white skin had become red in the sun and I found it all….cute?

I think I really was being ridiculously absurd that day. But it is what it is. There is no reasoning you know.

“No. Thanks!” was her curt reply as she continued to look for a taxi. She could go to the opposite end of the road but probably she was too tired for it and she hoped she could find a cab till the signal was red.

Why didn’t she call a cab online?? Weird.

I was just planning to say something when her phone started ringing. And I saw a cascade of emotions flashing on her face one after another. Worry, anxiety, fear, dread, helplessness and pain. Her entire body shivered and tears threatened to drop from her eyes.

And then, she sucked in a deep breath, squared her shoulders and asked like she meant business;

“Can you drop me at Sabarmati Hospital?”

I nodded and got down from my car, put her huge blue plastic bags in the boot of the car and opened the door from the other side. The light had turned green and there was extensive honking going on for us. I zoomed ahead and then took a U-turn. All the birthday quests dropped then and there!

I had questions in mind but something about her demeanour told me not to voice them. Someone very dear to her was probably admitted in the said hospital and she was restraining herself from breaking down by keeping quiet. One word about the situation and she would not be able to contain herself. I didn’t want that, because she didn’t.

I followed her inside the hospital. It turned out that her already paraplegic grandmother had had an episode of a heart attack. The wheelchair bound female was now in need of a bypass surgery and this girl did not have enough money. I offered my credit card and she looked at me like I didn’t belong to this planet. My name got things moving and this girl had so much gratitude for that that I felt terrible.

I sat beside her till her grandmother was stable and out of danger. She was posted for surgery in two days’ time. All this while, we shared no words yet I felt drawn to her like moth to flame.

And wasn’t I always looking for warmth?

She was the light that my dark soul had always been looking for. And I just knew it when I saw her. That night I wondered what had attracted me towards her. She did not have a very remarkable beauty. She was not even rich. She wasn’t very pleasantly mannered either. She didn’t even smile. Then what drew me to her?

And then I realised, it was strength. It was struggle. When I first saw her, I may have not known anything about her; but from her circumstance I knew she was a hard worker. Those bags were filled with something she used to earn her living. When I offered her help and she refused it; I came to know she wasn’t dazzled by wealth or comfort. She had seen the bitterness of the life from her near vision and so she knew nothing came for free. She didn’t trust me nor did she accept any help.

When she received that phone call, I knew she loved with intensity. I knew she possessed the light and warmth I had looked for all my life. I immediately envied the person she was about to visit when she mentioned the word hospital because that person had what I had always craved forever.

The gratitude in her eyes when I helped her just proved the intensity of her affection further. The discoveries about her life; how she cared for her crippled grandmother; how no one else was present at the hospital to be by her side in the time of need and in spite of being alone her step didn’t falter and her voice didn’t quaver. And how in the end, she asked for my card so that she could return the money I had spent for the hospital bills.

Like a Climax in a poetry, she just enchanted me more and more by each step she took.

Everything about her baffled me and when I finally asked for her card to drop her bags at her work station; she started a frantic search in her hand bag which made me smile. Because at that very moment; she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.

While she stayed at the hospital, I personally dropped those bags at her workplace. She was a fashion designer and her humble studio gave me more insight into her personality. She was organised. Her office was spick and span, too clean for a designer. Oh damn! She had OCD! And I liked everything a little haywire. Ordered chaos you see. How would things work?

Wait!!!!! What did I just think? Am I not going tooo far tooo soon?

Well probably. I should stop. Take it slow. What I know in my head and heart, she is not even thinking about it. For her I am just a kind stranger who saved her granny’s life and whose debt she has resolved to not keep on her head.

Her assistant was more than happy to shed some light on her life. She loved her dearly and when I asked her about her beloved employer, she fondly told me about her so many struggles.

Shakti Singh, her card read, was a twenty six year old woman who lived with her grandmother after her parents died young. Her grandmother did have other children who eventually parted ways and settled in different corners of the world leaving their crippled grandmother to the care of a grandchild. The logic being, Shakti owed that much to her granny.

Owed. I smiled at that word.

Shakti loved her only parent figure too much to care about who else shared the responsibility of that old woman. She took it all on herself willingly. She worked day in and out to afford best medical care for her and a decent quality of life. Starting from scratch, she had achieved much. And when she talked about repaying the money for her operation, she really could afford it a couple of months.

That girl didn’t fail to surprise me or inspire me at any moment. She was strong, ambitious, loving, caring; all at the same time. In her office, she had a small bedroom for her grandmother so that she would never have to leave her alone. On her desk, there was a picture of them smiling. It somehow transfixed in my memory.

For days, I waited for her call. For days, I tried gathering any small information I could find about her. I could use my sources and do much better; but it hampered the sanctity of my feelings towards her. I looked her up on google and social media, but there was hardly anything there. She probably didn’t have time or aptitude for these things. Her small fashion studio was listed on the internet; I could only marvel at her work. I don’t know why but my heart swelled with pride when I saw how good she was in her job.

I could contact her you know. I could go to her studio. I did visit her grandmother but she wasn’t around at the time. Granny was a sweetheart. She thanked me so much first for saving her and then for visiting her that I nearly blushed with shame. Of course I had not paid her bills for anything in return, but the visit part wasn’t so innocent.

I didn’t visit her studio because I didn’t want to push anything. I liked her, a lot. I even thought about her, but I didn’t want to make any mistakes for both our sakes. We could be poles apart for all I knew. What I was thinking could be mere adrenaline. I needed to be sure. I needed to go deeper. And most importantly, I needed to win her trust. I didn’t want her to think I was some desperate creep.

So I waited. I knew she would call me to give that little amount back. But waiting is the most difficult thing there is. I had given her my personal visiting card. Because my efficient P.A. would definitely not put her through.

But what she did amazed me. She never called!!

I was restless. Maybe I had not deduced her personality well. Maybe I had seen too much integrity and honesty in her. Not that I cared about the money. But I did care about the image I had built of her and the hopes I had associated with her.

It had been six months since that encounter and now I had convinced myself that I had forgotten about her when a small name in my pass book shook the world beneath me. There was a transaction from Shakti Creations, the amount was the bills I had paid and the transaction happened 3 months ago.

I immediately called my P.A. She did remember giving my account details to a girl who wanted to return some money. I stared at her in disbelief. I could not even scold her!!

I was counting on this. But here she was, baffling me one more time. How did she always stay one step ahead??

What should I do now?


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