Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A thousand full moons

A few weeks ago, my great-uncle turned 80. I was told that the significance of 80 years is that one sees a thousand full moons in that span of time. One of the rituals of the Sadabhishekham is the renewal of marriage vows. When the same uncle came down to Bangalore, along with his wife, I could clearly see how inseparable they were. They walked slowly, holding each other, constantly telling each other to be careful, and then again constantly asking the other for assurance.

I’m sure she came as a young, shy bride who was terrified of her husband’s wrath. My great-uncle is famous for his short-temper. My mother still shudders every time she thinks about the time she was hit on her head for speaking out of turn. I spent 5 days at their place, suffocated by his authority, many years ago. He’d made a conscious decision to move away from urban life, to settle in a little town, to live with the bare necessities- no fridge, no TV, no furniture. He had decided to do so in a moment of rage. I remember pitying my great aunt for not having the guts to walk out of that marriage. I’ve had arguments with my mom in this regard and I’d even decided that she was there only because there was nowhere else to go. Few years later I began respecting my great aunt for staying along with such a stubborn man. This time though, it was neither pity nor respect. It was just a realization that everything made sense. Clearly, she loved this man enough to want to be with him. The majority of her life had been lived with this man. When she smiled, I could see that there was no effort in it. When she kept quiet, when he began speaking, I could see again that she didn’t consider it a big sacrifice. He loved her enough in turn. The red kumkum on her forehead and the pride with which she showed me her new mangalsutra said it all. Here was a couple that had learnt to love and be loved in return. Here was a couple that had decided to spend their lives away from the rest of the world, but not away from each other. Allow me to get mushy here, if that’s not love, what is ?

My parents are a different story altogether. Unlike my great-aunt who never knew anything else other than fending for her husband, my mom does. There have been times when my mom chose to work for a few extra hours and dinner was served late, regardless of my dad’s growling stomach. Then again, there have been times when she would be awake for hours, waiting for dad to come back from work, hoping that it was only a traffic jam and nothing else. I’ve seen her reach out for the phone to call the police, and then decide against it, so that she could at least pretend that nothing was wrong. Thus far, my dad always turned up citing the traffic jam, and my mom could validate the presence of the sticker bindi on her forehead for another day. Here I am, jumping up and down that my parents have managed to stay together for 25 years even though this time there was little or no social pressure to do so. Allow me to get mushy again and ask “if this is not love, what is ?”

As we made our way to Yelagiri this weekend, I could see that my dad was feeling much more relaxed than I’ve known him to be. When he compared the folds in the road to the chocolate mixture making folds on “Dairy Milk” in the Cadbury’s ad, I got a glimpse of a little child who was beginning to love the simple things in life. When my mom asked him if he hadn’t taken to eating a dairy milk everyday, and my dad insisted that he hadn’t, I knew that he was back to being “ I can do no wrong” head of the family.When we made our way up a very misty hillock only to come back and realize that my dad was catching a cold, and my mom ran around with Vicks action 500 and Amrutanjan, I suddenly felt like the oldest, most mature member in the family. The weather was beautiful, the air clean, and the trees were laughing about in joy.

There are only so many things you can do in a little place such as Yelagiri. There was a little pond and my mom rowed us around the pond, with the boat house guy wondering loudly why “saar” wasn’t doing the rowing. My dad replied that he knew how to drive a car and my mom knew how to row a boat, and since most of us were afraid of heights we had most of the earth-space covered.

A friend once asked me if the universe had ever made sense. We were in the mood to make mountains out of molehills and when he said universe, he probably only meant my day or perhaps just that minute. In my own na├»ve way, I said “yes, many times”. I truly believed that it had. If I were asked the question again, I’d say “yes. Just recently, everything made sense. Everything fell into place”

For mom, this vacation was about seeing dad laugh and smile like never before. It was about finding pleasure in the fact that she couldn’t find a single frown on his visage. For dad, it was about dreaming about dairy milks and seeing how many sweets he could eat without his sugar levels going overboard. I’ve told my mom often, that it was cruel I didn’t have a sibling, that there was no one I could complain about me parents to, without feeling guilty. What with my dad’s non-interference policy in most of my affairs and my mom’s firm belief that I’m too timid to commit gross errors, there isn’t a lot of complaining I do, and I’d think that my sibling and I would have some of the most painfully boring conversations.

When you’re in a sleepy village and you’ve finished playing Boggle and Scrabble and you don’t want to see either of 2 games for the rest of your life there are few things that you end up doing. First you hope that there’s a long life ahead, a long life devoid of Boggle and Scrabble. Then you hope for clear skies and a thousand full moons and someone to see it with.

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