By Upendra Mishra
BOSTON—We all have grown with fairy tale stories of romance, love and happily thereafter. I am sure it is true for some, but untrue for many of us. Why? Because love is never complete. When it is complete, it dies. A tiny hole or a little incompleteness leaves that eternal craving for love—the undying thirst for it.
The meaning of love, I mean romantic love, also changes with time, with our needs, our hormones, circumstances, social and family obligations and desires of the time. It is not something absolute and not that once we get it, our life is set for ever, or happily thereafter as the saying goes.
Love evolves with time, with our body, mind, and soul. To fully understand love, or to get a 360-degree view, we must sew all fragments of love together. Every little slice has its own importance, its own place and its own relevance. Those tiny chunks—no matter how insignificant—are the necessary small step in the journey of love. Everyone of them count. They’re essential.
Recently, when I visited India, my mission was to visit all those places where I had some romantic connections and sew them together in order to get the whole picture of romance and love, and if possible experience and re-live them again—at least romantically or mentally.
At this stage in life when I am looking for more depth and meaning in my relationships, feelings and experiences, why not start with the innocent days of childhood and teen years. Somehow, I had completely missed my childhood. I remember once during my college days I wrote: “I am entering my youth as an old man.” Now, it seems I am entering my old age as a teenager. A good feeling, though. Recently, I told a friend of mine to stay healthy because when we get into our 90s (if lucky) with no teeth and may be on a wheelchair, we can remember good old times and enjoy last years of life with a youthful frame of mind–a sort of youth in the old age.
Talking about old times, I remember my first crush. I was in the 10th grade. The walk from my home to my school was over a mile, on a zig-zag path that will go through local district court compound. There were a lot of people coming from villages to attend to their cases and hearings in the courts. On the side walkways, there were also a group of pandits, sadhus, astrologers, palm readers and fortune tellers. People would often be curious about the outcome of their cases and consult these astrologers and fortune tellers, although their abilities were questionable. At that time, I believed that these astrologers could really tell the future.
Coming back to my first crush, in the house I lived in with my aunt and uncle, also lived the niece of our landlady in the other part of the house. The niece must have been at least two years older than me. I was love-stuck (or rather, crush-stuck) with her. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever known or seen, and in my eyes, there was no defect in her. Despite she had failed twice in high school, she was the smartest person I knew at the time.
In those days, our exposure to love was very limited, rather nil. There was no television, and my aunt and uncle were strict about letting me watch movies in theaters either. Learning about love was on the streets of hard knocks. We had to figure it out by ourselves. We could not talk to anyone about love or girls or our romantic feelings, not even with our family members or relatives. But the hormones had started to kick in and a strange feeling of being somewhere between a child and an adult had started to sink in as well.
On my crush (love those days) front, I was not going anywhere with this beautiful girl. I could not tell her about my feelings. I was so scared. I also could not sit idle either. So, one day while walking to my school, I saw a sign “Aap Ki Har Ichha Puri Ho Hogi” (You Every Wish Will be Fulfilled) on the makeshift shop of one the pandits on the street. I stopped and walked to him. He asked me: “What I can do?”
I could not say a word. My lips froze. I just stood there, feeling uncomfortable. He asked again: “What do you want?” I sat down on the dirt floor and slowly whispered “Ek ladki ka mamla hai.” (It is about a girl.)
I explained him the situation and told him that I love this girl, but I cannot tell her anything. Can he help? “Yes, of course,” he said with full confidence. “Do you have five rupees,” he asked.
“I don’t have it right now, but I can arrange it. I will bring the money tomorrow,” I told him confidently.
I came to school, but my mind was stuck on arranging five rupees and I was so happy. When I came home I told my uncle that I need five rupees to buy books and pens for the school. He gave me five rupees. I could not sleep that night. I was so excited. In the morning, I left for school early and went to pandit. He was happy to see me. “Did you bring the money,” he asked. “Yes,” I said proudly, thinking about the girl and my wish coming true, and gave him the money.
The pandit said that he would have to do some pooja (worship of Gods) and for that he will need a red rose that must be touched by the girl. I was taken aback. I can get a rose, but how I am going to get it touched by her, I began thinking. Any way five rupees were gone, I told myself, and now there was no option but to find a red rose and have this beauty queen touch it. Then an idea flashed in my head.
One of the subjects of study in my class was botany. The girl was also studying botany. While returning home from school, I picked a red rose from a public garden in the District Court complex. I came home and then went straight to girl’s home and told her that I needed some help on a school project. She asked what project? I told her that my botany teacher has asked me to find out if this flower is a male or female flower, and gave that flower to her. She held the flower in her hand, looked around and said: “I have no idea. I don’t know” and handed back the flower to me. I was so happy—if I was made the king of this universe. Next day, I brought the flower to this pandit and proudly told him that the girl had touched the flower.
I asked him how long will it take for my wish to come true? “Two to three months,” he said. I went to school afterwards, and probably that day no human was as happy as I was on this planet. Of course, I eagerly waited for my wish to be fulfilled for three months. By that time, my high school exam was over, and my uncle was transferred to another town, and in July I joined another school in the new town. Now, many years later, I still sometimes wonder what happened to that beautiful girl and where she might be today.
This time when I visited India, I went to see that house where we lived. I have no clue about that girl, but loved this piece of love. The next piece of love in part-3.
(Mr. Mishra is managing partner of the Waltham, MA-based integrated inbound marketing and PR firm The Mishra Group. He writes about his three passions: marketing, scriptures and gardening.)