I once had a wooer. I found him when I was in the college union and had to find a judge for one of our festival competitions. He was in the Indian navy, looked lovely, and sang like a dream. For those of you who know me, you should know that the only reason I didn’t rip his clothes off and devour him whole was because I wasn’t really interested in sex till much later on in life and thought men no different from women. There was only one saving grace. Actually, two. He was overenthusiastic and he was short. Why saving grace, you ask? Because I was 16. And if he was really smart, played it just right and was way taller than me, I’d have eloped with him and had his babies the day I turned 18. He was that yummy.
So I forgot all about him for the longest time. But as has happened to many of us recently, I found myself at the end of a friend request in my inbox the other day. From Orkut, the ghetto of social networking and a place I had deserted long ago. Enough reason to have dumped him, in hindsight? I, of course, eagerly checked him out. He had put on a little weight, looked like he’d been drinking too much and was still short. And all sorts of memories came back to me. Let’s park that for now.
I recently had a little exchange of ideas about what romance was. I don’t think I am a romantic woman. In the sense, I doubt greatly I go all out to overwhelm my man. I have a romantic soul, laced nicely with a cynical scarf that surprises even me, sometimes. I see romance in the breeze, in heroism and in tenderness. None of this has to do with sexual romance, or man-woman romance. It has everything to do with the beauty and valour of the world around me. And the people that live in it.
The two – my wooer and the discussion on romance – are thus connected. This man went all out to woo me. He probably has been the only one. I’ve never had to be wooed because if I found I liked a man more than the others, I’d usually tell him. I’ve been rejected just once. I said, okay, cool, where do you want to head out for a drink. And we’re best friends now. That’s the kind of girl I am. But back to the wooer. I, of course, didn’t realize it then, that he was pulling out all stops to woo me. He’d come to the college hostel often to visit me (yes, I regularly received a wooer in the guests parlour of my college hostel, I can’t believe it myself now), and when I could get out he’d take me out for coffee (when I say coffee, please imagine some silly date at a café where we drink anything but that beverage) or a meal, he’d send me flowers and cards. Real ones. Out of which pastel flowers or lipsticked primates peeped. He’d buy me trinkets which were in appalling taste but what a sweet gesture, no? None of that constituted romance to me, though.
The event he came to judge in our college was a musical one. As part of the judging and conducting, he had to sing a couple of songs. I remember dressing up to impress him that day. It’s a bit of an embarrassing memory but I swear to be honest on this blog and I will be that. I think I went through five different outfits before deciding on a rather becoming red and white salwar kameez. Anything else would have been instant warning to the nuns that I was having it on with the judge, so I played it safe with a salwar kurta, which is considered modest. (These nuns have no idea how immodest teenagers can make it look.) The first song he sang was Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye… It stopped my heart for more than a few seconds. Already distracted to bits by his presence, I was cursing that I had to be in the wings while he was on stage, instead of sitting in the audience and melting. But when he began singing, it was like out of a movie. He turned sideways just a bit, looked straight at me all the while and sang. The.whole.damn.song. I swear I’ve never blushed that furiously. My face, it is said, by my close watchers, rivaled valiantly with my red dupatta. (The number of clichés in this teenage memory appalls me. But anyway, moving on.) And a 2000-strong audience of girls witnessed this. That was romance for me. To be made to feel like the only woman in the whole world. Till this day, that song gets my pulses racing just a bit. I suspect I even blush a little, unconsciously. And I am way past the age of blushing at anything apart from severe embarrassment.
A few minutes later, he was required to sing once more, for another segment of the contest. This time the ass chose, Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche… This too looking and smiling at me every once in a regular while. I could have walked out onto the stage and killed him with my bare hands. Or kissed him.
We went out to the cinema once. I don’t remember the film – a Kevin Costner one with pelicans or geese or ducks or something flying poetically in the end. A Perfect World? I can’t remember. I was just too distracted by him sitting next to me, trying my best to not let him hold my hand or something. Which he did. And I think I froze. Because having grown up with male friends who failed to notice I was a girl beyond the initial few hours of introduction, I had never had a boy do that to me. Hold my hand in a dark theater. So I promptly asked him if I can have my hand back. He handed it to me and we both pretended nothing happened. He looked suitably chastised, which was not my intention. And sent me a sorry card the next day. Like I said, OE* cutlet. But after the film, we went out for a meal. I can’t remember the place or what we ate but I remember the bike ride across the bridge into Willingdon Island and how he turned his head and asked if I liked the light-studded, boat-filled view, enjoyed the breeze in my hair and was I comfortable. That was romance for me.
It was that evening that he offered to teach me to ride. The evening I fell in love with motorbikes. He didn't complete his tuition but that, too, was romantic.
Speaking of bike rides, another wonderful, wonderful friend of mine had me ride pillion once, just before I left Madras for Bombay. He drove down the stretch of the Marina on a hot, empty afternoon just because he knew I enjoyed both. Bikes and the sea. That was romance, too.
But the most romantic nights of all had to have been when then boyfriend, now husband, stayed over on one of his trips to see me and spent all night singing to me. Gorgeous, sensuous, soulful lyrical songs he sang, as I lay on his arm and heard his song fill my room, drifted over my skin, seeped into my soul and escaped through the warm windows of a moonlit room.
I believe I have had but a few moments of romance. Possibly, I have never given any of my men romantic moments. I will never know. But the ones I’ve had – romantic moments, not men – have been worth a lifetime. And I am thankful I am a woman and the men I’ve been with have treated me like they’ve never known anyone like me.
On that really mushy note, I should also say, I think romance is a waste of time after a while. Two people should just go around a beautiful place and take pictures of everything, as well as each other. But then, if they are in love, that too will turn into a romance.
Share your stories with me?
* Overenthu – madras speak.
*** This was the point I realised I was writing a post on romance in February. All hail the cliche queen. FML.