...and then

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A walk in the rain? I'll ride a bike, thanks.

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.

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Anonymous You-know-who-now! said...

1. Being sneaked out of college one morning, for a bike ride from Pune to Lonavla, in July- August (when the entire stretch of road is a brilliant emerald green) to a dam, located on a hill. Being made to climb up to the top of the hill (sliding and falling, un-gracefully, on the way up. A hundred times), just so I can catch the view of a million, million miniature yellow sunflowers, swaying in the wind, set against a lovely overcast sky. View done, we rode back home. (Apparently, I had mentioned loving the flowers. And I loved bike rides. And Pune during monsoons)
2. Very early on in a relationship, walking down a crowded road, talking,joking about getting married to each other. Suddenly, he lurches ahead, grabs a cauliflower from the vegetable seller on the side of the road, goes down on knee and asked me to marry him! People on the road stopping at this show, laughing, clapping at us!
3. Preparing and carrying bottles of Electral for me, for a week, after a bad bout of dehydration.
There are way many more, but given I am currently single, I should stop - this aint doing me much good. :)
P.S: On a diff note, did I tell you I love that you are posting so often?

6:37 pm  
Blogger Cheeky Mom said...

Love the piece! Put a smile on my face and brought back so many silly memories... though I am too embarrassed to discuss them in public :)

6:45 pm  
Anonymous The Reader said...

i've been to your blog many times and you write very well no doubt, but one thing is clearer with each post that you write......your so full of yourself. lets see if you let this pass if you have got comment moderation enabled!

7:39 pm  
Blogger Sandhya Menon said...

R : Thank you. They're lovely memories :)

TSM: Oh, come on! Telllll!

The Reader : I don't have comment moderation and I most definitely will let this pass. If I am not full of myself, who else should I be full of?! I'd rather be full, than empty :) Thank you for your compliment as well :)

7:42 pm  
Blogger Abhipraya said...

I perfectly understand the 'if he was taller than me' statement. But I asked him out anyway :)

Love the post S. Brought back memories of silly romantic moments - the bike rides, awkward hand holding, wooing, hmmmmm. It made me realise how serious I've become! The perks of growing up eh.

7:43 pm  
Anonymous snippetsnscribbles said...

Bike rides....sigh!

Loved this post! Brought back such warm memories :)

...and please be full of yourself! This is YOUR blog! Go TRQ! :)

8:25 pm  
Blogger notgogol said...

It takes a lot for a conceited man like me to say that he's conceited and that he liked this post.

I really liked it.

11:09 pm  
Blogger Maryam said...

Love this post so much. Enjoyed every word, every detail and it drew a smile on my face for some obvious reasons. You're a gifted writer but I'm sure you know that already.

12:17 am  
Blogger Judy Balan said...

You should turn this into a short story. I like.

I like the kind of romance that no one plans -when things just sort of fall in place and you realize it was so romantic long after it's over. No wonder I'm such a sucker for the whole steamy-affair-with-random-stranger-by-a-faraway-ocean :|

8:58 am  
Blogger The Coffee Cup said...

Now I hate you for this post. It just took me straight back to the days of typical teenage romance. We all almost have the same tales to say: memories of flowers, cards, bike rides, cinemas (and the hand-holding), and the little surprises.
I remember the then boyfriend taking me to an under-construction building, into a room with pretty candles, flowers, and my fav Chicken biriyani. Couldn't get sweeter than that!
@Judy: I am still waiting for that *whole steamy-affair-with-random-stranger-by-a-faraway-ocean* to happen in my life.

9:54 am  
Blogger Shailaja said...

Sigh. And to think we were in the same hostel.

I remember the event, the judge and the general reaction, btw. Was it antakshari? Or am I mixing that up with something else?

10:12 am  
Blogger Rumaitha said...

This brought a smile on my face as I remembered the whole wooing but not understanding the whole concept of it.

Reminds me of a time when I was abroad and depressed and him being in the cold snow calling out my name through the window and me being the dumb one just let him freeze as I was in shock still looking through the window.

You are a marvelous writer ;)

11:41 am  
Blogger Shalini George said...

Reading this post is the closest thing to a romantic experience that I have felt in the recent past. Loved it and thankyou, you have me smiling cheek to cheek.

12:10 pm  
Blogger Ranjani said...

You know what I like best about all your posts? It's that your thoughts are defined, and better yet you sound good expressing them!! I think it's awesome that you lack ambiguity in what comes through. I love it.

12:44 pm  
Blogger Sandhya Menon said...

Abhipraya: I have nothing against short people. My idea of romantic couples is a tall man with a not so tall woman :) Yes, let's not remind ourselves, shall we?

snippetsnscribbles: Thank you! Really, for that voice of support. I had the same thing to say -- who's holding a gun to your head to read my blog? :) Hugs!

notgogol: I can never use the word 'conceited' without thinking of Poirot. For someone who ain't mushy at all, I am so glad you liked this :)

Kitten: You're so sweet, little one :) I like to think I write okay but I honestly don't think I am all that gifted. I have days of huge self doubt. But your words meant a lot to me :)

Judy: Hmmm. Short story you think? Let's see. Yes, totally unplanned moments are the stuff of unadulterated romance.

Coffee Cup: So sweet :) the chicken biryani bit! By the way all the things you mentioned, most of them weren't romantic activities for me :)

Shailaja: YAY!! I am so thrilled someone is here to share that experience with me! :D Yes!!! Antakshari - hahaha. :) I am so glad you remember.

Rummy: Thank you so much Rummy. For your kind words and sharing your experience. I hope he didn't' stay out in the cold too long :)

Shalini: Aww! That is so sweet :) it makes me immensely glad if my post puts a smile on someone's face. Or makes them think. Or get angry. So thank you :)

Ranjani: It is ONLY in my writing that I lack ambiguity, my love :) You know me otherwise, right? I guess the definition comes from all that being full of myself, like The Reader here said, that I can't think outside myself ;)

1:33 pm  
Blogger S said...

Ah such mush!

I can't think of anything from my life as of now to fit the bill. But I love the detailing with which you wrote this.. and the short singer guy has freaking similarities with one of the guys who was sweet on me :P This post felt nostalgic! :)

2:21 pm  
Blogger Sumi Mathai said...

outrageously honest eh! super post :)

8:54 am  
Anonymous p. said...

Loved this post! xx

6:04 pm  
Blogger Blasphemous Aesthete said...

What good would romance do if it were to happen everyday. We curse the sun if it shines perennially, make rhymes like Rain rain go away, come again another day... am sure we'd do the same to romance too... and then, it would be a cliche, every single day.

Yes, romance is not 'sex first - emotion later', its different.

And, awesome post. :)

Blasphemous Aesthete

8:23 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

Wonderful read. By the time I read the paragraph on singing competition, I could already see you blushing. Kudos to power of words :)

Loved your ideas on romance too.

7:56 am  
Blogger Ghadeer said...

Wonderful writing!

You've been awarded a Stylish Blog Award by me! See here: http://spill-beans.blogspot.com/2011/02/stylish-blogger-award.html

10:20 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

That was beautiful! And of course, sent me right back into my teen years! :)
My favourite romantic moments:
* When I was stuck in my nondescript hometown during my college days and pining for very-important-then-quite-meaningless-now stuff like colourful paper clips. The only types available there were the standard steel-coloured ones. Mention it in passing to then bf-now husband, who was interning in a bigger city.
Two days later, I wake up after an afternoon nap to the sound of the doorbell... and there he stands, holding out two little boxes of the darn things! :)
"Just dropped by to give you these," he says, before zooming off on his bike (which, of course, has a trillion romantic-ride memories attached to it).

* These days, I count the slightest of gestures of romance... to compensate for the traditional stuff, I guess. So latest romantic moments would be the time he took off early from work to look after our daughter as I worked late/going out of his way to fix up my laptop with all sorts of bells and trims so that I can work easier and better.

9:30 am  
Blogger Mashita said...

Can I come back and comment ? ;)

7:23 am  
Blogger Tamanna said...

Long, long, long time. I came here looking for some good vibes after a terrible week. Thank you TRQ!

Bike ride. Sigh. To Khardungla pass. Crazy cold, snowed in mountain, no gloves, and the maggi at the end of it.

A long walk at Bandstand. Coming to terms with the fact that we were falling in love with the person we were going to marry (I decided to get married because he was normal and I liked him enough to spend my life with him. Arranged marriages - crazy stuff if one is lucky :-) And the drive back. The grin.

Nandi Hill at sunrise after a long evening of drinking, and a long night of talking. Because I had mentioned I had never seen a sunrise in my entire life. true, that!

A balcony. Two people. A smoke. And acceptance. After the biggest argument in the relationship. Ever.

Friday night karaoke at home. A home full of people. And Wish You Were Here (not the most romantic song I know, but two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl means something completely different when you are in the mood :D)

And the drives.

And even mundane evenings. Late mornings. Sleepy afternoons. Romance I think is in all the small things. And the big things. There is no getting away from it if you are in love.

This will go up on the blog soon.

Thank you, TRQ. I had forgotten all of this. Was so drained and down and out today. The husband is on a con call right now. I am so going to hug him when he is done :)


10:37 pm  

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