Loud applause filled the hall. He mindlessly clapped with the others, caught in a trance. Her dance was flawless. She moved with such grace and beauty that he was enthralled. Every abhinaya, every mudra, every step of hers seemed so delicate and swan-like. Once again, he could not help but wonder,
Why does not her life reflect her art? Why is her love not as pure, as expressive? Perhaps she does not love people, passionate as she is about her art…
His mind raced back to a few days ago. He was walking with her on a bougainvillea-lined path. Conversation was sparse, as she was worried about something else. Suddenly he looked into her eyes, and blurted out,
You are so beautiful…
She had just smiled, was she only being polite?
He was in no mood to stop, though.
Perhaps marriage is too mundane a word to come between the two of us , but all I want to do, is to live with you. Forever.
At which point she had touched his arm, telling him in not so polite terms,
“I don’t think I love you. Why don’t you just get lost?”
It was almost as if he had suggested something profane. She took an auto and sped off, leaving him to ponder about his words. He stood dazed, the expression on her face when she had left him was vivid: partly disgusted, partly sad. Suddenly, the doors to their wonderful friendship and all the joy they had shared were permanently shut. Either they were friends, or nothing. A few strained phone calls and heated arguments later, they had decided to not meet each other again.
Today he was at one of her performances, uninvited. She was his ideal woman. The sensuousness of her movements, her smile, the soft curves of her body, the silkiness in her voice, her wit, her whole self: Everything about her was so lovely. She was, in his terms, a complete woman. His love could not take a no for an answer, and her heart had no place for him. He thought of the day they had first met. It was the first time that he knew what falling in love meant. He took one look at her, in her gorgeous yellow salwar, her long hair caressing her back, and was in love. He had no guts to go up to her and speak-she was like a beautiful goddess, to be admired from afar. However, his interest won over his initial awe. He went up, made conversation. She realized that had a great chemistry, he realized that he was in love. They exchanged phone numbers. Things began to move, at least for him.
He soon realized that she was not as gentle as she appeared to be. She had an unreasonably high opinion about herself and was callous towards people she thought were not talented enough, the ‘not-so-elite’ as she liked to call them. They were also other things he discovered, not quite to his liking. The way she swore, for example.
“%&*# this bike, does not start when I want it to!”
To him, language was sacred, to be used carefully, nurturing it like a child…
He would then rationalize,
Is not love supposed to be above all this? I love her and that is all that matters…
His love consumed him like a forest fire. He was blinded with his idealism, with the dazzling purity of his love. He was sure she felt the same way too. After all, true lovers do not need words, do they?
Until the day the bougainvillea decorated conversation happened. His dreams were not shattered, paradoxically, for that would have made things so much easier. They were crippled.
And it hurt.
As he walked out of the auditorium now, he thought,
This is all I can have: an ordinary life, with ordinary ideals.
Eat, Sleep, Die.
Many years from now, his wife will wonder at the dried bougainvillea flowers tucked away in his favourite book. She will see his manic passion for dance.
She will see their daughter take dance lessons.
She will see him snapping when he finds their daughter swearing.
She will see his eyes moisten when she buys him a yellow shirt.
Yellow is such a lovely colour…
First loves die hard.