Thursday, May 10, 2012


Zahira was leaving. For good, as far as I could tell. But she wouldn’t talk. Not to me, anyway. In fact, I felt she blamed me, or at least, blamed me too, for all the demons in her head that had ravished her peace of mind and joy for life. She was “sick of this place!,” and us. Most of all, she was sick of CB. She didn’t hate him, but she still couldn’t stand the sight of him. She did say that she would come back someday, “after sorting things out” in her head. But we all knew that she was lying, even to herself. All, except for CB. Poor guy… he still lives in hope…

This morning Zahira Estevez Fuegno flew back to Mexico City, with bags half empty, a heart full of hurt, a head hurting with memories and a ring finger, bandless, with just tan-lines to show for the last seven years. It wasn’t a nice feeling to see her leave…

Two years ago, Zahira and Eduardo had flown in to New Delhi to start a new life. Eduardo Fuegno had a grown up job with a European watch manufacturer and the couple had moved to India to explore new opportunities with another firm. His job paid well and left him with enough time to explore the city, play golf and entertain Zahira. Eduardo and Zahira were high school sweethearts and they perhaps felt married long before they climbed the altar to say ‘I do!’. In Delhi, they became a part of the party circuit that Eduardo’s colleagues introduced them to, and life was good. Zahira began taking yoga classes at one of the city’s well known studios and as the months flew by, became pretty good at it. The studio offered her a ‘teacher’s training programme’ following which she could start training at the studio. Eduardo was all for it. He was really enjoying the pace of the city, his work and his golf. He loved her but he didn’t mind having a little more time for golf, or whatever else it was that kept him busy in the evenings.

Zahira and CB met at the studio during their teacher’s training and the 33-year-old Mexican school teacher and corporate wife and the 28-year-old Bengali commercial artist became good friends. They were both keen students of yoga and CB’s knowledge of the subject got them talking. Zahira was also fascinated by the connections between the yogic postures or asanas and Indian mythology. CB’s thakur-ma had told him enough for him to hold Zahira to half a dozen tall glasses of iced tea after class every day. And so the story grew…

CB was single. He wrote poems in English and Bangla, sang ballads and painted with an abandon – strange forms, vaguely human, but alive, writhing on that canvas that gave them life yet kept them trapped, framed. Zahira was intrigued. Eduardo was a friend, a lover, a partner, and yet there were recess in Zahira’s heart that had remained untouched, unloved. Th at beating beast was alive now in a way she had never known it to be. Or maybe didn’t remember it to be… Was this love, too? Or was this that love? Real love? The one she had been waiting for? The one we all wait for, till we know we’ve found it.

But do we ever really know? How can we be sure that the one we believe we love is the one for us and not the one we will meet tomorrow, or day after? What about Eduardo? Wasn’t that love? Let’s leave Zahira, Eduardo and my good friend CB to dwell on these questions and go meet Mandavi.

I first met her about two years ago. She was interning with us and had a special interest in the evolution of cinema as an agent of social change. Th at lasted for about eight weeks and though she moved to Mumbai after that, we stayed in touch and have remained friends ever since. One of these days, while she was in Delhi, she dropped by for a chat and conversation veered toward her plans of getting married. I had thought that the wedding bells were getting polished and were to ring soon, but Mandavi dismissed the thought.

I was surprised. She had been holding steady for half a decade now with this colleague of hers and he really wanted to get married to her. So, what happened? Mandavi wasn’t so sure. “I don’t know… I just know I didn’t want to settle down with him. I really like him. He would pamper me and take care of me and I would be happy to be there for him as a friend. I really liked him and thought it would grow to be love, but if this is what love is then why don’t I feel like I was swept away off my feet by him? Where’s the music in my ears and that heady feeling I was promised? Where’s that undying river of passion that was supposed to keep us flowing through life, together forever? Why did this river dry up even before I could begin to understand it? To tell you the truth, I’ve lost faith in the idea of love, or at least in my ability to recognise it. I don’t have the courage to go through another relationship, take responsibility for it and take a decision. I have asked my parents to start looking around for me and let them decide for me. If things go wrong, I would at least have someone else to blame for it.” Th at last line was spoken only half in jest.

If you thought Mandavi’s logic was an isolated illogical exception, I’ve got news for you. Talk to ten single women who have been in a relationship worth mentioning and half of them would turn around and tell you that they couldn’t help but agree with Mandavi.

These words have eaten up more space than they ought to have and so I will let the third anecdote, this time from a man’s perspective, go. Just as well too, for this one wouldn’t have been easy to disguise. And since the relationship is still alive, though I have his permission to share it, it’s a risk best avoided. For now, all you need to know, dear reader, is that these doubts, both Zahira’s and Mandavi’s, are not gender specific.

That day, while I watched Zahira walk through the doors of Terminal 3, a sad slim figure, dragging her luggage and her worries away with her, until I lost her amongst the scores of other shuffling and shuttling figures, I wondered if there really was a way to know if one really was in love. How could one sift between mere friendship and habit or even lust and identify the intense friendship and passion that ignites true love (yes, that’s the order of such matters and not the other way around)? And am I really in love? Of course I am, but how do I know? How can I be so sure?

I thought, and I thought, and I asked questions, of myself, and of love, and I believe I have an answer. But hold your horses and rein them in, for the answer will take a week to bake; so until then, you can’t go wrong if you start playing from ‘love all’!


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