Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Nice Guy

My friend’s marriage just got arranged. With her consent. With her consent! I thought these things only happened with my parents and generations before them. Clearly not. It was happening all around me. I was just waking up.

I wanted to know why. It’s a simple question. Why? Why wouldn’t you wait for Prince Charming? Why wouldn’t you wait for those weak kneed, pit in the stomach, heart in your mouth moments? Why wouldn’t you wait when technology pompously boasts of helping a 65 year old woman give birth?

“When’s the right time, Taaps?” she said to me. “When do you really know? In a month, in six months, in a year?”

“Definitely not six months!” I looked at her incredulously. “How is he in bed? How’s he with kids? How’s he when he gets angry? When he’s drunk?”

There were a million questions buzzing in my head. I had to let some of them out.

“I don’t know.” She shrugged her shoulders. There was that half smile of hers, kinda silly, kinda sad.

“Don’t you want to know? Don’t you want to give it some time? I’m not saying don’t get married, just saying wait. Wait for sometime. Some more time.” I looked at her pleadingly. As though she had opted for the guillotine.

She figured as much.

“I’m not dying you know,” she said wryly. “He’s a really nice guy. The type our mothers would like. He’s funny, he’s got great general knowledge, he loves to travel and he knows his wires, Taaps! Remember how important that is for us?”

Oh no, the nice guy syndrome. I knew it all too well.

The boy who’s just purrrrfect in every way. Boyish good looks, great table manners, well read, well dressed, funny with the friends, courteous with the parents….in other words really nice. And therein lay the problem. He was nice. Just nice.

“So you’re ok with the ‘nice guy’ now?” I italicize with my fingers. “You’re ok with no sparks, no I-can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you feeling, no you’re-driving-me-crazy-but-i-can’t-stop-loving-you moments?”

“Yup” she said simply. “I’m ok with it. Because I’ve had my heart broken too many times by those guys. I’m going to have a good life with this bugger. I can see it. It’s going to be a happy life.”

“Yeah.” The word drips with sarcasm.

“You’re going to be happy till that rascal comes along. That man who sweeps you off your feet, gives you those weak knees and that thumping of the heart. The one you can’t have, but oh god, if you had a chance…”

“We’ll never find everything in one guy, you know.” She interrupts me. All for the better.

We stop talking. I was struggling to understand her but I felt her slipping away already. The buzzing in my head continued.

“But you’re young! You have time to keep looking! What happens when THAT guy comes along and you’re already hitched? ‘Cause you were so eager not to let the nice guy go?” I looked at her imploringly.

“I guess I’ll stop being happy then.”

I wished at that moment I had the answers to my own questions.

“Do you know when my mother got married, Taaps? 19. That poor woman didn’t even know if she was marrying the nice guy or the rascal. And guess what….” I listened on.

“She married the rascal. And he took her heart away. Never gave it back. Never came back to give it back.”

She looked at me and smiled impishly. “I’m better off, don’t you think? Atleast I know. And hey,” she giggled.

“A couple of handcuffs and a blindfold…I’ll make him my rascal!”

We both cracked up. Till tears ran down our cheeks. Maybe we were scared; maybe we were just being goofy. But she wasn’t slipping away anymore. At that moment, it all felt alright- her decision, my venting and the unexpected strengthening of our bond.

My friend was moving on. That was my problem!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mortals in Greece

She steps out of the bath, freshly laundered, and starts pacing the room anxiously. Seconds go by, then minutes. Half an hour and a smoke later, there’s a knock on the door. The murmur of her heartbeat becomes a pounding and she opens the door with all the expectations she had stuffed away.

There he was. The college boy she had dated four years ago; the man that stood before her four years later. A nervous laugh and a crushing hug is all it takes for time to rewind back to his blue-painted university room where many a silly moment had been spent as two college sweethearts.

They had decided to meet here, in Greece… just because. Facebook messages and gmail chats- digital flirtations had stoked such a fire that only reality could douse the flame…or bring the house down. It was a risk they had decided to take- averse risk takers they were, because it took three months of planning before the scene in the hotel room.

Away from home, everything feels brand new. Like fledglings flung out of the concrete jungle and into the wild. Everything is sustaining, nurturing. The reverberation of a city’s history, the melody of a foreign song, the finesse of new soil, the salt of a different sea.

Together they scout the city… stumble upon the Acropolis by night, walk the promenade (Plaka) under a full moon and discover Psiri- the district with a throbbing, pulsating night life. They tread over ancient city ruins, huff and puff all the way to the Parthenon, narrow down on their favorite bakery in town and finally ride the clear, blue sea to the islands.

They decide to rent a quad- a four wheel scooter- and scour the islands by themselves. Armed with a map, beach towels and sunscreen they take to the open road like thirsty nomads in the quest for oases.

Greeks have a pathetic sense of distance and the amount of time it takes to cover it. But once an Indian, always an Indian. Screw the map, ask for directions. And she does just that. Atleast the Greeks’ sense of direction was intact. They make it to all their destinations- unfailingly, before the sun goes down.

And they get more than they bargain for. Parikia, Krios, Marchello, Georgios, Faneromenis, Soros, Oia, Ammoudi, Fira, Perissa, Privolos, Kamari, Nea Kameni (volcano)- each was an oasis that sprouted history, culture, civilization and tradition, all against the backdrop the water…so much of it!

There’s something almost painful in the trance that’s induced by the rhythm of water. Watching its perennial flow, she gets flooded with emotion. What freedom to experience such beauty! And how fleeting the experience! There is so much of the world to see and always so little time. Yet, for all the finite moments life has to offer, to discover one more truth about yourself, to accept one more shortcoming….oh, how worthwhile a journey!

Days slip by. She, the planner, the nagger, the control freak…he, the chiller, the listener, the anchor. He likes cabs, she likes the metro. He likes the hookah, she loves cigarettes. He likes basking on the beach, she likes exploring ruins. Yet, they make it work. And how! Two stubborn mules who grudgingly, nudgingly, teasingly take decisions to accommodate the other….to put a stamp together on Greek time.

7 days in and Amstel (Dutch lager) and Mythos (Greek lager) make up the bulk of her body fluids. Just as bread and Greek salad line up their intestines. It’s the last day in Greece. They’re back in Athens, packing, getting ready to leave for the airport. Back to two worlds where nothing’s new anymore. America, India, same thing.

It’s raining. They had been seeing the weather reports all week; finally here it was. They decide to walk it to the metro station.

A song. She feels the urge to sing a song.

‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with string, These are a few of my favorite things…’

So loud that the rain can’t muffle the music. So loud that a passerby looks at her companion and chuckles. ‘Women!’ his eyes seem to say.

‘That’s my woman!’ her companion smiles back.

They reach the station. The rain continues to fall…now slight, misty, like the ethereal haze that was their vacation.