MORE THAN AN ACQUAINTANCE…

It struck twelve. ‘Twelve in the night is an odd time to be in a small village, especially for a girl’, a man whispered not very far from me. I cringed at the shaky voice. It heavily smelt of booze. Suddenly, I was not alone anymore, and that frightened me more. The man moved away paces but I could feel his eyes on me. The ramshackle bus-stand grew eerie as I stood restless. I cursed the cabbie of my earlier ride once again for leaving me in such a state of panic. Why can’t they check the tanks for sufficient gas before having a passenger aboard? And just how conveniently, he dropped me off to the nearest bus station about 2 miles from the breakdown, to which, quite surprisingly his cab did not resist at all. Exhaling heavily, I tried to concentrate on my book.

‘But surely, he lived in the nearby village, and wanted to make what little fare he could make out of you,’ said Jessica. ‘How can you be so dumb as to not understand their tricks,’ she fumed over the phone. It was not like I was having the time of my life to endure her reprimanding now. ‘Relax, Jess. I’ll be fine,’ I said and cut the call. Well, quite obviously, I wasn’t all right and quite naturally scared of the man on prowl. I pulled the travel bag closer to me in a hope to shield myself and just how in vain! Right then, I wished to vanish inside it.

The waft of hot boiling tea from the tea-stall across the street made me want to run, grab a cup and drown my worries with the beverage. But a quick glance around, registered what little the secluded bus-stop held. A couple of men talking animatedly in the regional dialect. A man who seemed foreign in the land, was busy reading a book. An urchin was pestering an elderly for money.  That’s all the audience I had around me. And then there was the man casting dirty glances at me. Oh, how long, before the local bus picked me up. I didn’t care where the bus took me; I just wanted to get out of that place just then.
Once again, I tried to not be intimidated by my circumstance and struggled to find the lost thread from the book. Noiselessly, the creepy man came and stood right next to me, barely an inch away, muttering, ‘Can I take you somewhere?’ I was so absorbed in my book that it took a second for me to notice that it was the same man. I flinched and moved away. For some reason, the man who was reading a book at the far corner left his stance and came and took a seat on the broken bench, poising himself between me and the local creep.
If it was his gesture to shield me, I hardly realized and almost burst out shouting. But something about the book that he was reading delivered a different message altogether and I held my words back. Invisible Cities. The same book as I was reading. People who read are a lot better than people who don’t. I always believed that. Quickly, wiping away the tears, I looked up at him. He wasn’t more than thirty and with his glasses, he looked a lot younger than that. In a casual black tee, faded denims, and with a backpack, he looked like a budget traveler. He didn’t look at me first, but when he did, I knew that that look and that smile would change everything. ‘Don’t worry, he wouldn’t dare any more,’ was all he said and was consumed by ‘Invisible Cities’ again.

Twenty-five minutes later, the groaning, screeching bus pulled into the stop. I didn’t look back not until the bus had pulled away and all I could catch of his fast fading figure was the patch on his backpack that read Keith Martin. I wanted to say goodbye; but it could’ve been the start of something, or perhaps a thank you; but that would’ve sounded too needy. So, I gave up and maybe because I was too subdued to attempt, I just left. I will keep him safe in the recesses of my memory from that night, that village, but will I ever meet him again? And more than that, will I ever forget that look, that reassuring smile that became my sunshine on a dark eerie night?

Certain circumstances happen for you meet certain people. You may never cross paths again, but you can’t stop reminiscing about them every now and then. Whether it was a minute or a miraculous month, they’re inseparably linked to you because of that one incident that made them mean immensely much to you.

MY FROG FRIEND

All of us have that one person in our life whom we love more than a friend but less than a spouse, someone who is very dear and someone who witnesses our joys and sorrows unconditionally. I call this person as my “FROG FRIEND”.

April – June, 2007:
I was perusing my MBA-Finance and had started interning there for Canada taxation with one of the KPOs and I noticed him there. He used to sit across me but far away, in another team from IT. He was definitely not someone who would attract a second look from girls but somehow he managed to grab my attention. Girls have the innate power of understanding who is staring at them even without looking. So, this guy used to stare at me constantly but in a very natural manner which never made me uncomfortable. You all will agree that not every gaze makes you uncomfortable. Some gaze at you in a really clean way and his gaze was like that. So this “gazing” business continued for quite a few days and we progressed from a gaze to a smile. He had a very pleasing personality. We would exchange 100 smiles a day but neither of us ever felt the urge to walk up to the work desk and initiate a talk. We never even used office communicator to talk to each other. We knew nothing more about each other than the name and that too because other colleagues would often call out our names. This guy turned from a “stranger” to “someone familiar” over two months of time.

Once monthly shutout and best performer awards were being distributed. I was declared as the best performer and I was handed over a cash prize and a certificate amidst of a huge applaud from the team. My eyes were searching that “someone familiar” and there he was standing at the end half covered behind a desk clapping as loudly as he can. His face beamed with pride and I couldn’t help but smile again.


My internship was to last for 3 months and soon the time came to say a bye. It was my last day and I was bidding goodbye to all my team members. Between all the handshakes and hugs I was looking for that “someone familiar” but he was not to be seen anywhere. Not even behind any work desk far away. I lingered around with the hope that he might return from a meeting or a tea break, but no, it didn’t look like he was coming back. I had to leave. I left with a heavy heart and hundreds of questions like “Who was he?”, “Why did we never speak?”, “Why did I want to say him a good bye?”, “Why did I miss him on this last day?” I did not have an answer to any but there was this strange belongingness which refused to leave my heart. I stopped by the pantry to have a glass of water and what did I see? He was standing there with a sad face – as if he was sad that my stint at the KPO was over. Or maybe he was sad that we won’t see each other never again. I don’t know what he was thinking at that time but I was very happy to see him one last time before I left. We exchanged a smile – a last one perhaps and I left. His simplicity and his non-lustful gaze had impressed me. It wasn’t love but there was definitely something between us. Whatever it was, it had ended with the completion of my internship. Or so we thought that day.

2008, Aug:
The same KPO hired me after I completed my MBA and I was given the same team. However the team had now shifted to another building. That “someone familiar” had carved a special place in my mind and heart but it was very clear that he wasn’t going to be around when I rejoined the KPO because the IT team had not shifted to this building. And who knew whether he was still working with this KPO. After all, IT guys tend to switch companies real soon.

On one busy, while I waited for my food to arrive, I was looking around taking in the usual commotion that is there in the cafeteria during he lunch time. Suddenly my eyes stopped on that “someone familiar”. I blinked a couple of times out of surprise and a wide smile broke on my face. He reciprocated with even a wider smile. It made my day!
Later that day I received and email from him

“Hi!

Are you the same Aditi who was in the US taxation team?”

He was probably checking if he is contacting the right Aditi from corporate directory. Pat went my reply.

Hey!

Yes, I am the same Aditi. Btw – it’s Canada taxation and not US!”

This communication was an ice breaker. We would wish good morning sometime over the email of course and sometimes we would write about some achievement at work. We didn’t communicate daily and we never used the office communicator or phone for reason still unknown to us. Thus, our interactions were quite rare yet very special.

June, 2009:
That was my last email to him from office.

“Hi there!

Have to share some good news.

  • I got a new job
  • I am getting married

Next Friday is my last working day.”

I eagerly waited for his reply but he didn’t revert. Numerous thoughts crowded my mind. “Was he sad that I was going?”, “Why isn’t he happy with my progress?” blah blah blah. I waited for his reply for the whole week but he didn’t revert. On my last day, he called me on my work phone and wished me success in personal as well as professional life. I questioned him what took him so long to revert and he quickly said that he was on a “hibernation mode”. Nevertheless I was ecstatic! That was the first time we spoke.

Later, I got busy with my life but this guy was always there at the back of my mind. By then Facebook had started making its presence felt. I looked up for him on the Facebook but he wasn’t there. We had not exchanged our personal email ids. We had lost touch once again.

One day I had an urge to check on him on his corporate id. Once again I was unsure whether he still worked there or not but I took a chance. The email didn’t bounce which meant that he was still there! Happy Me ☺ I desperately waited for his reply but he didn’t revert. Days passed followed by weeks and months. By then, I had given up on him. I was sort of annoyed that he was purposely ignoring me.

One fine day I received a reply from him and I wasn’t a bit amused. I was angry and wondered what took him more than six months to revert. He was quick to send me an explanation in yet another email stating that he was on “hibernation mode”. It surprised me that he knew me so well and justified his disappearance.


After that there was no looking back. We continued to be in touch via emails. Our emails grew personal in nature. We shared about our sorrows and happiness, talked about our families. We discussed about our careers. We never felt shy of seeking advice from each other regarding anything under the sky. Of course he continued to be on “hibernation mode” at periodic intervals. I sort of accepted it because I knew that someday he will definitely revert to my email.


Time progressed and so did our relationship. Even though our interaction lessened over a period of time, our bond grew stronger. His career took him from Mumbai to Pune and from Pune to UK. Now he is settled in Canada. Emails are now replaced by WhatsApp chats but there is nothing that replaces his “hibernation mode”. Over the years I have asked him many times about why does he hibernate and he still tells me the same reason.

“Aditi, we cannot get used to each other. Our respective families should be our priority. Hibernation is important to stay focused.”

Such pious thought! He explained the most important truth in such a candid way.

At present we don’t talk much, but I know he will always be there for me. I informed him when I delivered a baby last month. He quickly replied that he was waiting to hear that. He was aware of the struggle I had gone through in last six years in order to have a baby. Likewise, he has been a witness to many of my difficult times where he played a role of advisor or someone who had shown me a mirror. He has been a great guide, friend and philosopher! Not to forget, he has been someone who has been happy with the smallest of my joy.

At times I miss him. But he is right. “Hibernation” is necessary. Due to his perpetual habit of “hibernation” I call him my “FROG FRIEND.”

Some bonds can never be described and relationships can never be named. Ours is one of them.

ENLIGHTENING STRANGERSHIP

Blogging has always been a source of joy for me. It has not only helped me in sharing my thoughts with unknown people but has also opened the folds of my brain to a new world of ideas and emotions. Through blogging, I have had a few great online acquaintances but this one deserves a special mention.

Probably, a year back when I was active on WordPress, any article of the spiritual genre always caught my attention. Also, I have had a habit of reflecting back on any piece of work that touch my heart and so there was this article from a wise Indian blogger which drew my attention. We had an argument basing on my comment under his article and this argument went on for a couple of days until I accepted his point of view. Well I need to say that I was swayed by his level of knowledge and awareness.

In no time we started exchanging mails through which I tried to seek as much knowledge from him as I could. What I really learned from him that each time I came up with a problem, he never provided me with a solution. However, he strengthened my belief in God that I was able to move ahead with a bit of clarity and faith.

After probably exchanging a century of mails, I requested his number which he resisted for a long time in sharing. But one fine day, he somehow agreed for an early morning call. I was really excited and nervous at the same time just to talk to a man whom I did not even know completely. We talked for a long time over the phone and as expected I could feel his simplicity and elevated thought process. 

As time passed, the frequency of our conversations decreased for we got busy in our own schedules but  yes we had a fair idea of where we were heading. Surprisingly, once after a long time I called him to update him of my results and before I uttered a word, I could sense discomfort in his words. He was going through a bad phase in his life. Moreover being reserved, he resisted telling me his complete state however I got it all. It was then, that my good results didn’t seem important to me and my momentary joy vanished. Somehow I could relate to his pain, his ambiguous state and his dilemma.

For a moment it seemed to me as if everything has crashed but if I showed my deep down broken emotions, then how could I give hope! Well after hearing his few more words, I decided to act strong and used the same words to console him which he often used to say to give me strength when I felt weak. Well never before have I felt so concerned for a man whom I had never even met. It was a strange kind of connection I felt maybe because I could count the number of similarities between us. Since then I made a point to connect with him daily to ensure he doesn’t sink in depression.

As he wanted to interact less at that time, so eventually we lost touch for a while but anyway I made it a point to drop a mail as frequent as possible while praying daily for his wellness. This was the kind of bond that developed invisibly unknowingly wherein I was sending peaceful vibrations to a stranger!

It took him some time to get over that negative state of mind but I am glad he made it. Today he is back in the race again striving for something good. Whenever we talk I get to learn something from him. It is because of him that I realize the importance of praying and make an effort to connect with God religiously. I explored many theological concepts after our interactions that have somewhere sown the seeds of spirituality in me. I am always amazed by his marvel character when he says he doesn’t  work to do something big but everything that is good.

As he always tag interactions between us as strangership, I often teasingly ask him with a grumpy face that don’t I hold any value in his life! To this he always replies which brings a smile on my face and that is :- “Every star has its own position in the galaxy with which it is incomplete and so do you.”

Well I need to mention that he is invincible when it comes to analyzing and exploring depths of any concept! And I feel really thankful to God for connecting me to such a rare kind of talented man. I hope the so called strangership lasts forever and one fine day I am able to meet him!

TIME WASN’T HEALING; HE WAS!

I never knew that morning when I logged in to Yahoo, restless and in dire need of some interaction, some distraction, that it was my lucky day and it will bring me to someone who was going to become a pivotal indispensable part of my life.

I was going through the darkest of patches of my life, living every day as a mannequin goes through life. I ate without hunger, without taste. I slept with no sleep in my eyes, the medicines inducing sleep. I smiled a plastic smile with tears in my eyes for the sake of my mother. Chronic and Acute Depression had me it’s claws, and there was no way out of my misery. I had practically closed my heart to every kind of emotion, letting it turn to stone, so it feels nothing at all. I had lied enough times telling everyone ‘I am Fine’ that it became a habit for me, never letting anyone share my agony and melt my icy heart.

I had our first conversation, and I felt I am meeting an equally closed and cold person and it suited me well. I was in no mood to be an opening for someone to dump their pain in me by sharing it. Initially, we chatted on and off, some days for hours then none at all. But after years there was a curiosity in my heart to know this person more, to be with him and to tell him everything. With time I shared things about my father and my pain with him, and although I was scared of being called a “Whining.” person and to my surprise, he listened, he listened to everything. He never once wanted me to shut it out or keep it to myself. He heard and was smart enough to voice his opinion without sounding empathetic or overtly emotional. I remember often asking him if my talks bored him, the answer was always “No, tell me more.”

I shared everything, again and again, and he heard them, over and over without a single complain or sigh on his lips. He shared things about his life, his troubles and his problems. I have a fear of Doctors, and he turned out to be a Doctor, which had me thinking how can he be so different from my expectations. I could not even think of letting him go because he was a doctor and over time I must say he has changed my opinion of Doctors. He wasn’t that clinically detached person to human suffering like I had expected, a cliched image I made for all doctors. He was warm and kind and helpful. The rarest of rare things was he saw both sides of a coin while putting himself in other’s shoes to see things from their POV, and taught me the same. I, unlike him, was quick to act on impulse and often got triggered by something small and insignificant. He brought stability to my life, telling me that every battle must not be fought then and there, every war isn’t mine to fight, and I am not entitled to win every time. Some must be overlooked, some I am bound to lose.

Holding his hand as my support, I walked into the light from my darkness and once again, I was hungry, I was sleeping, I was smiling, genuinely. And my heart started to melt once again, turning back to that loving and warm heart it was meant to be. Laughs came back to my lips, and happiness found the way to my door once again.

After that, every day was a gift. A gift from him. He gave me many presents, abundantly. My writing is his most beautiful present. Something that makes me fortunate and feels accomplished and proud. I had just told him of my dream to be a writer one day, and he just evoked enough confidence in me to propel me to start writing. Being here, writing for Candles is his gift too. He surrounded me with enough people in my life, so I am never lonely ever again. He gave me enough reasons to stay busy, and I had no time with me to sit and brood over what’s lost to me. My depression and anxiety and panic attacks went down considerably.

We acquired many things from each other. He adapted the flair to write from me while I imbibed the love for English music and animation films from him. I am at loss of words when I speak of his greatness because, amid everything, he is unaware of his potential and his goodness.

I was hiding in my house; you knocked on my Door
With healing hands you touched, Banishing pain in my Core
You filled in the gaping void in me; I couldn’t ask for More
A forgotten Island I was, and you were out to Explore
Your footprints in the sand by me, on a lonely Seashore
You changed me for the better; I am not what I was Before

UNIQUE ONLINE FRIENDSHIP

Sits in the quiet of the room, going back in my mind to December 2015.

How do online connections happen? To me it is quite simple, God, our Creator, hears the prayers of His children and begins to move things around in our lives for us to connect to certain people. Sometimes that connection is only for that moment while others could last a lifetime.

His name came up on my Facebook profile one day, as a friend suggestion. Now, usually I ignore such things since we did not have any friends in common. But something about his picture caught my eye and I felt a strong compulsion to send a friend request without even looking over HIS profile. A day or two later he accepted my friend request. We didn’t speak right away as I was working so didn’t get online again until a few days later.

One day, we finally said hello to each other. Something in my heart sparked and I felt an instant connection. For the next few weeks we talked off and on since we were literally on opposite sides of the world. Our bond grew just a bit stronger every time we chatted. We kept the conversations light and happy but something told me deep in my heart that all was not quite as it seemed.

One morning, he came online and said his usual hello but I knew instantly something was very wrong. It took a little time but he finally opened up about what was going on in his life.

At first he was a bit uncomfortable and that is when I opened up my own heart completely. Now I don’t know how it happens but I could actually FEEL the pain and heartache he was going through. I have always been able to feel another person’s emotions and pain as my own but for it to happen with someone on the other side of the world? And over an internet connection??  How could that be??  I was a little shocked but then I saw God’s hand in it all and I smiled and said “Ok God, as you will.”

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

As I look back over these last 2 years and 4 months, I am so very grateful to have someone like him in my life. We have cried together, prayed together, teased and picked on each other. We have helped each other get through some difficult times. He was the first one I called, after the ambulance came, the day my mom had her first seizure in May of 2016. He prayed for me and my family right in that moment and the bond between us grew even stronger. We don’t talk daily like we use to but he knows that he can reach out to me at anytime and I can do the same.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

The love we share seems to go beyond any other I have experienced in my 52 years of life. He and I are soulmates, not in the husband and wife sense, but as friends but even that seems like an inadequate description. Whatever this connection is, I am so very thankful that it exists.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

THE STRANGER

Sometimes, you develop an inexplicable relationship with strangers. A kind of connection that only the two of you can interpret.

I was in 5th grade, when we shifted to a new home. Almost a week had passed; being a socially awkward kid, I had not made any friends yet. It was a summer evening, and the walls of this house were becoming eerie to watch anymore. I stepped out in the parking area jiggling a ball, trying to kill time that was torturing me already. I sat by the plants, humming some romantic song in a ballistic tone. That’s how frustrated I was. Suddenly, I noticed a man who’d been staring at me and smiling all this while, I hushed hurriedly, ran back into my home as though some dog was running after me and locked the door. Peeped through the window, to see if he had left. He had gone by then, I took sigh of relief, though I was embarrassed that he heard me.

A few days passed, I almost forgot that man, until I saw him walking at a far distance. He recognised me too, waved his hand and smiled the brightest. That innocence and charm on a 60 year old wrinkled face had for some reason made me smile back and wave with the same excitement. I rushed in again before he could come any closer, anxiety has always been an issue. After that day, there was some kind of bond formed between us. He used to come for a walk every evening and I used to eagerly wait to wave at him and take back one of the most charming smiles. We hadn’t spoken a word, yet there was some kind of a familiarity we sensed in each other.

My grandfather had passed away before I was born. I always imagined what it would be like to have a grandpa. Most of my friends shared a healthy relationship with their grandparents, something I always envied. I wanted to experience what it felt like, would he protect me from my mother’s angst? Would he be my partner in crime to annoy my little brother? Would he tell me stories of his time? A million questions with no-one to answer.

I almost assumed this nameless wave-friend as my grandpa. However tragic or tiring the day would be that one wave implanted a sense of satisfaction within. A feeling that, this man is praying for my well being and no matter what he’ll be there to teach me how to give the widest smile in the hardest moments.

Months had passed but this wave ritual did not end. One day, this man, called me closer and asked my name, as soon as I uttered my name, he placed his hand my head and said ‘ May you succeed in life and receive all the happiness you deserve’. I smiled and touched his feet. He continued with his evening walk. Next day, I stood again at the door, waiting to talk a little more but he didn’t come that day. He never came after that. I was yearning for his return, I stood at the door for weeks . Suddenly, he was gone. I had lost my grandpa yet again. I don’t know where he had gone, if he existed anymore or not. I missed him . I hope he is fine wherever he is. I hope I get to see him again.

HOLDING EACH OTHER …

Couple of days back I was watching a show, a reality show where a single girl/man is given a chance to choose their future partner. In the process of finding the right one, often they develop strong feelings for many. When we can interact with another and completely understand them, it will be very obvious to like them if we admire their personality, qualities, how compassionate they are, how caring they can be. It is very difficult to not love. The girl has to let go of all the men to be with the one she sees her future with.  She goes through  emotional turmoil before she can and also often after she makes the decision.

One question was on my mind, “Can a person be romantically in love with more than one person at a time?”. Quite a lot of religions, castes around the world allow polygamy, to be legally wedded to more than one person. In earlier days, kings had many wives, did they not love everyone of them ? May be they did, may not be equal love for all of them, they cared to a great extent.

The girl on the show while eliminating a man said, I love you very much and care for you, but right now I am not in love with you. I did not understand the difference, as usual my quest started on the internet. A lot of people are also really confused because I have found contradictory answers on several websites.

Love is the most cherished feeling in the world, who doesn’t want love? The problem is, we want everything of the person we are in love with, but reality is quite different. They love many others, they do have many significant people in their life. I am not specifically talking about romantic love here. Have we not encountered siblings being jealous of each other as they think parents love the other more? When we can love many other people, they can too, we should not think selfishly.

Siddu (whom I mentioned about in the article) was my best friend. He became very busy right after we were out of college as he started his own company. There was not a single day when he wouldn’t have messaged, a week we haven’t talked over skype. Any time we were in the city together, we wouldn’t go back to our respective destinations without meeting. If anyone asks me if I had loved him, of course yes, but I never developed any feelings for him, either romantic or brotherly, he is my friend – plain, pure and simple. I was not his only friend, he had many friends, he cared for them as much as he did for me.

We find soul sisters, soul brothers outside of our family. Does that in anyway mean we do not love our siblings ? Or our siblings have never fulfilled our needs, hence we needed a brother outside? I heard this concept from someone I don’t actually remember, it is very hard to love a person without having feelings(romantic), hence no girl can have a soul brother. Wait, that’s absolute nonsense. We do not develop romantic feelings for everyone we love. I have soul-brothers. They cared for me the most and they do even now. Romance is not the only feeling we can develop outside family. Are all my male friends my brothers, sorry No, I cannot develop brotherly feelings for everyone too. Every type feeling is very sacred.

Akshay, one of my friends always sounded disturbed when we talk in the group about our families. I never dared to ask him what the problem was. One day he told me what it was, “I lost my mother 6 years ago. My father married another woman. I do not talk with her, somehow I am unable to see her in the place of my mother“. In the entire conversation he used only ‘she’ and ‘her’, never mother. I can understand the struggle he is going through. “Does she never ask you to call her mom ?”, “We don’t talk Aastha and that’s it”. He was a little frustrated. “No one can take any body else’s place, do you know why? Every one is special. She cannot take your mom’s place, she can make hers. But that can happen only if you allow it. You are not going to get mom back, at the same time no one can take away the love you have for her. Try to give your new mom some place, have a good conversation with her, if you cannot do it on your own, take your brother along with you. Give her one chance, that might change what’s bothering you into something that comforts you“. It took around 6 months for him to accept her, but once he did that there was no looking back. He calls her mom now in our conversations, that makes me happy.

In the process of restricting ourselves that we cannot love more than one person, we have overly complicated “love”.  It is also not true that once we develop feelings we will never fall out of love. Many of us would have read in books that true love happens once in life time, there is only one soul-mate who is made for you. If we really go by these books, half the marriages would have never existed. It is the value that we add to our lives which is very important.

Special people and special bonds happen by virtue, Lucky are those who have people to love and be loved. This week we are going to learn of such special bonds and what difference it made to us. It is going to be a lovely week …