Perfect Love Affair

Perfect Love Affair“There’s a picture in my memory of the days when we first met, when solo became duet. It’s a perfect love affair” ~Anita Baker

Looking in the same direction…

Huge crowds thronged the grounds. Preparations were on to host the Youth Festival. He elbowed people aside as he moved through the crowd .She had just met everyone and was lost in the hustle and bustle when he pulled her aside and pointed to a vast stretch of empty space which lay beyond the fencing that guarded a unit of the Indian paramilitary force.

“I am going to ask for that land”, he whispered, half turning his head in her direction without actually looking at her.

She stared at him questioningly for a brief second and then whispered back, “But how?”

He glanced at her and looked away. She grinned. And they both stood there, silently looking at the carpet of yellow, dry leaves fluttering in the warm breeze.

The Shelter…

7.30am: Project Site. The gates are open. As she enters, she is mobbed by ‘gangsta’ dogs for the rusk in her hand. She sees new faces, new attitudes. There is one among them who has cases against him. Pick a stick, a stone or run for your life and sure enough you’ll be his next meal. She distributes the rusk and scans the grounds for him. He’s expecting her. She sees him walking towards her, grinning. They exchange pleasantries before getting down to work. He guides her to the cow shed, narrating stories of the various animals the shelter houses. She has heard these stories a hundred times. She listens one more time. The cows are sorted according to their temperaments-Good, Bad and the Ugly.Katrina, the donkey shares space with them .She’s on her best behaviour this morning. She watches two cows butting their heads and raises her eyebrows as he fondly narrates how they almost crushed a worker. Not cute! She is anxious not to be the next one to suffer that fate.

They step outside and walk towards the duck enclosure. Ducks are powerful birds and as she observes them have their morning meal, she is grateful to be standing at a distance. A few rabbits scuttle in the nearby enclosure. Stray pigeons flutter about in yet another enclosure. All wildlife has been rehabilitated. Tall trees look down upon them as they pass by the farms and march onwards to the temple. It’s a short climb but with her knees acting up, she struggles. He volunteers no help. He has never considered her a lady and she smiles to herself, amused by this tiny bit of thoughtlessness in a guy who is otherwise chivalrous. They reach the top of the hill. Still gasping and flushed, she waste no time and mumbles a quick prayer. Orange petals are strewn around the temple. They offer a remedy for sunstroke.

They halt, for the first time in years, facing each other.  “I put this bench here because…the pujari comes at…these flowers that you see…this is what I am planning…these are the projects…these are the figures…” His voice trails off as she looks around, breathing in the surroundings, feeling it, overwhelmed by the intensity and passion of the creator. Brick by brick, a dream he built, the same clumsy and ridiculous looking boy she knew years ago. One crore! A sum considered a lifetime of slavery, today just a figure .Ironic that a small town boy should make it seem possible to her where all the jobs in the city had failed.

It all started with a report…

“I am going to UK for Wildlife Conservation Training. I have been sponsored by Ratan Tata Foundation”, he announced gleefully.

“I am happy for you”, she replied and she meant it too.

“Could you please make a brochure for the shelter that I can take along and distribute?” he implored

She agreed. A few days later, she sent him a concise 1-page printout of a 300 page Master Plan dated 2010-2040, some money for the printing and a message , “All the Best!”

The next evening he was gone. A fortnight later, he beseeched her to write the report of his visit to UK.

“Please just give me few days. I have exams!” she begged him to hold off the report for later.

One afternoon, after a long and gruelling week of sifting and sorting, she shot off an email with the attached report of his newly acquired skills to five people, all who had been instrumental in sending him to foreign shores for the first time. One of them was the Iron Lady .

“It almost seems like YOU attended the workshop. What a detailed report you made!”, he commended her the next day.

A week later, she was rudely awakened by an incessant ringing of her phone. She picked it up in half sleep and heard him out before unleashing her wrath. He was inviting her to an event he was hosting and he wanted her there!

“If you come, I’ll feel good. I’ll have some moral support”, he stated in a matter of fact way.

Several Nos and arguments later, she relented.

Sprouting seeds of inspiration…

Jeeva Daya Sankalp Ruksharopan, was an event that seemed an inconvenience to her otherwise lazy life. Organized by him, she had no option but to go.On the morning of the event, she dragged herself out of bed, impulsively dialed her gym instructor’s number and invited her to tag along. Together they landed at the venue. Introductions happened. Used to shaking hands, it was a bit of a struggle for her to fold her hands and say, “Namaste” but she just followed his lead. Groping for words, she began to talk in English and was pleasantly surprised to hear their responses in English. She learnt of their backgrounds and was humbled by their suggestions that she could help them in some way. Some had MBA or PhD degrees. She wanted to say, “Sir, I am just a graduate” but she kept quiet.

The event began by planting tree saplings. While digging the ground, someone said in Marathi, “Let’s find another spot”. The reason? A tree was emerging from that spot. She strained her eyes to look at the tree. She saw nothing except a tiny plant sprouting out of the ground, something that she would’ve ordinarily trampled on while taking a walk .She raised her eyebrows. For the rest of the event, she closed her eyes. Indifference turned into respect. What did she see?

She saw passion. She saw dreams. She saw no dignitaries there. The only dignitary out there was that little plant that had been left to live in its rightful space. What help could she possibly bring to these people? Every time she set out in the little town, she saw something new. She learnt something new. With each passing day, she felt like she belonged. They were an inspiration to her. When our hearts open up, we see inspiration in the most unlikely places-in our villages, in the next person we meet, in a pebble, in a bee, in a sapling…

And tears came before he could stop them…

“Why do you cry?” she asked while he huddled in the corner of the room, tears streaming down his face.

“You will not cry. You will get up and fight back”, she scolded.

She opened the file in her hand and skimmed through the pages. For the next one hour, they pored over its content and then she got up to go to the kitchen. He was hungry .She returned with a plate full of snack food which he greedily gulped down, still sniffing after a good cry. The phone rang and he left abruptly, between mouthfuls of food.

A week before that, she had randomly shot off an email to a foreign funding agency for funds .The agency had diverted the email to the Iron Lady who had then called her to ask for justification for the requirement. The call had set off a month’s worth of spade work that had left them both tired and him, in tears.

A month later, the Iron Lady softened her grip and gifted them with her genorosity.The shelter was up and running. In return, they pledged to her their commitment for the marathon that is a lifetime.

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there lived a rich girl and a poor boy. Actually she was upper middle class and convent educated while he was just middle class and uneducated. It was love at first sight as they tied soft ropes around the snouts of dogs and bundled them off from a college campus where they were being poisoned. On their first date, he held out a snake and gave her a toothless grin while she glared at him. Sparks flew. And then they went their separate ways.

Years later, as she lay bedridden, he came to visit her and they reconnected. During that time, he came to her again for Rs500 as her contribution for medical treatment of a cow and she had magnanimously borne the entire expense. From then on, they had stayed in touch. As the years passed by, he toiled in the sun while she gave him shade .With time, their friendship blossomed into romance.

More than a decade later, they remain together, their hearts merged, two of a kind in a perfect love affair…with a dream called Karunashram.

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