I haven’t watched the movie ‘Thattathin Marayathu’ yet.
But whenever I see its poster along the way to my college I hit a tripwire and soft smells of long-forgotten love detonate inside my soul like mines.
I don’t know whether there is a scene in the movie showing the star-crossed lovers bouncing along the dirt roads of Kasargod inside a bus (there would be hope’s little wings flitting about them like eeyal, drunk with new rain and love invisible to others and indistinct from the sputtering diesel engine).
But I should say one thing: if there isn’t one such scene in the movie it is hardly my story.
There are feelings which pad across our hearts like sly cats. They slip away to the cool shades in our mind whenever we try to take them into our hands and cuddle.
Is that what they call love?
The boy shook his head. The girl shook her head.
Boy, you cannot put a rope around every feeling (too slippery to hold), or thrust it against a wall, or press a knife on its neck and demand to tell you all about its intentions. Some are born mute. Some don’t understand themselves. You must know their helplessness and speak for them.
Ok. So you still say it is not love. Fine, I won’t ask again. Tell me about your pain, then. Les dous maladie, a sweet sickness, you said and blushed.
If it is not love can you tell me why your heart sank on that day when you couldn’t find those kohl-lined eyes among the girls waiting at her bus stop? You felt oddly dissonant with me throughout the day, don’t you remember?
An absence sizzled on your heart like acid.
I remember how you sat bolt upright on your bed that night when the whole world was sleeping. I wanted you to calm down you nerves. Instead you tossed and turned in your sleep and felt many a times that you were bouncing through the dirt roads in that bus along with her. You might’ve smiled in your sleep as you saw her leaning against a seat, giggling with her friends in one of your dreams. Her deep kohl-lined eyes sparkled like gems whenever she smiled your way, you told me when you woke up.
Next morning your eyes were (as big as saucers) set on the door way when the bus pulled over at her bus stop. Had she vanished into thin air forever, you feared.
There she got in half-draped in the morning light! Your happiness knew no bounds.
After whispering to me to watch how those kohl-lined eyes would soon search for her boy, you looked away through the window to the distant fields with a mischievous smile. Oh, poor girl. I remember. Her eyes flit towards you as if directed by the compass of her heart. Bashfully she steered them away without straining or snapping the faint cords between you but only slackening them a bit.
Her heart would soon find an excuse, you whispered to me ; her eyes would soon come back to you. Yes, indeed they hurried back again and again. But each time they made a touch they shuffled away coyly like little girls hitching their frocks up to their ankles, running away halfheartedly only to freeze midflight.
Still you say it is not love?
Boy! Don’t grope in vain to get a handle of her heart (love doesn’t have one). You only lose your precious time. She means it. Now go. Go and ask man!
But you didn’t. You were simply afraid. You said you needed more cues to rewire your whole life around her. But, my boy, she thought she had given enough.
Girl, I whispered, at least you should listen. You can’t hide under your flimsy burqa for long, all this sudden breathlessness and palpitation whenever your eyes catch his. I saw how a deep sigh would stand on its toe (that she beats down and holds under her veil) whenever you catch the wind winnowing his unruly locks as he sat on his favourite side seat against an obstinate wind.
Carpe diem! Seize the day! I cried aloud.
Alas! Who listened! All that love was blighted in the sighs. All that remained after a week were a few gossamer wings shed by those eeyal which were the only relics of a true love that never spoke its heart.
It died as beautifully as it was born.
But the moment I dismiss all that as juvenile, puppy love, I feel a drawbridge rise behind me, and at the other end of the moat I see that 18year old boy who fell in love with a girl in burqa suddenly deserted, shivering in the rain.
How can one shed his past thus like a soiled cloth! Love cannot outgrow its boyhood and claim itself mature. Even at my age.
I was a lonely wanderer all my life. Traveling along the country roads of Kasargod in buses have always been my passion. Sometimes I take tickets for the last stops to get intimate with strange life, customs and people I had never met. Sometimes I sleep throughout the journey to serve myself with surprises at the wake.
It was in one such journey that I met the girl at a bus stop. I saw through her burqa just her wild eyes and fair henna-smeared hands. Nothing more.
As fate would have it, the bus was crowded and we were gradually pushed towards a little space, a small cloud of our common breath and sighs. She was nervous, I saw from those beads of sweat that shone on her thick eyebrows.
I was too close to look elsewhere but into her eyes, her deep glowing eyes lined with suruma which when startled by a boy had now slowly begun to melt along the long bridge down her nose. A cloud of attar loosely hung about her. Was it on that journey that I kindled that spark in her heart? Who knows!
I changed my whole schedule. For the whole week I was in the same bus traveling with her without any other destination. I wanted to see more of her through that little window on her veil. We both knew what was written in each other’s eyes.
Love was in the air. Then it died in the air.
Twenty years have passed, and here I am, picking those broken strands of memories, weaving them again into a black, diaphanous veil behind which she hid her smiles, giggles and a heart stung by a stranger who traveled with her for a week and then disappeared from her life forever.
Twenty years have passed. Now tell me truly, my woman.
Have you traveled in that bus ever again and fancied what your life would’ve been with me? Have you ever gone there over the edge of that footbridge we had painfully built from opposite sides (but never met the other) and looked with a wistful smile at the foggy banks at the other end?
Even if you haven’t, don’t worry my lady. This song is not just to you but to all those girls in burqa (How can I tell one from another in a burqa!) I have met in the bus journeys I’ve made along the dirt roads of Kasargod ever since we met.
Love has always been in the air. Still it’s so.
But I will never stretch my hand, pluck it from the air and wear it on my heart. I don’t wish to put a rope around this ache in my soul and demand it to reveal what it really wants from me.
Let it play. The 18year old boy is very much here in the game.
“Alas, Alas, who’s injured by my love?
What merchant ships have my sighs drowned?” – John Donne