She saw him walking towards her. It was a crowded street in Connaught Place (it wasn’t renamed Rajiv Chowk then). Their eyes met and two big smiles passed across their faces. She somehow knew there and then that she could spend rest of her life with him. He knew it too. They said hello and walked to a restaurant nearby.
The dosas they ordered were served cold – they didn’t care. They talked and talked about everything, about things they liked, things they couldn’t stand, things that were important, but mostly they talked about nothing at all.
They were two people in love, new love, first love. They wanted it all. They thought they could have it all. Nothing bad could ever happen to them as long as they have this love between them. The dreams, the desires – all that life has to offer, they will have it all.
Six months later.
Happily married and on top of the world – both doing well at work, making good money, no problems with the in-laws. Every newly married couple’s dream.
The dream continues.
Two years pass, he is not so happy with his job anymore. Arguments are frequent, finger pointing and apologies fill many sleepless nights, compromise is the name of the game. Marriage – who said it was going to be easy? But they had thought so that evening in Connaught Place, full of hopes and dreams, in love.
They know better now.
The reality is not so bad either. They are grown up now; more mature and more experienced in being married for four years. They argue, but also make up quickly, they are still in love, and still have dreams. They decide to move – not to a new house or a new town – but to a new country, new world. Hoping the move will bring new things to their lives, bring back the newness they seem to have lost somewhere.
The newness does come. This is their new world now. They are almost poor now, with no well-paying jobs, but a lot of work ahead as both decide to go back to school for their doctoral studies. Aah, the glory of student days! Carefree, no worries, attend classes, hang out with friends, drink lots of coffee and talk about everything under the Sun and about nothing at all. Kind of like that evening in Connaught Place.
Being in school together as a married couple is not so bad, they think. At least they are both getting what they want from their move — meeting new people, getting exposed to new ideas, cultures and places. Life seems good. They make a lot of friends – students from all over the world – some married, some not; some even with children.
Children – the thought was never so far away from their minds. We should have children too, it will be our little happy family — they thought. They had thought about it back in the their old world too. But it was not meant to be. They had thought that moving to the new world and starting a new life as mature-student-couple would push this thought away – at least for some time. Besides, who could afford to have a baby with a PhD student lifestyle?
This was their thinking for now, false but comforting.
False, because some of their married student friends did not think so, and they decided they could afford; they had babies. Back in their old world, their younger siblings had babies too. Joy of nieces and nephews. Well, we can wait till we have stable income again – they said to everybody who asked – ‘so when are you going to have a baby?’ Comforting thought, at least for a while.
We can wait. Yeah, they say that but they know that it is not going to be easy – the doctors had told them so. Time passes and school is about to be over for them. They have ‘Dr.’ with their names now. What next? Jobs, 9-5 routine?
No, she says, I want to try everything, I am not going to wait any longer. It has been almost ten years now. They talk to people, people who know. They decide to adopt. The laws of the old world and the new world clash. They will have to adopt in the new world. Fine, they say.. They do all that needs to be done, complete all the forms, go through the process – to find only despair at the end. A year passes, two years pass, nothing. Their old world culture doesn’t seem to sit well with the agencies of the new world. They move on, their name is on a long waiting list.
They buy a new house, the newness of the house still does not bring the change in their life they want and dream for. They decide to try out science – science that has beaten nature many times before. Or has it? The area’s best doctor works with them, gives them hope. But no, it is not meant to be, not yet. A year passes. It has been thirteen years now. Their friends are busy raising children, taking baby pictures for their New Year cards. They go to parties; people talk about their children. Why shouldn’t they, proud and happy parents? Sometimes they also ask, ‘do you have any children?’
The new house has a room – an empty room.
She writes –
- Every morning walking out my bedroom,
- I look in the adjoining room
- Look for what? Look for whom?
- The room, the room with a dream.
- Sunlit, full of life, an empty room.
- The bright morning sun shines in
- Brings life to the houseplants.
- Yes, life thrives in this room in my plants
- Still, an empty room
- The room that should be a baby’s room.
- Do you have children, they ask me.
- A casual question? Or not…?
- No, not yet.
- Not yet, because someday I will.
- That is what my heart hopes.
- How long have you been married?
- Oh, not so long…8 years.
- I lie.
- I hear those unspoken words,
- Those unasked questions.
- I avoid those curious eyes,
- Those uncomfortable moments.
- Why does it matter to you?
- I want to shout, but keep quiet.
- I keep quiet.
And hope the topic will change.
- Did you not want any or…?
- A few of them still ask
- They hesitate, but still ask.
- What? My lips stay shut.
- My eyes say a lot.
Only if they can read.
- What is with these people?
- Why don’t they leave me alone?
- Why do they have to remind me?
- Remind me of what –
- Pain, sorrow, misfortune?
- Or of that empty room,
- Full of morning sun and indoor plants.
- They don’t do it purposely
- They don’t want to hurt me.
- Well, most of them don’t even know me
- I meet them at parties at friends’ houses
- I meet them at India club picnics
- So if they don’t know me,
Why do they care?
- Why do I care? I tell myself.
- They ask because that is what you do
- When you meet somebody new
- A woman my age.
- Fair enough. Ask me.
- No, I don’t have children, not yet.
- Now stop. You have the answer.
- Leave me alone.
- Don’t ask me the next question,
- Or the next.
- But some go on. Curiosity, is it?
- I tell myself – they are just being polite, friendly,
- Trying to know me better.
- Or are they?
- I do care.
- I wish they hadn’t asked that question.
- I wish I hadn’t gone to the picnic.
- I wish I hadn’t met these people.
- I wish the room were not empty.
She finishes her writing and walks to the next room. There he was looking out the window. What is he thinking? She wonders, is he also admiring the light and silently hoping for a life to fill the sunlit empty room?
He turns back and smiles at her – the same smile from 13 years ago. That evening when she saw him walking towards her at a busy spot in Connaught Place, she knew right there and then – this is the man I am going to spend rest of my life with. But didn’t that picture of the rest of life also included a family – children?
The picture may not be complete yet, but the dream still lives. Are you ready – he asks? Yes, let’s go.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it has been a journey with the best possible companion, they know this now as they walk toward a restaurant to order dosas in the new world.