There is a past that forever lives inside all of us. Parts of that past make us what we are today and shapes our future. People say I am the kind that knows how to shrug the past and live in the present, but am I really so? May be these 24 hours would tell.
I intend to take the flight to an unknown destination this time. For the first time in all these years, I will be flying without family. It isn’t that I have never travelled alone before but this time it is different. Being alone is not the same as being with self. There are times when you can be the most with yourself when you travel with or without someone. This flight is a purposeful decision – a move to understand and accept the person that I am. A self that is forever gliding towards a future that takes the face of the present and the present as it becomes the past.
So I pack my bags as my happy little family, the loving husband and the darling daughter looks on. Today I neither want extra things to be included in the bag nor do I need help with packing. This is the start of my discovery and so let this discovery be absolutely mine. The clock strikes 9am just as the aroma of fresh coffee streams into the room from the kitchen. The sound of the microwave is ever so inviting as I go to the kitchen and pull out my cup of morning freshness and impulsively place it next to the cup of Bournvita and Wagh Bakri Green Tea meant for the daughter and the husband respectively.
We enjoy the breakfast, kitchen is settled and I go to the shower and indulge in a warm bath thinking of the time ahead.
The cab arrives at 11:30am. I take the cab and there begins my journey. I ask the Uber cabby to turn the AC off and open the windows. How wonderful it is to breath in the winter fresh air. Anil prefers to have the AC on and Sia follows suit of her father on most of our family trips. There are many such incidences that have become a thing of my present now. I brush the thought aside and continue smelling the magic of the winter morning.
At the airport, I have Anisha waiting for me. We have decided to take this trip together as both of us have complimenting interests. Anisha captures the moments in the form of photographs and I love to give words to the still silence of the images she clicks. Though photography and writing brought us together, why we stayed has reasons that are varied and too knotty for this world to understand.
At the airlines counter, we both stand together and hope that our seats would be together too. There is so much to catch up on. We receive two aisle seats. “Fair enough, we could still do the talking while on flight” I think to myself.
Anisha and I had met for the first time in one of the common school gatherings for parents and teachers.
“Hi. I am Neelam, Sia’s mom.” I said.
“Hi Neelam. Please have a seat.” Anisha said as her blue eyes twinkled reflecting the meaning of my name, “Neelam – Blue sapphire”.
We hit it off instantly. Having spent a fair bit of our lives in foreign lands, it took no time for us to understand each other. The school meetings then led to coffee chats and random shopping sprees. The laughter, the fun and the camaraderie we shared brought a new fragrance to my life.
The gentle voice of the air hostess with an offer for coffee or tea brings me back from my thoughts. “May I have a glass of beer with some ice cubes please?” I asked. The lady throws a surprised look but serves my drink as I request, nevertheless. The bitter smoothness of Carlsberg goes down my throat with perfect ease and I remember my early years at mom’s home and the first taste of beer with my dad.
I look at Anisha as she sleeps in her seat with earplugs on and wonder what would she be listening to? If I know myself well enough, she would be listening to the latest track from the movie, Airlift.
Dinner is served as we begin to chat and for the next 08 hours, on and off, interrupted by little naps, we discover each other in-depth once again through the journeys we have had.
Anisha is born and brought up in the United Kingdom. She is an adored, loved and only child to her parents. Part Indian part British, her family life has the typical Indo-British flavour to it. Travelling the world is her long-thought-of dream. It is photography that has brought her on a project to India and photography that has made this travel possible.
My life revolves around the beautiful family that my parents chose for me. Anil is an honest businessman, a gentle husband and a devoted father to our beautiful 09 year old daughter, Sia. The world of words has always excited me since childhood and my flirting with the pen began as early as the age of 06 years with little doodles of poetry behind all my subject notebooks. First few years of married life went by in a whirlwind as family life took a front seat nerving away the urge to express. It is through a literary contest I have won online that I am going for this travel.
It was at the National Handloom outlet at C.G Road Ahmedabad, that Anisha took a picture of an embroidered kurta. Just as she was to put it on her Instagram page, I said “The contemporary in the conventional”. That was the starting of many such pairings of pictures and words. As the bond grew stronger, we came closer in ways more than one, not just professionally but also emotionally.
Our destination arrives after a long yet satisfactory flight of 15 hours. As I switch on the GPS and we hail a cab to the hotel, the mobile rings.
“Yes, I have reached safely.” Anisha looks on as I use the word “I” into the phone and not “We”.
How are we to tell the world, what is it that we look ahead to? It is not just the emotional comfort that we share or the endless hours of heartfelt conversations. There is a lot more than that. We’re the happiest when together though we are also not unhappy in our present in any way and can never think about letting it slip like a long forgotten dream.
In last three years of having known each other, Anisha and I have talked about many things, from husbands to children to professions to passions to insecurities and inhibitions. Anisha’s travels and my voracious readings have made us realize that what we feel does not in any way make us less loyal, more selfish or any further derogated as it is typically portrayed in many parts of the society, including ours. Yet, many times, my present still makes me think. Is it possible? Is it fair? Is our situation an unordinary exception? And that is why today, Anisha and I have taken this time away from our world to our own secret realm. Like on a first date, I feel the excitement. Like on a first attempt at hiding, I feel the nervousness.
We check into the hotel as I reflexively check the clock on my phone. It’s 7am India time. Almost a full clock turn since the coffee, Bournvita and Tea. Rupert must be awake by now, possibly searching for me. Rupert is our Alsatian, a family member and the only one with whom I share everything about my life. Animals are blessed for they have a sharp sense of hearing and absorbing. We humans are blessed for the animals who cannot talk about everything they see and hear.
Anisha and I do not know what our journey from this point on is going to be. Will we return to the world that at this moment feels like past, just in a matter of 24 hours? Will we make this world solely ours, that we are still uncertain about or will we yet again continue to balance the scale of life by adjusting the weights for both the sides that are equally dear?
Anisha reaches out and gently touches my hand, as though silently saying, “It’s alright. You are doing nothing wrong. Not every sapphire has to be a pure blue. A sapphire with shades is beautiful too.”
And words of Rumi play in my mind.
Love has nothing to do with
the five senses and the six directions:
its goal is only to experience
the attraction exerted by the Beloved.
Afterwards, perhaps, permission
will come from God:
the secrets that ought to be told will be told
with an eloquence nearer to the understanding
of these subtle confusing allusions.
The secret is partner with none
but the knower of the secret:
in the skeptic’s ear
the secret is no secret at all.