Chapter 27: The ghost of George Bernard Shaw


July 28, 2013

there-are-two-tragedies-in-life

 

I’d read this quote in the unlikeliest of places, when I was about 12 years old: An Archie comic. For some reason, the line haunted me all those years, like a symphony that makes you cry for no reason at all. Perhaps, in a cosmic irony of sorts, it was a portent of things to come.

It’s been almost a year now that we’ve been leading separated lives. Weeks slipping into fortnights, days creeping into months.

A popular post on Facebook has a line that goes like this: if you want to know the value of nine months, ask an expecting mother. I’d been every bit through those tedious nine months, but I can give you my word for it, these ten were worse.

Ten months of uncertainty, of standing still or vacillating like a pendulum, of not knowing whither your life was headed. Of the myriad horrible states to be in, I have now come to believe that the worst is having to wait. Wait, at the mercy of another. Wait, without an action plan. No matter how terrible your condition, as long as you’re battling it—strategizing and waging war—you know you can make things better…somehow. But this…this waiting without doing, waiting without knowing, without a decision to speak of… It’s not something I’d ever done, not something I was ever used to. I had always planned my life far in advance.

Until, of course.

At some point in your life, there will always come an ‘until’. That will be the day you’d know that perhaps, destiny exists. In more ways than one.

As it does now. After ten long months of agony, suddenly everything falls into place. Sajjad just got his visa.

The relief washing over me is palpable. As I wave goodbye to the love of my life at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, I have none of the nervous sinking in my stomach that accompanies lovers bidding farewell. My heart is at ease with the deepest conviction that in a couple of months I’d be there with him. And a sissy I never was.

My father in law would later remark that I’d been “Daler” about this—fearless. Intrepid. Not batting an eyelid. No teary goodbyes and no vacant silences. I was my usual, cheerful self.

My sister in law’s husband, too, works in a separate country and she wanted to know how I could be so cool about it. I didn’t want her to feel bad—she’d been separated from her guy just two months post marriage—and pregnant too. I choose my words carefully, deciding not to dwell on my hopes for the future.

“I’m going to pretend I’m still single,” I tell her. Writing, shopping, parties, weddings and hanging out with friends—there’s still a lot to do! And then she asks me the question. That question.

“What about Hasan?”

“Ah, Hasan!” I’m still very cock-a-whoop, such is the levitating power of fresh hope. “Well I’m going to pretend he’s my brother! I can look after a baby brother, can’t I, and still be single!”

Yes, I actually said that—you needn’t look so aghast.

When people are happy, joyful, hopeful, they can dream up the craziest scenarios.

And I’m happy. Really happy. It’s not just the promise of being together at last. It’s also the promise of uncovering new secrets together, discovering new joys. That has always been our ‘thing’. It’s what we’re best at.

Every couple has this little ‘thing’ with each other, the little thing that is their glue. This is ours. We’re not Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnu—or even Raj and Simran, though lord knows Sajjad did tons of work for the “ladkiwale” on his own shaadi ! (Anyone who’s seen DDLJ a hundred times knows what I’m talking about. For my non-Indian readers, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge is arguably the greatest Bollywood love story of all time.) We’re hardly any of those eternal, evergreen couples because Sajjad is mostly the guy who’d start cracking jokes during a romantic moment. In fact, you can sort of trust him to spoil the most romantic moments with his corny sense of humour (or his vacant, distracted silences, which are the worst). Nope, the maximum supply of romance here is from my side.

But what he brings to this relationship is far greater than your stereotypical candies, hearts and roses. He brings a childlike quality to ‘us’. Like two children playing, sharing, jostling, bickering, whining and getting along all the same. We’re not the best lovers, perhaps, but we’re best friends.

I know every girl wishes for Prince Charming. I did, too. But it’s sort of lucky, in a weird way, if you end up with Peter Pan. He’s never going to grow old.

And so, skippity-hop, hoppity-skip, this is what is our relationship. ‘Doing’ stuff together. Exploring. Imagining. Creating. Experiencing. We are a team.

Like Lisbon and Jane.

Teresa Lisbon and Patrick Jane.

Sajjad is the one who got me hooked onto the Mentalist. But then he’s had me hooked onto a zillion things—I don’t know how, but he knows exactly where my ‘hook’ lies. During the early days we used to trade with each other: I picked books for him to read and he picked movies for me to watch—Hollywood movies. I was totally the Hindi movie gal, and the handful of Hollywood movies I’d seen were the Jurassic Park and The Lion King types. You get the gist—kiddie movies. Sajjad was…well, he wasn’t much of a reader—still isn’t. But the hand-picked selections clicked for both of us.

The Mentalist falls into the very category.

From the start, Patrick Jane reminded me of Sajjad.

They’re actually not the least bit similar. Sajjad isn’t glib like Jane, nor is he the smooth talking ex-imposter. He’s not defiant or rebellious either. But right from Season One, Jane reminded me of my man. Why? Well, for one, ‘neath all that cheery exterior lies the core of his character—his undying, obsessive commitment to his dead wife, his refusal to take off that wedding ring or to move past his little daughter, long passed on from this world.

And then his compassion for the week, his solidarity to his team and—most of all—the way he treats Teresa Lisbon. He drives her mad, defies her, breaks every rule and yet… there’s something about the two of them that makes them great together. He really, truly cares for her. (And don’t forget the exasperating sense of humour.)

Lisbon’s the woman with the tough exterior, the need to always be in control, always be on top of things. She’s the one who wouldn’t admit to her insecurities, and he… for some reason, he’s always the source of her calm.

Now, of course, everyone knows how the series ended. But long, long before anyone even guessed how Season Seven would go, I would always tell Sajjad—I’m Lisbon and you’re Jane.

It’s the way he exasperates her. The way he infuriates her. The way she expects him to be ‘typically Jane’—never doing what she would ask. But it’s also in the way that he makes her laugh—and surprises her precisely because it’s not what she expects. It’s in the way she knows he’s incorrigible—and indulges him nonetheless. What cosmic coincidence is it that for the first ten years of our relationship, my guy’s number was saved in my cell phone as “Incorrigible Sajjad”?

We’re a team—He and I. When we’re together, we do things better.

And that’s why I already have visions of my new home in an enchanting new country—irresistible, unknown lands for us to discover. A couple more months to go and we’d be celebrating Hasan’s first birthday together.

I hadn’t accounted for George Bernard Shaw, though, who chose this most inopportune moment to demonstrate his words from so,so long ago. There are, indeed, two tragedies in life. The first is to not get what you for so long desire. The other, of course, is to get it. Sigh.

 

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