“I have been thinking about this for a long time. Some moments remain etched in one’s mind; and we wonder why!” I spoke to Lulu, my parrot.
Lulu was perched on the Tamarind tree, a branch of which was not too far above my head. We were sitting in the park. A large park with a track for joggers and morning walkers. Huge old Banyan and Tamarind trees were lined along the compound wall. School boys were playing cricket, and away from them, near the wall, was a couple huddled together on a bench.
“Why is it so? Can you tell me the incident on your mind?”
“I was watching a TV reality show. Long back it was in the late seventies or early eighties. It was about a broken relationship. A man who had separated from his wife was checking in at the Air India counter to board a flight. The lady on the counter asked him routinely “Smoking or Non-smoking seat?” As she raised her head both of them suddenly realised who they were speaking to. His ex-wife asking the question – it was an embarrassing moment and yet an emotional one for both of them.”
“Hmmm…. Yes, we can only imagine what they went through. She must have realised that she knew his preference, and behaving like strangers also must have left a hurt! But why has it left a mark on you? Think about it.”
“I don’t know.” The batsman had hit the ball which darted towards me. I picked it up and threw it back to the boys playing cricket. “I really don’t know. I know there must be a reason, but I don’t know what it is.”
The lady in the park was speaking animatedly to the man. He was quiet, had fixed his gaze on the top of the tree and was smoking, letting out clouds of smoke.
“Leave it. I came to see you last week and was scared by the boom – boom noise in your room.”
“Oh, yes. I was watching ‘The Vietnam War’ series on the Netflix, and I was glued to it. It took me just two days to finish the ten-part series.”
“Which scenes you will remember for a long time?”
“I will remember the gruesome acts of American soldiers killing innocent people. And of two incidents where a soldier express regret and guilt at killing of a Vietcong soldier in a hand to hand fight.”
“Were you moved by that confession? Was there any other scene which moved you more than it?”
“Yes. Dr Kushner. He was held as a prisoner by North Vietnamese for five years. There is a scene when his recorded message is played to his family. And another when he meets them after his release. Touching. I could watch those two scenes only with great difficulty.”
“Tears in my eyes.”
The woman was walking away with a frown on her face and the man was following her dejectedly a few steps behind. I kept watching them go away. The two cricket teams were huddled in a corner, it looked as if the other team was going to bat.
“Oh! It looks as if when you watched the two soldiers speak about killing unknown enemy it did not move you as much as those Dr Kushner scenes. Interesting!”
“Dr Kushner’s wife had fought all along for the POWs, for ending the Vietnam War. The movie ends by mentioning that Dr Kushner’s marriage broke. Felt bad. That set me thinking again…..”
“Have any Indian movies left you thinking?”
“Yes, Lagaan.” The cricket game reminded me. “What a movie! I have shown it to my students to discuss ‘leadership’ theme.”
“Think about another. May be one which you watched in your tender twenties and still remember”
“Ah, Hmmm…. It is this Vijay Anand movie – what’s the name – Yes – Kora Kagaz. In the movie, the couple separates but wife realises that she still loves her husband.” Lulu did not respond. The silence made me uncomfortable. “What are you thinking about, Lulu?”
“I see a pattern. You can watch movies and scenes of violence and fierce competition. But you are only moved, it looks like something hits you, when you see strained relationship. You can’t bear the stress of relationship, right?”
“Hmmm….. I guess so. I mean, this seems to be true. Why could it be like that?”
“Empathy, trust, authenticity would have been on display when Dr Kushner met his family after five years. And that’s precisely what was lost by the time they divorced. All a result of shutting down your inner world to your partner. All of us experience this; though lucky many of us quickly recover to ‘reset’ the relationship.”
“I wonder why I am so sensitive to the stress in relationship.”
“Look inside. Your inner world!”
“Let us reserve that discussion for another day.” Lulu descended from the Tamarind tree and perched on my shoulder.
The cricket match was over; the boys were discussing, laughing and packing up. The man walked back to the park. He sat down on a bench, alone.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”