26 October 2011

And some love letters will remain undeliverable

It happened sometime in the year 1992.  In a bus.  Returning to Kandy from Matale, after visiting some friends.  A young girl and I.  She was in love.  Madly in love with my best friend.  They were both music teachers and were ‘batchmates’ at the Giragama Training College, an institution reserved for those who taught music, art and dance.  They had just finished their two-year programme.   That day, the two as well as other close friends had visited another batchmate in Matale.  That’s where the goodbyes were  said.
It was rumoured that she was married or that she had a man in Trincomalee, her home town.  No one asked and she didn’t tell either.  All that was known was that she was in love with my friend and that my friend was not interested.  Back then it took about an hour to travel from Matale to Kandy.  She cried and cried and cried.  On my shoulder.  There was nothing I could say or do to ease her pain.  I didn’t try. 
It was not a tragic love story for tragedy is when two people want each other but cannot be together for reasons external to them.  I saw her into her bus to Trincomalee and never saw her again.  I wrote about her, though.

You will put your head out of a moving bus
and call out my name;
And I will weep
All the tears
I’ve saved for your sorrow.

I do remember my friend Mahendra telling me, upon reading this, ‘you don’t have to write any more poetry; with this you’ve given the world enough’.  I didn’t understand what he meant then and I still don’t. 
Now, almost twenty years later and many tear having been shed for numerous other reasons, I am not sure if I would be moved to weeping should I meet her.  I don’t know how life has treated her and she treated life, although I do think of her now and then, wonder how she is and hope that she’s moved on and beyond this particular sorrow of unrequited love. 
She was young then and who knows, she maybe younger now than she was twenty years ago.  She came to mind last night as I listened to the most ancient love story all over again: I love him, believed he loved me in return but he does not love me anymore or perhaps never did.  Not a tragedy, but these technicalities matter little for hearts that are convinced that heartbeats have perished. 
I didn’t have answers to her questions nor remedy for her sorrow.  I related some stories and told her that the length of sorrow can never be predetermined.  She did not weep although she warned me of possible heart-burst.  She even smiled.  I don’t know if I will ever see her again.  I didn’t write a poem and didn’t think of possible tears to be shed on account of her sorrow. 
She was not a music teacher.  She was young though, as young as that girl from twenty years ago.  She told me her ancient love story and it was, I am sure, as fresh as was the first ever love story.  She took me through togetherness and joy, doubt and laceration, betrayal and wickedness.  She is beautiful, this girl, that much I could tell. And that is all there was to tell too. 
It just occurred to me that these moments, intersections, exchanges, this listening and telling were really love letters that just could not be delivered, either because address was unknown or because recipient had stopped checking mail.  What happens to these words, sighs and tears, I asked myself.  And I remembered the girl in the bus and others who had stories to tell but had to tell them not to the person they wanted to be heard by but some random person who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the right time, who can tell? 
She left and I was left with days and images, recollections frayed by event and time, and also sharp lines that resisted forgetting.  I was left with thoughts of tomorrow inhabited by lives that I might never encounter again and even if I did in colours different and perhaps even unrecognizable.  And I was left with a question I doubt I will ever be able to answer:  ‘Do undeliverable love letters close ranks and discuss for eternity the what-ifs, if-onlys and could-have-beens?’



Anonymous said...

oh the 'Kanthi' poem..my favourite!

Anonymous said...

your poem is generic , it becomes specific with your narrative only.Beautiful poem addressing the world at large and I understand and agree with Mahendra . :)