It did not happen, as planned!
In fact, whenever/ whatever he planned, the opposite happened.
Example: A dinner party to be held, next Saturday, in a top Mexican, Thai or Indian restaurant in Chicago. He is asked to confirm and gladly does—and always misses such fun events—to his dismay and their taunts.
Once he was seriously committed to marrying an ABCD-girl and planned all the details of the holy alliance. The groom arrived with band and dancing family, expecting a grand reception, they were shocked to find an empty venue! The bride had run away with her French lover, in the early morning!
He felt crushed by the ending of a dream romance and continued to be a cause of mirth, for the Indian community in Chicago.
There were other fiascoes.
He grew wary of plans.
The evidences piled up.
He missed appointments, interviews, dates and even flights.
The pattern grew frighteningly regular and Vijay Kumar got so low in spirits that he stopped planning.
They called him superstitious. Again mocked him for an unscientific attitude.
He did not bother.
But in a busy world, you cannot function without advance planning. A middle way was found by the maternal grandmother in Chennai.
“Do his planning,” she told his mother, “Simple. The jinx will be broken!”
The advice worked.
Mother dutifully planned all things in her son’s uneventful existence. She was a quiet woman who had followed a 28-year-old stranger, as a faithful 21-year-old wife, to an unfamiliar country, decades ago and served him and the family silently; she had obeyed all the instructions of the man, her sole custodian in a promised land called the USA; a shy part of the evolving American Dream for a suburban family of brown skins. (Prior to her arrival in the States, mother thought all the world was brown, or shades of it, but upon reaching and a long-settled life later in America, the Tamil graduate realized, slowly and painfully, that there was a whole spectrum of colours that governed the minds and eyes of the democratic America, especially the white America: Yellow. Black. Brown. Ebony. White. Light white. Light yellow. Light dark. Everything was colour-determined, colour-dependent and colour-driven for the system that was unable to forget its colonial past and strongly believed that except the white race as the lord of the universe, others were of inferior, and very recently, were perceived as the usurpers of an already-usurped continent.) Mother meticulously planned the things to the last details, including his marriage with Urvashi, this time successfully. Urvashi was everything other than the mythic apsara of exceptional charm and beauty. But Vijay Kumar was delighted to finally tie the sacred knot with the demure maiden from – where else – Chennai and rest was history – the oddly-matched pair of man and woman did what millions of professional middle-class Indians have been doing all these years – falling in love after months of their arranged marriage (much to the surprise of the firangis there), slowly two utter strangers becoming close and closer, as lovers, friends, and, finally, as spiritual partners of a long terrestrial journey, with its own tempests and spells of a calm weather.
Her plainness never mattered to Vijay.
“Get the girl first,” his dad had advised him prior to the finalization of their true and fat Indian wedding. “Love-shuv can wait. Generally, it blooms like a desert flower in the Indian marriage. Even if it does not occur, do not worry. You have got the woman from a land of female infanticide. Kids generally bring parents together. Be happy with your lot.”
That pragmatic advice settled the deal. (Even otherwise, Vijay Kumar was no longer comfortable with the idea of marrying a second-generation woman. He, like his parents, found them bold, aggressive and totally Americanised. Both the parents, especially amma, sorry, mother, always insisted on a bahu from India, because, these natives generally do not create problems for their in-laws and by their national tradition and cultural trait, were obedient and accommodating, besides bringing a large dowry. All these things did not work in the case of his younger brother, though. The second import from India, post-wedding, was not her demure, photo-shopped version but just the contrary: She drove the joint family crazy and finally the unlikely alliance ended in a bitter divorce and maintenance, alcoholism of his brother and disillusionment of the all the women of the Kumar household – but that is another story for another time, dear reader.
So back to Vijay Kumar and his lifelong devotion to his only love, an ageing Urvashi, lodged in a sprawling property in South Barrington.
As narrated earlier, mother executed all the plans for him, and, after her sudden death, Urvashi took over and decided everything. Both the respected women in his life and joint home, tended to treat him nothing more than an overgrown and talkative kid and he secretly enjoyed being treated that way only, refusing to grow up and do his daily chores, on his own, except driving and working in office, things that could not be outsourced to the two smart women of exceptional brains and patience. Cousins and friends taunted him as hen-pecked or Urvashi-worshipping guy but he did not care. “She is my universe. I revolve around her axis as an atom,” Vijay declared to whosoever was listening, most never did to a man considered spineless and infantile by the macho-men. Once, nine years after his marriage, Vijay overheard mother saying to his visiting aunt, “Urvashi has cast a spell on our Vijay who is very simple and vulnerable! He follows the dusky witch everywhere like a pup!” The maternal aunt had laughed and said, “Come on, Didi, have you not tamed our fierce Jijaji!” And both the sisters had laughed uproariously; making Vijay smile at this family’s open secret of a tough conquest.
So that was the pattern – he was the centre of family bantering for many years. He never minded these slings at his un-armoured self. These relatives! Always finding faults, always criticizing one another, whenever, wherever they met – funerals, weddings, birthdays, divorces.
He had turned indifferent.
Once, his brother had taunted him over drinks in the porch of the joint house, “When will you get over this Urvashi fixation, Bhai? There are others also of your family that equally count or should count, not this woman only.”
Vijay, red-eyed, had glowered at his younger brother, “My marriage survived. You? You could not even keep your wife, a poor country girl? Am I not better than you?”
They did not talk for a decade after that but Vijay felt, first time, alpha and a triumphant sibling, top of the pecking order, as the eldest heir to the legacy of an alpha father.
A real man who could hit back at the bullies! That was the verdict of an approving Urvashi and the judgment proved to be a booster to his failing libido due largely to a combo of “a punishing work schedule, a devil of a boss, taunts, blood pressure and stress,” as confessed once to his bored wife waiting for that elusive moment of manliness and ensuing bliss on that old marital bed.
As happens in every family, not yet fully dysfunctional, the members ultimately reconciled and the insults were forgotten over funerals and drinks – till fresh ones erupted.
After the death of amma, sorry, mother, Urvashi emerged as the first woman of the joint family; the real boss and matriarch and her decisions were final in the Kumar household, acceptable to his nonagenarian father, much mellowed-down due to a host of diseases and partially deaf to the utter delight of Urvashi.
And Vijay was happy to be under the sway of his wife of 40 years. She continued to treat him as a kid even at the age of 70 and he willingly submitted to her commandments and authority, having surrendered progressively his autonomy to a woman who has become the only force in his otherwise uneventful existence of an average guy; another one of the milling tenants on this crowded planet, now stripped of any false hopes, in the autumn of life, of any unrealized greatness and/ or winning any Nobel for his peace initiatives in the clan or neighbourhood or by a very long shot, for the Chemical researches he had worked on as part of a team headed by a brilliant scientist specializing in the field of molecular chemistry, especially, the next-generation of conducting polymers. The scientist had gone complete nuts, after his juniors often walked away with various prizes, including the Nobel, for allied research in Chemistry.
After that stage in his late career, Vijay lost every ambition of getting accolades and other official recognition.
Molecular chemistry, biology and nano particles were no longer a religion!
All those visions of glory were over. Vijay Kumar was quietly reconciled to his ordinary status as a senior citizen, post retirement, and, approaching mortality, although not that near and immediately imminent; he was sure of that feeling, despite some recent deaths of younger colleagues and relatives, middle of the nights or days.
His family called him Contented Vijay.
Father, in lucid moments, called him the Sage Vijay.
So that is the brief history of Vijay Kumar, now stuck in Greater Toronto, for more than three weeks, in the house of his first cousin – and feeling un-wanted already!
As claimed earlier, whenever he planned anything, it turned out to be something bang opposite.
Sadly, this was the only time, recent past, when his wife had allowed him to plan the visit to Toronto, and, it went sour, the long-delayed visit to a cousin whom he had not met for years and who wanted Vijay to attend the wedding of his only daughter to a Chinese entrepreneur settled in Mississauga.
“You decide,” Urvashi had told him in a tired voice that late afternoon, “he is your friend and cousin. If I stop you, his fat and dark wife will blame me only. Better you take decision.”
He took the decision and repented afterwards.
As happens in Indian-family reunions, he was received warmly by his cousin, only to be treated coldly later on.
The cousin was once close and they talked on phone. Afterwards, he arrived on student visa in Canada and finally settled down there. They kept in touch and often visited each other. The wives of the cousins, of course, were never happy. They slowly drifted apart and hardly talked – till the day Vijay got a telephonic invite from Bhupesh from Toronto: “Bro, you have to bless your only daughter personally. We are waiting for our elder brother.”
They were there at the airport to receive him and first three days were hectic. After the wedding, he wanted to leave on the fourth day but the cousin insisted he stay on for few more days. Vijay readily extended his stay.
The Canadian government declared a complete lockdown.
Vijay was caught in a limbo.
One week later, he wanted to return to the independence of his own home but closed borders would not permit the crossing.
He wished to grow wings.
One late afternoon, something strange happened.
In a sleepy household, he was attracted by a sound unfamiliar: wings flapping outside!
He saw a winged male in the garden!
“Who are you?” he asked the odd man after reaching the garden.
“I am Madan.” The mesmerising figure said.
Vijay scratched his head, “Madan? Wrong address?”
“Right address. Come to meet you only.”
“I visit lonely hearts. To make them happy.”
“You miss your wife?”
Vijay asked the visitor, “Real wings?”
“Funny. Thought they were fake. Taking part in a fancy-dress party?”
The winged denizen smiled. “No. I flew down to help you connect with your wife.”
“By making Urvashi see the Rainbow of Love.”
Vijay was taken aback, “Know her name?”
The stranger nodded.
“What is the Rainbow of Love?”
“Call your wife. I will make both of you see that.”
“Third call, today,” Urvashi chided him. “What is it now?”
“Look at the sky. Something special will be there”
“Nothing,” she said.
In an instant, the winged Madan gestured and the sky was filled with the most hypnotic sight – a resplendent rainbow.
Its beauty and colours were ethereal. One end began in the garden.
“See now – The Rainbow of Love!” Vijay whispered.
She exclaimed: “Yes. Incredible!”
“This same rainbow joins us together. I am holding one side, you, the other.”
“Oh! Getting romantic in old age,” she cooed happily.
“What?” Urvashi asked.
“The Corona pandemic, the ensuing lockdown. This made me realize the fragility of existence and enduring value of love, closeness and togetherness. Even otherwise, we all are here for a short sojourn. Must make up the lost time.”
She smiled: “Sounding philosophical.”
“Sharing new insights as a cognizant human.”
“Wow!” She exclaimed. “My new Vijay, the thinker and romantic hero.”
“I want to confess.”
“Come on; do not say you have found a white girl-friend there.”
Vijay laughed. “Not that. Will never do that.”
“There was a time when I found you plain and boring…”
“But slowly, realized beauty is skin deep.”
“And real beauty is inner.”
“Tell me, the Wise One. Urvasi awaits!”
Vijay said softly, “Love, real, is soul-to-soul connection. Deep down, spiritual. When carnal desires cease, you realize that the strength of true love is inside, not outside or in the body. It is body-less sensation; combination of the metaphysical, intuitive and mystic elements.”
Silence. Then, Urvashi said, “Indeed! Now I, too, want to confess.”
Vijay’s turn to gasp, “Yes. any new hero?”
“No, nothing of that kind.”
“Then?” Vijay sounded scared.
“There was a time in my life also when I also felt you were unattractive, boring, selfish and…”
“…not my Prince!”
He gasped more.
“Do not worry, Vijay. That phase got over. Long back. I realized your true devotion to me, family and friends. We all are rendered ordinary by an ordinary system and then, we make ourselves extraordinary through our acts of selflessness and charity and, most important, unconditional love. Love in purest form. I realized there are no princes in real life; we have to accept our current station humbly – and keep on improving, trying for better versions of selves.”
“Wow!” Vijay exclaimed. “Here comes Urvashi, the philosopher.”
They both laughed, pleased with insights.
“Your Rainbow of Love is marvelous!” Observed Urvashi. “How did you create such a heavenly sight?”
Vijay said, “No, I did not. Madan did that.” (“With your help,” whispered Madan.)
“A winged youth…”
“…carrying a quiver with the flower-tipped arrows?”
Vijay was dumbstruck. “You got divine eyes? Yes, he has got those.”
“Blessed! You could see him finally! Majority are blind to him!”
Vijay looked around.
Madan was already flying away to make “another distressed soul to see love again.”♣♣♣END♣♣♣
It did not happen, as planned!