April 5, 2010

An Ordinary Love Story

I distinctly remember them.
Gurdass Singh was a cable operator by profession and claimed credit for being the person who got the optical cable-lines in our colony digitalized. Mum was never very fond of him for he would ‘elope’ with the money she would pay him for our half-yearly cable-wire updating and would return only when he would be promised some more. He played football in the evenings and swore his throats out to his friends. He was just another regular 25 year old Sikh guy in our colony, fourteen kilometers from Amritsar. His dazzling smile stood out effectively when he would reason with my mum why she should pay him a bit more than she considered logical.

And there was Sanobar Shifa. I never saw much of her within the colony but every morning when I would wait for my school bus with a dozen other kids near the entry-point into the colony, I would see her walking past us with a poignant nonchalance a part of her face, into the mosque- the only one in the locality. Always accompanied by her brother, she would be usually dressed in a salwar-kameez, and her petite structure moved as if in rhythm. There was something rebellious about her, though I never figured what it was.

I did visit the Gurdwara because I loved the soothing charm of Shabad-Gurbani and the fact that it was the coolest hang-out spot for me and all of my friends. The guys could also fool around with the Army-equipments, the mud-trenches and the netted-ladders while the girls would mostly giggle, engage in bicycle-races on the field outside. It was one such Saturday morning at the Gurdwara when I heard they had eloped. Gurdass Singh and Sanobar Shifa had run away together.

It was not a sacrilege. Love never was. So we were told by Head Granthi Sartaj Singh, the grand-old-man that presided over the Ik-Onkara chants, the ‘sajda-sessions’ and the langar-management in the afternoon. Anwar Qadri, the one man-manager of the tiny mosque echoed his views. Everything was in harmony. The Shifas and the Singhs though, were visibly enraged. Each family hurled profanities against the other in shameless public spectacle. Things were getting out of hand with every below-average-income family of the colony starting to take sides and the above-average-income ones sticking their noses up at the situation, and the communal harmony getting ruined effectively.

A fortnight later we had a deployment consisting of members of both religious communities come over to our bungalow. As one of the most beloved men and a trusted doctor at that, my father was to help solve the dispute. Dad didn’t have much solving to do. As it turned out, both communities had reconciled themselves with the blasphemy committed by a member each, of their own, and promised to leave the couple at their own peace if only they returned from their own obscure existence from some unknown village in Haryana Gurdass Singh had last made a call from . “Daktorsaab, if you so order them, they shall pay heed”, they reasoned.

It took Dad nearly a week to get in touch with Gurdass and Sanober, for those were the days prior to mobile-phones. Gurdass was exuberant, Dad said, to know that his family and Sanobar’s had agreed to settle all of it without as much of a blood-bath. He told my father “Daktorsaab, I shall never be able to thank you enough for the sense you drove into my folks’ minds”, despite Dad truthfully dis-acknowledging anything to do with the decision.

Gurdass Singh and Sanobar Shifa came home together. Sanobar’s parents took her home promising to Gurdass a grand wedding reception within a month. Over the next three days, I did wait for my school-bus where I usually did, but I did not see Sanobar Shifa making her way to the mosque. In fact no one saw her. Gurdass Singh did keep playing football for a couple of days. Then one evening he too didn’t come to play football.

That night, at around 9 pm, there was a vehement knock on our main-door. My mum opened the door only to find an inebriated Gurdass Singh tumbling inside, with gauntly red and swollen eyes. Clearly, he had been weeping for so long that even his tears had dried up. He looked at my Mum and weakly said, “Medam, Daktorsaab ruined my life too bad. I had my trust in him”. He said ever since their return the Shifas had not let Sanobar meet him even once and had kept her under constant house-arrest. He did not know what their motives were, but he suspected sinister foul-lay. In that one evening, while my Mum consoled the colony-cable operator, I saw her weep too. In Gurdass’s drunken banter was the resonance of every heart that ever got shattered despite love having stayed very alive.

Later that night, Dad revealed the news to us over dinner. The Shifa’s had hatched a conspiracy jointly with the Singhs to get Dad ask their respective scions to come back to the colony before marrying Sanobar off to a fifty-year old businessman and family friend of the Shifa’s, in Karnal

That was it.
No one ever saw Sanobar again. Her sisters did keep up with their bicycle-races though none visited the mosque, which was apparently where their elder sister had first met her love. Gurdass was saved from a suicide attempt in the Beas, by his friends. His life they could save, but his smile was lost. He hardly played football ever again, neither did he quarrel over money, though one time he did come over and apologize to Dad for blaming him for the end of his love-story. Five months later, we moved to Dehradun, and we’ve not heard of Sanobar-Gurdass ever since.

This was one love-story that remained unsung. Neither did it reach a “Happily ever after” culmination, nor was it characterized by bloodbaths, over-the-top long-lingering after-effects, and no one even got to know how the two people suffered. It was born out of nowhere, in a quaint small-town mosque, and it died in obscurity, amidst two families warring for their own honor in their religious perimeters, despite it having been vetoed positive by both the religious heads. These aren’t the stuff stereotypical love-tragedies are made of. This one consisted of an over-confident doctor in a settlement of semi-literate people, a heroine that didn’t battle her plight and shake the shackles of marriage-to-a-man-thirty-years-older-to-her off, and run off once again with the man she loved, and a hero whose greatest displays of breakdown were one jittery-drunken cribbing hour to a lady who refused to pay him more than he would ask for his services, and a half-hearted plunge into a semi-tributary of the Beas. It was just a love that I’ve seen perish in full-bloom, a love story that no one has bothered to remember.


Riddhi G.D said...

K, Im glad im the first one to comment, cuz this really touched me. Eta ki shotti hoyechilo? Really moving, and awful tinge of resignation and i dunno...incompleteness to it. The story I mean, not your writing.

Shahana said...

Here is where I usually comment on your posts.
So I'll do it here only.
Yes, I think it really is a very intense piece of writing.
And is just..real, i guess.
No huge, heavy words talking about love, but just very very palpable.

Ritwik Goswami said...

@Riddhi : It's pretty much a shottyi ghotona re.

Chiro-kun said...

Wow, so that really was a real-life incident. I won't comment on anything because that would simply ruin the impact this blog post had on me.

Anyhow, now that I know you have a blog I'll probably be popping my head in every once in a while so be prepared!