I like the look of spring in some lanes in my city. The one outside my alma mater for example, is gorgeous. It is lined with old souls – trees – that have been witness to many stories, secrets, lives, travels, suns and moons, rains and rainbows. They’ve been home to ants scurrying about on their branches and trunks, telling them more stories, of love and heartbreak. Those sturdy trunks have supported many a wistful back in an blank hour of philosophising – contemplating life, it’s meaning, or lack thereof.
Just outside the college wall, I met a Bougainvillea yesterday. Swathed in a bloom of hot pink, it made the Gulmohur blush. They saw me looking at them. The Gulmohur smiled and dropped me a flower. The Bougainvillea laughed in the breeze.
An afternoon breeze it was in spring time. I sought comfort of the older Neem. It was quieter. It greeted me with a handful of delicate, sweet blossoms of its own. I sat at its feet, resting my back against its hospitable trunk.
I offered a memoir to the neem in return.
He used to walk me to college everyday. At the entrance, before leaving, I’d hug him and he’d quietly smile, smooth down my hair and always find a stray strand to tuck behind my ear, and he’d leave as I’d stand there till I couldn’t see him anymore.
He never said a goodbye.
Each morning, I’d hurry to get ready. Trying to buy me time, cutting back on those precious, give extra minutes of sleep so I could meander about the street for a little more time, in his company.
Some days, he’d hum a tune as I would sometimes walk behind him, skip ahead, dance if it was a happy tune. He was, I think, slightly embarrassed by the dancing. Colour rushed to his cheeks and he wouldn’t know where to look but he never denied me this joy, of breaking into a dance, on a very public street. He never stopped singing. For me. To me.
Most days, we just walked along in silence. No one said anything and it felt right.
We never discussed work, or the news, or politics, or the neighbourhood gossip. It was just us – him and me, the trees, the birds, and the silence. And always, at the entrance of my college, he would stop. I didn’t ask him to come in. Nor did he ask to be shown around.
Those two minutes of transition, standing in time, looking into his eyes, a curiously simple ritual of goodbye without a goodbye being said… Those two minutes were what my life was all about.
Two years back, we realised we had perhaps, exhausted all we could talk about. Life wasn’t kind enough to afford us sunsets at the beach like it had when we had first met and say half merged in the sea, in comfortable silence as the sun looked on.
I packed things I thought I would need in the days without him. He drove me to the airport. I hugged him. He smiled and looked in my eyes as he found the stray lock of hair to tuck behind my ear. He did not leave till he couldn’t see me anymore.