Yun na mil mujh se khafa ho jaisay
Saath chal, mauj-e-sabaa ho jaisay
[Meet me not in anger, beloved,
Walk with me, like the morning breeze walks with spring]
A Mehdi Hasan rendition of the famous, Ehsan Danish ghazal, playing from a vinyl record, whitewashed walls, indoor plants, a carved lamp-stand, with a shade to match its elegance, teapoys and corner tables covered in muted shades of formica, plain wooden shelves containing all our books – our, yes – we couldn’t have been more proud than if they were our children – well-mannered, quiet, dignified, you could never guess the energies each of them contained, and me – all of us wait for him to be back. He has never disappointed us. 6:30 pm for me, or 1830 hrs in his language, he is home; rather, his presence makes it home. Somehow, everything seems to don a smile, when he returns – even the plants. Sirius and Laila laze contentedly after welcoming him home with hugs and kisses as if he’s been gone a whole week! Though, it was my bright idea to bring the puppies home; when they mewed and I doubted about their being canines; they would always have the first claim on his affections, on him, always getting the first hugs.
He was like a schoolboy in a sense. Rattling off what happened over the day, at work, over chai, never sitting down, fiddling with the vinyls, before he went off to play squash, coming back just in time for dinner. A post dinner stroll for all four of us, and we’d retire to quietude, always with a book. Yet, never alone. He called from work, thrice, sometimes, four times a day, always careful to not disturb my classes. There weren’t any long drawn out conversations, except, him saying that he was thinking of me. I could only smile and quickly ask him if he had nothing else to do at work.
He came home for lunch in winters. 6:30 pm seemed so far away! I’d smile to myself, dreamy-eyed sometimes, hassled sometimes, that I always had to plan ahead, making sure lunch was kept ready by the time he came home from work, and I came back from school.
He didn’t say a word through lunch that day. I didn’t know what, but I knew some trouble was brewing. In the evening, he said, he’d be gone for a while. A while could mean anything upwards of a month. I would have to take care of myself, and be strong were his only instructions to me as he packed. Waking up, getting out of his embrace and the warmth of the bed that morning was probably the most difficult thing I’d done in my life till then. I was as much in love, and as nervous as I’d been on my first date with him. He promised to write when he could. Phone calls were a luxury not for young captains.
That day, Sirius and Laila let me have the last hug.
[Note: the translation of the opening lines of Ehsan Danish’s famous ghazal are my interpretation of it, not necessarily an exact, correct translation of the verse]