“Are you listening?” The question purportedly directed at P bounced off the front door. “The train leaves in half an hour”. “Told you, I am ready”, replied P, somewhere from the depths of the house. Five minutes of nail biting and wristwatch twisting later, I go in search of her. She is scurrying swiftly from one room to another like a mouse, with a mouthful of hairclips, a dress in one arm, mobile phone in the other, hair at some indefinable stage of coiffure; noticing me, came the cool pronouncement – “All I have to do is to drape on this sari and pack the bag” .
Scenes like this are quite common in our household. I have an obsession, a neurotic fixation, about catching trains and buses. If it is due at say, 1000 hrs, I will be at the station by 0900 hrs. If reserved, I will check the list, walk straight to the compartment, settle down and then, contentedly step down and ogle at people or the racks of periodicals and stroll up and down the platform, shaking my head and clucking tongue at the last minute train catchers, huffing and puffing, suit cases and children trailing at the end of their arms, the corpulent corpora h-e-a-v-i-n-g and groaning. If unreserved, I will be one among the first who vaults into the as the train pulls in. I can’t help it.
Um, you may not know, but Trivandrum Railway station and the main bus stand are about 4 minutes easy walking from where I live. But I make it a point to get ready and be there at the station comfortably early. It has other advantages. For instance, it gives you ample margin of time, in case you’ve forgotten to take/do something.
Now, when it comes to packing for a trip – if it is a long, planned trip to the mountains, I would have packed and repacked at least 5 times before heaving the haversack up on my shoulders. I like it that way. It gives me immense satisfaction to pour over the maps, chalk out the route, establish camping sites, book accommodation, and read up every available fact about the routes and destinations. That I might end up going somewhere else altogether is another matter.
P and I are poles apart in this matter. Whether it is to Alaska or Acapulco that she is going – oh, yes, she will surely reach there intact – by the time she catches her transport, my BP would have shot up a few – whatever is the measure for BP. Like the coming weekend. 2 days holidays, so I decided to visit Attapadi, where the NGO I am part of has an ongoing medicinal plants garden project. I planned the itinerary, booked tickets up and down, all confirmed, pucca. Two days back P exclaimed while at the PC – “Ah, this is a course I would like to attend!”. I went over and saw that the 1-week programme is on Climate change and Carbon Mitigation at – well!,
I know. My humble trip to the wild is shelved. I grumble. P takes up the old weapon. “Oh, well, then I won’t go. But it is a very good programme….” I know she has good friends in
In spite of our differences on the embarking on journeys, we have always managed to board the ship together. Finally that’s what matters. My deliberateness and her whimsicality – somehow, we strike a balance and hop over.
Compatibility in a relationship is not necessarily based on compatible interests. Like the love for dogs and nature that we share. It depends on how flexible, how accommodative both are. I would not call it sacrifice (I hate that word and its connotations) but giving priority, shifting one’s butt to give the other a little space of their own. It depends on not being selfish, on loving each other, on holding on to each other in the times of cholera. Because nothing is as important as letting the other breathe, live.
P still catches her train by diving in at the last moment. If we are traveling together, we reach reasonably, safely earlier. By myself? Well, I have many things to do if I reach the station one hour before the train starts. Like watching the sparrows’ nests, the mangy dogs, the oh-so-important looking people leaning out of the AC coaches, the tearful parting rituals, drinking apple juice, … just sitting, looking around, happily…
‘What life is this full of care, if we have no time to stand and stare?’
*************** Balachandran V,