I recently visited an aunty who has been closely associated with our family since the 1950s and this visit was a reaffirmation that true love does exist. Her name is Lalitha Narayan and she turned 80 just a couple of months ago and she is a widow. She lost her husband to Parkinson’s disease 7yrs ago and is presently living in a beautiful house which they built for themselves in 1979. This entry is not architectural and it’s not a story; just a narration of what a 90 minute conversation with her revolved around. I was visiting her with my grandmother who is Mrs. Narayan’s close friend, my mother and my mother’s sister.
The warmth which eluded from her frail little body as we entered her house was overwhelming and it was worth the 45 minute drive to get there. Her eyes sparkled behind her glasses as she listened to us talk about our lives and as she told us her news about her failing health and her spiritual mind which was overcoming her body aches and pains. She had called us the day before, asking us to come visit her as she was in dire need of company and to make it up to us, she said that she had made us kulfi!! The conversation slowly steered towards her old age and how she still manages to listen to the Vedas being read out almost thrice a day, daily without fail. As she went on telling us how she kept herself occupied, the inevitable topic cropped up – her late husband, Mr. Narayan.
She handed us a laminated letter of recommendation which Mr. Narayans’ previous employers had given him, when he was shifting to another branch almost 20 yrs ago and it almost brought tears to my eyes. Who am I kidding?! I was crying half way through the letter. The letter went on to describe what an exemplary gentleman he was inside the office and outside and as we each read the letter, turn by turn, she waited in anticipation for what we had to say. We, each told her how beautifully it was worded and my aunty even went on to call it a pen portrait of Mr. Narayan. Mrs. Narayan smiled with those ever loving eyes as we glorified her late husband and I thought that she even suddenly began to glow. She hurriedly took out photos from the side table and passed them around. The first one, she explained was of her at 17 – the first picture Mr. Narayan saw of her before he agreed to marry her. Imagine that, being married at such a young age and growing to love him and live together, sharing dreams and aspirations for almost 57years… They never had any children and their love was so great that they never felt that they were missing out on anything. They loved children though and they were always present for all their friends’ children’s birthday parties over the years. She then showed us a picture of Mr. Narayan playing cricket, explaining in detail how he was a great cricket and tennis player and how he never missed a club match, whichever city he was in. There were many more pictures which she kept passing around and explaining elaborately, harbouring on the tiniest details and I couldn’t but help smile and as usual the tears followed suit. Yes, yes… I’m a sappy romantic like that.
She explained to us like we were hearing it for the first time how he died in her arms. He had asked her for Ganga jal (water from the holy river Ganges) and someone had travelled the great distance to get him that. On his last day on this earth, he asked her for some water and as she was feeding him the water; after a gulp of it, he passed away. There can’t be a better memory of someone you love passing away in your arms, she said. I couldn’t agree more. That, is true love… The love we read about and long to have… a widow who talks about her husband as though he were alive. She doesn’t hope to join him soon, doesn’t think that he was taken away too early… she believes that he went because it was his time and when it’s her time, she will too. She has a picture of him in the living room and it’s as though he’s still there, watching over her as he did for those 57 yrs when they were together… This is not a Nicholas Sparks love story… it’s just a couple of words I put together which spell LOVE…