We have always been too lazy about Valentine’s Day. Besides, everything is so inordinately expensive; every place too crowded, sodden with saccharine mushiness. Doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate it though. We stay in, make a ton of popcorn, stock up on chocolates and have a movie marathon; our standard list of ‘guilty pleasure’ movies…and quite often fall asleep with the T.V. still on. Come to think of it, that sounds like our New Year’s Eve celebration too. Or for that matter, all such celebrations. Well, I did say we are kind of lazy about such things, didn’t I?
This year, the whole of the Valentine’s Day was to be spent on the road, heading to Delhi. Valentine’s Day eve too, was fraught with the frantic last minute packing. So that killed any chances of the the usual movie jig happening.
Morning started too early, because we had a ten hour drive ahead of us. February fog and a fading winter’s dawn started to melt away, as the sun came up. The day brightened up, sparkling along the edges. State roads and highways were still quite deserted and we were making good time. A surprise collection of songs, including many of the golden oldies reminiscent of our courtship years, played on the stereo.
So apparently, this is what he was doing on his laptop early in the morning, when I was yelling at him to get ready! Making me this collection. I chide myself, silently and stroke his hand resting on the gear shift, slightly apologetic. He squeezes it back gently. Apology accepted! I sigh relieved.
By the time we felt we needed breakfast, we were nearing Kanpur. I had packed sandwiches and tea and we only needed a spot to park our car, sit out and eat. A mango orchard, next to the petrol pump we had stopped at for a refill, entreated us. We asked the still groggy pump helper, if we could park by its side. A man, who we would later realize is the owner, overheard us and walked over, dressed in only a vest and a towel draped around his waist. He smiled exuberantly, and pulled out a charpoy. We sat under the sunlight, softened by the thick cover of mango branches. Sharing that man’s charpoy and our cheese and tomato sandwiches, we chatted about stuff…from dal prices to Paris attacks. He gestured towards his ‘Hotel Dehaati Haveli’ to the right of the petrol pump and a huge mandir being constructed on the left, stating they both belong to him, and that we are welcome to check them both out. We, touched by his hospitality, promised him to stop over and do that, on our next trip down this highway. Over the next forty five minutes Meer regaled him with his rendition of the Spiderman Song. He clapped and cheered him on. MJ and I just sat there enjoying their instant and hearty bonding. After a halt, lot longer than we had planned, we took our leave and promised to stop over on every trip henceforth.
Kanpur soon started to appear on both sides of the road, spilling over well beyond its municipal boundaries. Meer was already snoring his way to glory. I too felt a little drowse sneaking up on me; which was quite rare because, I am very uncomfortable during road travel. I could only attribute this plesant sedation to the surprisingly lovely morning and the music. Then, just before I dozed off, I whispered Happy Valentine’s Day to MJ. He smileed and whispered the same.
We were still hours away from the Delhi; a city festooned from head to toe with red hearts, party streamers and drunk on the commercially viable love. And yet on this dusty, smoggy highway- surrounded by tiny hamlets where people may or may not know that it was Valentine’s Day – the air was fragrant with love. The undying love for the music which is reminiscent of one’s fledgling love; the romance that is subtle yet everlasting; the love and hospitality of absolute strangers; the ever so welcoming love of mother nature. Love that is so easy to find and yet so elusive, to most of us. Love that just needs a charpoy, conversations… and preferably some tea.
The last words I heard, before sleep took over, were these… of pure unquestionable genious of the ever so awesome Cliff Richards. Sweet serendipity!
The love in you and the love in me… That’s all that matters
All the rest is just vanity… That time will shatter
The only treasure in the life we live… Is in the measure of the love we give
All that matters in the end will be…The love in you and the love in me
That’s all that matters… All that matters…
MJ later told me I was smiling in my sleep. I don’t doubt that at all 🙂