I was at Gangaur Ghat in Udaipur, the place was covered with colours post the Holi celebrations in the morning. Despite filth around, I managed to find a place where the steps were dry and the cool river breeze smelled of fresh water and flowers. Watching the sunset, with the evening Aarti in background, felt a certain stillness in my soul, pausing the gazillion constantly running threads in my mind with ease.
A guy, who sat two steps away from me whilst I was focussed on the flickering shadows amongst the orange highlights, broke my solititude. After we exchanged pleasantries, he agreed to read out some of his shayaris (urdu poems) on personal incidents from his life. For what felt like a very long time, I was listening to hearfelt poems from a stranger I’d just met.
Very soon, I learnt a lot about this person. He graduated from IIT Kanpur with two of his best friends and a girlfriend he hoped to marry one day. Soon after graduation, one of his best friends committed suicide. The other friends stepped up to take care of the deceased friend’s family. What he took away from this experience was that life is fleeting and uncertain, and he was moved to prioritise people he loves over anything else. Both he and his girlfriend had secured a job in the same city, and they decided to introduce each other to their parents, sooner than they would have. Sadly, despite a lot of convincing, and typical-indian-family-drama, her parents did not approve of him. They did not want to marry without their parents blessings, so were forced to separate.
Trying to move on in life, he spent the next few years primarily working hard. But life had other plans. His other best friend from college was diagnosed with cancer, and soon passed away. Losing everyone he cared for, he thought he hit rock bottom in his life. One day, he received an unexpected call from his ex-girlfriend’s father. All these years, she had not married anyone else.
This gave me a glimmer of hope, having grown up watching rom-coms, I smiled hoping for the ending I was looking for. They’d end up together at last. Probably, that happens only on the silver screen. Her father wanted him to convince his daughter to marry someone else and move on in life by telling her that he too has. He obliged. He not only convinced her to move on, he danced at her wedding too. Who says “Channa Mereya” is unrealistic? This was too film-y for me to believe. How? Why!? Pat came a reply — “Ishq, Muhabbat aur Pyar ka fark sirf guzar kar hi samajh aata hai”, which loosely translates to “there are different kinds of love and you can understand only that through experience”. To him, knowing that he was a cause for her happy life was enough. He hoped this to give him some closure and help him move on.
The last straw for him was when his six-month pregnant ex — girlfriend died in a car crash with her current husband. He’s been living a nomadic life since, and only goes back home once in a while for his parents. Life is ephemeral, so he lives in momentary joys. I sat still, listening to his stories, beautifully interspersed with poetry. The story was too overwhelming for me to accept easily. There was a lot to unpack in such a short time, I had a lot of questions, and his responses were raw.
After patiently answering my questions, he left me sitting there with my thoughts. I quickly jotted some of the lines from his shayari that I remembered. Re-reading them gave me goosebumps.
I did not know how much truth was to his story, but the sincerity with which he answered my deepest questions, made me believe him. As I mooched back on the narrow, wavy, suburban road, I was forced to reflect on how I lead my life — What do I truly care about and want to be remembered for? I am generally confused about what I want to do next, but to this question — the answer was, somehow, clear.
While the sun was setting, it felt like sunrise.