" May I share the table with you" I asked the lady sitting on the only table with an empty chair.
" Of course" she said " Please"!
Prem's Restaurant was jam-packed. A favorite among the people, who live in Pune, a city in Maharashtra, India, Prem's is famous for its Chicken tandoori. I was in Pune for that one evening only. I was terribly distraught and knew I had to get my teeth into some chicken to ease the hungry pain in my heart.
I settled on the chair opposite her and looked up. She was a foreigner. I smiled and introduced myself.
In response she said in a very British accent" Hel ' lo! I am Dhyan Sagar" She read the question in my eyes. " If you are wondering about my name, it is not my legal name. Peggy O' Hara. I am Irish". Ah- huh! I thought. That explains the lovely far-away looks'.it had to be from Enya's country.
" What brings you to India?" I asked looking around for the waiter.
" Love. " she said simply. " Love of the land - and a man". I smiled again. Oh! Didn't I know that feeling?
Strangely, when the waiter came to take the order, we both ordered chicken tandoori.
" It's one of those days, " she continued with a ringing British laughter " I need to get my teeth into some meat. Other wise I am a vegetarian".
This was beginning to sound like a d'j' vu. We chatted while our orders were being prepared. Dhyan Sagar was a teacher in Liverpool and sang in the Pub in the night. Around seven years ago she met a man while she was visiting India for the first time. She had broken off from a long live-in relationship five years prior to that and had taken a decision to not fall in love for a long time. She had shut herself out from the world, coming out only in the evenings to the Pub on Saturdays. She sang from her heart and even as we spoke, I could imagine her music. Her voice was alive. It had a "soul".
" I can't say what took over me. I was hit from the back I think. I couldn't get him off my mind. We were traveling together to Ladakh. Suddenly all my mind could think of was him. Day and night, I wanted to be close to him. We stuck to each other like glue. No! That is a lie. I stuck to him like glue'."
I loved her honesty and it rang a certain note of familiarity in me. I thought of Ramesh. How I had met him on my first job as a Time- Life Bookseller and after that, my sales calls began and ended at his office! Thank God it was a vacation job!
" I know that feeling" I began " I have experienced it myself'."
" Oh! Have you? He did not reveal himself to me quite clearly for a few days. Then one day, we were alone together and I reached up to him and began to kiss him. Can you believe, we had not even kissed for over three days after we met, even though it was quite evident that we both fancied each other?"
I nodded and was about to say my piece when she continued with hers.
" He stopped me. I was so dismayed! How insulting I thought. Then he revealed to me, he was married and had a baby girl. I was perplexed. So why did he not say that before, I thought. It was very hard for me". Sagar stopped and took a sip from her glass of water and a bite of the chicken leg. I cleared my throat.
" Ramesh was similar'he too was '.."
" What did you say? Was he married? Oh yes, of course that is what he said to me".
I got it this time. I decided to let her do the talking.
" Don't you think" she questioned me, looking deep into my eyes, he could have told me he was married, at least on the second day of our meeting? He knew he was not going to play game!"
" Perhaps, he meant to tell you but'." I was interrupted again.
" I know it was his love that kept him from telling me'.he had begun to love me, you know'.I could feel it".
I cleared my throat again and was preparing to fill in the gap. However, it was not necessary.
" He said to me one day on the trip, I don't want you to feel I have not responded to your love. I can feel how you feel about me'and he put his arms around me and gave me a long hug. Somehow, the tears came to my eyes and although I tried to stop them, he saw them running down my cheeks".
" Oh! Darling!" he said, " I don't mean to hurt you".
Sagar was crying again. I stared at her. Would it be appropriate to gently touch someone's hand lying on the table? Even, if I wanted to show my empathy? To reassure her?
As quickly as she began to cry, that quickly, she wiped her tears away.
" I am sorry! Didn't mean to. Let's change the subject".
"Yes, I said " Lets!"
" But just one more thing'..do you think he loves me? He has refused my erotic advances, but never my love'"
" I can't really say, but I '." My theory remained unheard.
" I know he does. My heart tells me so. And that is why I have been coming back to this beautiful land over and over again. Because of him, and my love for him, everything seems so much more beautiful!"
I loved the genuine ray of love that emitted from her eyes as she said these lines to me. It spread across the room covering it with a gentle hue, warmth you could touch only if you were looking into her eyes at that moment.
" As I was saying, I had a similar experience with someone. But you know what? After two years, I had to cut the relation off'.I had to move on'" I said.
" I can't do that Julia, because I know he loves me. I need to wait for him". She looked stubborn.
" But what about you? You are not getting anything out of this love are you?"
" Does not matter! One loves for the pure joy of loving."
" And hope that he will love you back in the same way some day?" I said without thinking too deeply on it.
I had made a mistake. Suddenly, Sagar began to look quite cold'chilling in fact.
" I believe in the power of love, Julia. I know if you love someone so dearly, you can hold the torch for him or her for as long as it takes them to come to you. "
" Yes! You can. But time and tide waits for no man. Opportunity to move on in life reduces with every passing day. So does our will. These are the reasons why I moved on from Ramesh. "
She was quick and caustic.
" You did not believe in your love. You had never known loss of love. If you did, you would not have given up the second time. You would have clung on and fought your lonely battle and even if you did not win at the end, you would have lived with the fact that you had not lost, because you held on to that love ".
The impact of the words left me speechless. An arrow plunged into my heart. I did not need to hear the rest of her story. I knew it is not love she was seeking; not this man either. He was merely a catalyst. Someone, who could instill in her, her own individual self worth, by precisely, not responding in the way she desired him to. And by so doing she inadvertently proved to herself that she could love eternally, no matter what. It was her power statement to herself.
Hats off! I said to myself, pensively wiping my lips with the super white laundered napkin. We rose from our table together and walked to the exit. Outside the doorway, we turned briefly to one another. We looked at each other very deeply and made connection for the first time that evening.
" It's been a delightful evening. We must do this again". She said.
" Yes! " I agreed. " We must"!
Then we both went our ways not exchanging business cards. I knew there was nothing for her to meet me again. She had told me her story and now she must find a new pair of ears to tell the same story to. She had to affirm her love worthiness. Again and again.
It was her obsession.