There is always a lot of life in a question. More life than a mere answer can ever dream of having. Questions keep the debate going on, let the war rage on, allow people to over-step their jurisdiction and think fresh, push desire and ambition to move their butt and go forth into the unknown. Answers, on the other hand are the biggest nuisance humans have ever discovered. Answers pull the chain and bring a moving train to halt… but hey, wait, this paragraph needs to end right here because if it doesn’t, this post runs the risk of becoming a monologue. So let us bring in a dialogue.
This happened on a rainy day… a day when even the met department looks into a puddle and questions its abilities in predicting the passage of clouds. She looked at me with a lot of questions in her eyes. I looked back at her and had to choose between having answers thrown back in response or stand tall with more questions in my eyes. I decided on the latter and without a word I whipped out my Samsung Galaxy tab and tapped to bring the screen alive with Google staring at us with a questioning look. It appeared as if the entire universe was pregnant with questions.
‘Isn’t this turning out to be quite a day?’ I thought to myself and gently opened the indiblogger page. There was yet another question staring at us with a colourful smile: Love marriage or arranged marriage?
Our contest for the day was decided the moment we looked into each other’s eyes in silence and synchronised our combative postures with an imperceptible nod of affirmation, confirmation, and agreement. We have been playing this game quite often. A game where neither of us speaks a single word, no long explanations are acceptable, no answers, and thus no conclusive irrelevance. As I said before, it is only questions that have the power to keep the fire in life blazing. We rekindle and rejuvenate our lives with a set of connected questions that together can and mostly do lead us on to new planes of understanding.
‘Questions are really the answers that live forever,’ she had once said, ‘for, wouldn’t life be but a cul-de-sac if it had only answers?’ From that explosive moment of discovery we had slowly inched upwards from the oblivion of answers to the heaven of questions.
We were not always into our questioning stance with silence accompanying us… but gradually we had discovered that silence too was a big catalyst in helping with our inquest into truth through questions. The decision to remain silent or vocal was always taken through a mutual consent that nods made…and this time it was to be silence. This meant that the tab had to remain switched on as with time we had also adopted technology as our partner in our quest.
She waved her right hand delicately, indicating that I could go ahead and frame my first question on the fresh page that now lay open on the tab screen.
The questions, I must admit, do not come spontaneously every time. They could take their own time and we never once hurried spurred them on. ‘Speed thrills but kills’ isn’t just meant for warnings to motorists… they had an appeal that was universal.
‘Must marriage always begin with love?’ I tapped in my first question. I could notice a smile suddenly appear and hover on her lips as if she was reminding me of the initial days of our married life… and I thought to myself that love happens only if nourished and nurtured. Well, this was a question that set the ball rolling and the question from her did not take very long.
She bent forward as she wrote, ‘Is it meeting and then mating or mating and then meeting?’ Well, I thought to myself, this is surely a rather physical enquiry and… but I stopped myself and re-read the question. No, it wasn’t a superficial physical observation. The words meeting and mating were too laden with spiritual implications to be considered only earthy. Interesting, I thought, and got up to go and get myself a glass of water. Her questions always left me thirsty… and hungry… and more ignorant.
It was here that I remembered the funny incident of the Abrol family who were our neighbours more than twenty years back. Surekha was her name… I never quite liked the name but she was surely a lovely lady, er, well she wasn’t a young lass as she was well into her thirties. Unmarried… and still unrepentantly fussy. However, a groom was finally finalised and the marriage happened. Well, wouldn’t ever know if there was a mating in the marriage, but the meeting abruptly ended.
‘I don’t like his body odour,’ she told my wife, ‘I was repulsed. I always felt nauseated when he came near me. So I decided to end the marriage.’
‘No mating,’ the bachelors of the area had snidely commented.
‘No meeting either,’ the elders of area had sagaciously concluded.
But I told myself that this question session must move faster as this was the only way to reach and touch all the distant points of convergence that were essential and ought to be included in this debate.
‘Is a meeting of two persons actually a meeting of minds?’ I wrote.
She responded, ‘Do people look at each other with their eyes or the eyes of their minds?’
Now this was actually hotting up. We had suddenly swerved from the ordinary thought plane to a more metaphysical one. So I wrote, ‘Wouldn’t minds need eyes to guide them? Wouldn’t life need a mind to guide it? Wouldn’t lives go on endlessly and through their physical eyes search for that special pair of eyes every time?’ Phew! That was a terrible trio that I had punched and taken the discussion searing into the heart of a kingdom about which neither of us knew much. I wished she would bring us back into the real from the real fiction of philosophy.
The strange part of our relationship is that I always do what she is thinking about and she generally does what I am thinking about. Our lives are almost like the ‘silent drill’ that the main protagonist in Moahammed Hanif’s novel ‘A case of exploding mangoes’ talked about. Life and relationships were so much like a silent drill, really. A voice command wasn’t always mandatory… as a voice command could not always ensure that it was followed. But silent commands and entreaties had an uncannily hundred percent assurance. They always hit the target where it must be hit.
She wrote, ‘Why must worldly relationships be always upgraded to their spiritual reality? Doesn’t this world deserve a slot of its own?’
‘Isn’t a love marriage really an arrangement of moments of intimacy? Isn’t intimacy really an arrangement of moments of love?’ I wrote. No, there was no sense of euphoria in my words but my posture must have seemed akin to that of a chess player who has sensed a check-mate becoming obvious soon.
She looked at me intently and wrote with a calmness that always ended up unnerving me, ‘Isn’t love far beyond all that marriage can ever signify?’
‘Isn’t marriage responsible to give a shape to the amorphous enigma called love?’
I wrote the question that you read above and immediately entered another of my famed Q-hour reveries, as my wife fondly calls them. During such times she is always prone to either move to the kitchen to make for herself a large mug of tea (no, I don’t take tea) or takes the tab and browses all the online stores. No, we don’t spend a fortune buying things online, but we do love moving from page to page and dreaming about all the things we think we need. I generally join her a bit later during such moments and gently manoeuvre her to enter the camera or the mobile zone. Store gazing is the most fascinating pastime for the two of us!
My reverie after this question took me all the way into the heart of another incident that happened when we were married for barely six months. There was a marriage in the neighbourhood and because I was fond of photography and always carried my Yashica FX7 with me, I was asked to click all the pictures. Obviously, the two of us were treated as one of the family though we were quite new to that neighbourhood. The youngsters also accepted me as one of their gang and I was never considered another ‘married uncle’. This was probably the reason why I found myself in the midst of that wholesome discussion that evening.
‘Another beauty is going to vanish now,’ said Sunny, the hero of that gang.
Rahul sighed and said, ‘this place is surely going to be a lot lonely after this marriage.’
I smiled and added, ‘Why don’t you make the entire city your hunting ground buys? Find your own love.’
‘Don’t make fun of us, Arvind bhai. We’re not the sort who will ever find go around singing songs with a female.’
‘Singing songs doesn’t really happen in real life,’ I told them, ‘but songs and music are certainly audible when you meet the right person.’ This somehow was not registered by any of them, until I said, ‘Listen, when the right person comes along, your mind goes ting-tong.’
‘But we get this ting-tong all the time,’ they chorused together, now obviously excited by what I was telling them.
‘Well,’ I replied, ‘it is always a ting-tong in your mind and a ting-ting in her mind happening at the same time that…’
‘An affair starts. Right?’
‘Right,’ I said and went to the bride and groom waiting to be clicked.
I recalled this incident because it was the nearest I could get to realising how difficult it was for people to understand what love really was. And no, the ting-tongs don’t always have to happen at the same time for two people. So, without waiting for my wife to punch in her question, I wrote another one:
‘Isn’t love one of the least understood of all emotions?’
She looked at me and then my second question that I had written in a row, tilted her head to one side, thought for a while and wrote: ‘Isn’t understanding love more important than discussing love marriage versus arranged marriage?’
Sometime, the questions had a tendency to come to us faster than we can imagine and my next question just rammed into me and I wrote: ‘Why must love and marriage be clubbed together always? Why must marriage be always thought to be a coming together of two heterogeneous humans?’
‘Why must you push your questions so fast and go in all the directions like a volley of hurried glances of a road-side Romeo?’ My wife did have a penchant for coming out with all the break questions… that is, those that don’t really appear directly relevant to the topic but actually are intrinsically connected if you seriously think about them.
So I thought for a while and put in my next question, ‘Why can’t love and marriage be voluntary and arranged as the love of a poet is both for poetry that is free verse as well as poetry that follows studied patterns?’
‘Why can’t love marriages and arranged marriages forget that they aim for the same destination?’ And as she wrote her question I noticed an invitation replace the questions in her eyes… and I stretched my hands to switch off the lights.
30 August 2012