One of the manyWhy did we stick with them? Why did we wait for the end to come? One of us felt we had no choice. Maybe we hoped things would change.
In the years we’d known them, we had never seen them exchange a single kind word. They were like two strangers, together for a reason unbeknown, as if destiny had played a cruel joke on them and they were tethered together, with no respite at sight. It would get uncomfortable seeing them. If there were more subscribers of this strange association, we would have started a tabloid and tattled like old wives. It used to get unbearable at times, to see the mere sight of them. Together, they functioned like an old radio going off frequency. Only an occasional smack could remind them of who they were and for a brief moment, the melody would air as it should. But it took no time for them to go off the rails.
Separate, though, things were different.
She was a well-thought-out, organised machine. Every other week, a new project knocked on her doorsteps with such an emergency that it would put the White House to shame. She went through her to-do list as if there was nothing else she wanted to finish more. Tomorrows were excuses for yesterdays. She was designed in a way that she would plan out the execution before readily accepting the orders and requests. She made others of her kind look like those pale knock-offs.
In a way, this was a curse. She was to work alone, for her existence reminded them of what they lacked and what they never could be. And really, who wanted that? It seldom bothered her, for when things went south, her first reaction was to solve it. She didn’t complain. She never had to. All she wanted to do was move ahead in life and fulfil her destiny. She would, she believed, and the things written in the stars would come to be. So, she existed in isolated perfection. As did he.
Technically, we can’t say that he was that different from her. He was a fixer. At his workplace, he wanted the rules followed. When it wasn’t, he made the rules. At his abode, he nudged and put his silver tongue at play. Maybe he wasn’t a charmer in the traditional sense, but he appealed to the senses, whoever had it. Rules were his religion; his workplace, the temple, much to everyone’s, especially her, chagrin.
There wasn’t a problem they couldn’t solve together because people weren’t foolish enough to go to them with a problem. We never saw them sit down and talk about a situation in a civil way. There weren’t any fistfights, either. Only silence. And that somehow made it worse. We worried about our fate which they carried in their closed hands that never knew compromise nor compassion.
They stood at opposite ends of a subject, both painfully aware that one would have to bend the knee for them to move ahead. At those times, the palpable tension used to choke us, too. Unfortunately for us, there was no escape. We were to witness the outcome, whatever it may be, and bear the consequences, together as a team.
It occurred to me a few times that maybe it was time to leave. When people become bigger than the problems they have to solve, everyone is doomed. Being young, I knew that if I did go, options would be limited. Little experience and walking out on people who would have written a great reference for me meant relapse, one that would throw me off. At least here, I had a roof, even if it leaked.
Why did we stick with them? Why did we wait for the end to come? One of us felt we had no choice. Maybe we hoped things would change. But the real reason was that they had brought us in when we were nothing. They were the reason why we were what we were. Strangers helping strangers. The purity of their faith when we were nonentities, the way they mould us into capable humans made us feel like we had to have faith in them and this institution.
Who knew at the end, faith would be the currency that could be bankable?
When I had almost come to the decision to leave, however, things started to change. In little ways that one could barely notice. We caught them having tea one morning. Just sitting with their trademark silence, the benign sun spilling on their sombre faces. Another time, they shared a desk as they stared at the screen. One thought they were sharing earphones, too, and we hurried to witness the unbelievable historic event. But the hullabaloo shook them out of the trance and we had to run to our spots for cover.
The cold war didn’t quite stop, but the addition of such moments slowly reinstated our belief in them. And for years after, we have come to know of their companionship so much better. They managed to keep the boat floating in the worst storm known. Even if in silence, they had stood by together and had held the fort.
Their bond is not the kind that is proudly displayed in motion pictures and written about in songs. Nor the type that’s flashy and reveals itself in the gifts showered on special days. Maybe having an arranged marriage fixed by your supposed well-wishers is a challenge to start off a life-long relationship, even though it was the norm then. But what do I know of love? Especially of those that are as difficult to identify as a needle in a haystack? Yet to be written. But I now know a little.
I’d say it was better for it to have snuck upon us. This makes one think twice, and so many times about what love really means. Roses are only one of the four million species of flowers found. Maybe we do have to look harder for what we want. Or maybe wait for what we want to spring on us. But without good teamwork, however, not all the luck in the world is going to make it.