The summer of 1998

It was a year of intense summer. The scorching heat of the sun, the parched earth and how the summer is making lives insufferable were topics discussed and debated. There were multiple economic issues bothering the nation. Nuclear bomb-test explosions, what’s famously called Pokhran II created a furore the world over. India had finally arrived in the global radar that year. There were criticisms, discussions, and even words of praises from a few quarters. The United States of America and Japan imposed economic sanctions on India. But good or bad, India was not ignored that year.

It was the same year when Shibani fell in love with Anwar. She was returning from her tuition class one summer afternoon when a sudden street fight caught her attention. Along with the usual exchanges of slangs, there was physical assault between the two parties. She was about to turn away with an air of disdain at the entire spectacle, when she saw Anwar for the first time. There was nothing extraordinary about his physical appearance. He was neither very tall, nor very handsome. Medium built with slit eyes, he seemed to be exuding a calm persona. Nothing was heroic about him. He did not belt out amazing punches nor outstanding kicks. He tried his best to normalise the situation and after considerable coaxing could manage that. Shibani was among a few of those who had just stood there as witnesses to a seemingly normal street scene. She left soon after.

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The scene receded into the innermost recesses of her memory soon enough until those slit eyes came back to haunt her one stormy night in her dreams. Her entire morning was spent recalling where she had seen those eyes before and suddenly that scene of the street-fight came to her like a flashback. Before she could react or be surprised at herself, her thoughts were marred by the entry of her elder sister with her daughters. Summer vacation of the children was the time to visit the parental home for most daughters and Shibani’s sister was no exceptions. Her daughters were more than happy to spend time at their mamabari. In the sexist state of the society, even though Shibani and her sister didn’t have a brother, their home will always be called out mamabari to the children of the daughters and not mashibari. Mashi’s real abode is always ideally her husband’s house.

Strangely enough, ever since Shibani had that dream, there was a new lightness in her step. She felt unusually calm and content from within even though she could not find any reason for her happiness. Meanwhile, the summer months were followed by the monsoons. Monsoon was her favourite season. When the dark menacing clouds shrieked out those thunderous lightening sounds, she used to look for the beautiful cold wind that would start blowing soon and take away the heat and the pain from the face of the earth. When the others complained about the dust in such storms, she would wait keenly for the blissful drops upon the parched earth. When everyone else would be bothered about the tribulations of the crazy monsoons ahead, she would look forward to the beautiful smell of the first rain on the dry land.

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And it was this monsoon that made her meet the man of her dreams (well quite literally!) again. That morning it seemed the heavens have turned merciless after looking at the downpour. In fact, Shibani was in two minds if at all she should go to her college that day. But then again for any resident of Bombay, monsoon is a way of life and they usually do not shy away from braving it. And quite like in the films, amidst the heavy showers, when she managed to get into the taxi, at the same time another person in the hope of boarding the cab got in from the other side. That other person was Anwar – the same man with those intense piercing eyes – the man of her dreams.

The much needed paraphernalia of a proper affair were all in place and soon enough the two could not resist each other for long and hence begun a beautiful relationship. It was an affair known to the two but hidden from the entire world.

Progressive though the world becomes by leaps and bounds, Hindu-Muslim matrimony is still a despised upon concept. And the two lovers couldn’t care less. The fact that it was forbidden, added an ethereal charm to it.

Days passed into months and months into years. However, unlike other affairs, no promises of matrimony with each other were exchanged. Soon Anwar got married to a homely girl chosen by his parents. She was conventionally pretty, decent and certainly Muslim. Shibani chose her own husband and tied the knot a year later with one of her former colleagues.

Today, Shibani has a beautiful life. Professionally she is in a commanding position. Her husband is the most caring and charming man around. They have two sons. Anwar has flourished well in his business. His son will soon be joining college.

Are Shibani and Anwar in touch? Well, yes. Are they in love? Well, certainly yes. Were they afraid to get married against the wishes of their parents? Well, absolutely no.

Who decides that marriage is never the ultimate result of love? Well, society thinks it is but is it really so? All of us play multiple roles and for that we probably need varied identities. But can that be an impediment to love? Shibani and Anwar decided to have a few more of those identities and made sure not to diminish their love in any way. Even today, the time the two spend with each other is blissful, pure, unadulterated and hence beautiful. After all, whatever gives happiness to the soul can only be the purest form of affection. Isn’t it?

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