“So, which one do you think is better?” Aunt Martha asked.
“I don’t know. Both are extremely tasty.” I replied, trying to stop eating the two different types of cookies my aunt had baked.
“Come on!” she huffed “Just choose one. I have to send the orders out tomorrow and I am already running late.”
“Alright, go with the blueberry batch. They are crunchier and quite different from your usuals.” I pushed away the plates.
Decision taken, Aunt Martha picked up the bowl and got back to work. After Uncle Sam’s death, she had busied herself in various activities out of which baking suited her the most. Her small orders to local cafes and stores of Dehra Dun made quite a name until three months back when Mr Swayam Mehta, owner of the famous Café Soul chain came across her cookies in a friend’s house warming party. He right away offered her the contract for five of his major units across North India. Since then, she has been busy on a totally different level.
“Hey? Where did you go?” she snapped her fingers as I realized she’d been asking me to handover something.
“Sorry, what?” I glanced around and gave her the sugar bowl she had been pointing at.
“What’s wrong? You seem a little bummed out today. Are you having cold feet already?” she chuckled, referring to the match-making process my grandmother had started.
“Oh no! Don’t even get me started on that. I don’t understand why these people can’t leave me alone. I mean, I am just 28 and I have a great job which pays me amazingly well. I live by myself and have a whole crazy group of friends. We party, hang out, take trips and most important I am happy this way. I don’t want to get married.” I slumped down and pulled the plate of cookies back.
Closing the oven, Aunt Martha pulled off her oven mitts and asked, “You don’t want to get married now or ever?”
“Ever!” I replied casually munching on the blueberry bliss.
“And why not if I may ask?”
“You know why.” I knew which point she was getting at. This conversation never really went well, “It’s loud and clear.”
“No it’s not! Nothing is clear about you. One moment you are happy and the next you are lost. You seem to be dancing and smiling and yet it seems like you have no idea why you are doing it.” She patted my head gently. “Look, I have tried talking to you about this for over hundred times now. I know you don’t like it, but running away is not going to help you either. You can’t do this to yourself.”
“Really?” I looked up at her. “Then what am I supposed to do? Think the way my parents thought? Get married without liking the other person the way my parents did? Stay with the person I don’t love the way my parents did? Have babies while not being ready the way my parents did? Not be around the kids like my parents did? Raise the kids to witness a scattered marriage like my parents did? Destroy their belief in love and relationships the way my parents did? Is that what you want me to do?” I blinked furiously to push back the tears that now threatened to drop.
Aunt Martha hugged me tightly and whispered, “I am sorry honey. You know I didn’t mean that.”
“I know,” I sniffed.
She sat down next to me and grabbed one cookie for herself. “Sweetie, do you remember what I told you about baking?”
Glad by the change of topic, I nodded, “Yes! That cakes and cookies are the littlest joys of life. And that you should never compromise on them worrying about the calories that you might gain. Instead, you should enjoy it as much as possible and be ready to work hard to burn it off.”
She smiled, “Yes! And this analogy does apply to the concept of a relationship too.”
I frowned. Well, the topic hadn’t changed after all.
“I understand.” She continued “I know it’s not been easy on you. But don’t you think you are being unfair by judging life just based on one incident? I am not saying you are wrong. You are afraid – to trust, to love and to risk your heart.”
“Yeah right” I snorted. My repulsion towards any sort of relationship and love was not a disguise. Staring at my parents’ broken marriage since childhood was bound to have some effect. The fights, arguments, screams, indifference, ignorance and hatred had left such a bitter taste which no amount of cakes or cookies could make go away. “It’s not just one incident. It is the truth of my life. And there’s not one reason for me to believe otherwise.”
“There is. Look at me and your Uncle Sam. We lived a marriage full of love for 35 years. I am not saying that we didn’t have our rough days, but we knew that us being together was more important than those ego differences.”
“Yeah and now he’s gone.” My eyes welled up again.
“Yes. But you know what? I am not sorry that it ended. Rather I am happy that it happened. Those 35 years of memories are enough for me to get through whatever comes next. Because time and people fade away, love doesn’t. For you, I would rather have a different theory. And from where I see, you don’t need a husband or a boyfriend, you need a companion. You don’t need a marriage, you need camaraderie.”
“Okay! Are you going Latin on me now? Because I don’t see any difference in that,” I tried making sense.
She laughed, “What I am trying to say is that not necessary you have to begin with love right away. Friendship also plays a key role in a relationship. No matter what reasons you are giving me to stay alone, they are not going to last forever. Your friends will get married and start building their families. They will have their priorities. Your job will see its retirement someday. The parties and trips won’t go on forever. It’s all going to stop. Eventually! And when time comes, you would want to sit down and just feel it fade away with someone by your side. Someone you can call your own. That’s how I and Sam started. We had our share of every experience life had thrown our way. And even now that he is gone, I don’t feel alone or empty. Because when I sit down and relax, I have those memories to revisit and relive. That’s what you need dear. You need to create that. And just like my theory about baking, don’t compromise on the joy of love. Work hard to make it happen and be ready to burn off the shreds of pain.”
I could only stare. I knew that I couldn’t fool myself for a long time. All the things that she said had been weighing down on me. Deep down, I had always wanted the love that she and Uncle Sam had. But over the years, I had hardwired my brain into thinking that I am not lucky enough to have that. Even now, I so desperately wanted to believe her, but a tiny voice screamed at me to not to.
I felt her hand caressing my forehead, “Tell me what’s going on in that little head of yours.”
“I want to believe you. I really do. There is this small alarm in my brain that’s not letting me do that. It’s just that even now when I look around; I see so many relationships breaking on a daily basis. It seems as if the concept of ‘till death do us apart’ has ceased to exist. And then, what if I lose my independence after getting married? What if I have to give up my dreams and passion? What if it never works out? What if I just end up like my parents?”
“Your answers lie in your questions honey. To get rid of all the ‘What if’s’, you have to try. And you don’t have to give up anyone or anything. You don’t need a guy to complete you; but to walk along with you. A true companion will never mould you according to his desire, but will build a new space that could hold you both as unique individuals.
Trust me, when the right one comes along, you won’t need me to give you any advice. You will have it when the time is right, not a minute too early or a second too late.”
I hugged her tightly. “You want me to make us some tea while you chew on those thoughts?” she asked.
I nodded. There was so much to think and I guess I did need to create a new perspective. It was difficult and I know it won’t happen right away, but I guess it was worth a shot.
“And…” she smiled at me warmly “remember – if you chase your rainbow for long enough, you might end up finding your own paradise.”
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