I am going to celebrate Valentine's Day with golden memories, like these!
It all started when I was eighteen, at a dinner hosted by my parents. Mrs Joel had called up to ask if she could bring her brother David along. He had arrived that afternoon to join a new job in our city. My parents said he was welcome.
As the party progressed, the youngsters present began to sing and dance. David joined in. He asked if he could do a solo number and we cheered him on. Soon we were rolling with laughter as he sang the most hilarious parody I had ever heard. That was definitely the first time I 'noticed' him. I never met him again for months, till the big Convention. Mr Joel, who was incharge of the choir was conducting auditions. I didn't think I'd make it but I did get into the sopranos. David was singing bass. Singing practice had never been so enjoyable before.
Then the week-long Convention was over. I got busy with college and David with his job and teaching guitar at weekends. It was some time before I ran into him again.
The Youth Fellowship had to conduct the Sunday service and desperately needed someone to sing bass in the choir. One day to go, no luck. We resigned ourselves to what we had.
Each one of us was assigned some work in preparation for the Sunday Youth Service. I had to see to the flower arrangements on the Altar. The fresh blooms arrived in the evening and by the time I carried the big bunches of flowers into the church, it was already getting dark outside. I'd never been in the church at this hour and looking down at the rows of empty pews, from where I stood on the altar steps, gave me an eerie feeling which I should not have felt considering I was in a church! So I gave myself a mental kick and set to work.
Did I imagine it or was that a guitar I heard ? I turned around slowly. The pews were unoccupied. I looked further, at the Choir Stand - no one. Ghosts ! I thought and then shook myself. Can't be. This was a new building. That was a reassuring argument!! It took all the courage I could muster up, to walk down the aisle and cautiously peer into the Choir Stand. There on a bench, doubled over his guitar was David.
" It's you," I exclaimed more with relief than surprise. " What are you doing here?" I continued. He stopped strumming and raised his head and looked straight at me, he was so handsome and the way he looked at me just took my breath away.
" Playing for you," was the simple reply which got me flustered and at a loss for words.
" Oh," I blurted and turned and walked away, so that he couldn't see the puce colour that was spreading all over my face. What's he doing here was all I could think. He doesn't ever come to church. I walked back and continued with the flowers. He continued to play, and the melody seemed to seek me out as it reverberated off the walls and filled the void. So I was startled when I heard him speak just behind me.
"I see you've almost finished. Can I help you with the bucket?" he said and without waiting for a reply picked up the bucket with the left-over flowers, and walked out. I walked behind in a trance.
That Sunday the Youth Fellowship choir outdid itself with the new bass singer.
It was back to study and exams. I didn't see David for three months. With the exams finished, the Summer holidays loomed over my head in a rather dreary way.
" Would you like to play the guitar ?" asked Daddy.
" Of course, if I could that is," I laughed.
The next day my mother announced that my guitar lessons would be starting on Saturday. I gaped at her.
" Well isn't that what you wanted ? You better be punctual for practice. Mr Joel is very particular," she said.
On Saturday, as I was getting ready to leave for guitar classes, the doorbell rang. David stood there with a guitar case.
" My brother-in-law will not be able to conduct classes for a while, so he has sent me to teach you at home. And here is your new guitar. Can I come in ?"
I realised that we were still at the door. I mumbled an apology and told him to come in.
My heart was beating like a bongo. This Adonis was going to teach me how to play the guitar! It seemed like the entire universe was indeed conspiring to create some magic here.
At some point the guitar lessons took a backseat as our conversations took over. Then it was cycling, walks, movies, sitting in the coffee-shop nursing our coffees that had long turned cold.
A year later David sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song to me on our wedding night.
The years that followed were full of fun, laughter, song and romance that made the ups and downs that much lighter. At every get-together with friends and even at parties David was always asked to sing. He'd pick up the guitar and while he checked the notes and took a while to decide the song he should sing, his eyes would surreptitiously seek me out. This was our little secret and our very special moment. Because wherever David sang, whenever he sang there was always a special song for me. He would catch my eye across a crowded room and silently dedicate his song to me.
And then one day, the angels came.
David joined the heavenly choir above, leaving behind a neverending interlude. How was I to survive in this vacuum, I thought to myself. I needed strength and right then I didn't feel very strong. Neither in mind nor in body. For years he had told me over and over again that I was his strength......now I looked to him to make me strong.
I dredged the past and picked each special moment. Like pearls, one by one I strung them on the thread of melody that had bound us for fifteen years. And as I battled with denial and then depression, I managed to hang on to a sliver of sanity that kept me and my two little boys afloat.
My beautiful string of pearls will always see me through. When despair threatens to drown me, I shall finger each pearl like a rosary.
PS: I still love that old melody he was playing in the church....
Ek ajnabi hasina se, yun mulakaat ho gayi.
Phir kya hua yeh na poochcho, kuch aisi baat ho gayi....
(I happened to meet a beautiful stranger. Don't ask me what happened next, it's hard to explain, it was something like that...)