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Years ago, I met a sailor who I believed was ‘The One’ for me. Unfortunately, he wanted to date casually and I wanted something serious…
When it comes to love or relationships with the opposite sex I have the feeling that my stars are invariably crossed. Don’t get me wrong, I am not promiscuous but rather a One Man Woman. (Though there is nothing wrong in being either, I just believe I am the latter.)
Ironically my quest for my kind of guy always ended in a fiasco. More than two decades ago I had gone down to Mumbai for some in-house training at the headquarters of the media house I was working with, in Delhi. Around the same time, my parents were on a match-making spree.
Since I would be there for a while they managed to pack in a few contacts leads from Mumbai. I was to look them up. In case, anyone clicked they would step-in. I agreed as it appeared to be a comfortable arrangement.
That’s how I met a merchant navy officer – I shall call him Joey – who was pursuing a course at the local nautical college. On the appointed evening, he came to pick me from the working girls’ hostel where I stayed.
We dined at an upmarket restaurant nearby. During dinner, our conversation flowed smoothly. Owing to his profession and extensive travels he stood apart from most guys I knew either socially or at work. There was the air of a fearless adventurer about him which was to my liking.
He was extremely well-read as was evident from his conversation and command over English. We went on a few more dates, lunching, or going to the cinema. And we got along fairly well.
He hailed from a Tamil-Burmese-Christian family based in Kolkata and his father was a retired defence personnel. Theirs was a liberal family like mine, and two of his siblings had married into other faiths. There appeared to be no hitches, so I was anxious in my heart of hearts, to hear him pop The Question.
I was in for a surprise when one weekend he gave me the answer. His words still ring in my ears. Joey said, “Look you have all the qualities a man would look for in a wife. But at the moment, I can’t make up my mind. I need some time. And I don’t know how long that will be, so it’s no use to keep you waiting.”
I was silent. Sensing that I was a tad disappointed, Joey suggested we could be friends and still see each other during our sojourn in town. I would return home once the training was over and he would head back to the ship after writing his exams. Let me confess it was the loneliness that led me to say yes.
We met after work or on weekends and visited bookshops, art galleries, stores or took long walks around town. Often, we hung-out near the seaside. His passion for the sea appeared on his face. He was a master storyteller narrating his myriad experiences and escapades at sea. I would gaze in wonder like a child, his tales left me bemused.
With his stories, I heard of people lifestyles and cultures in faraway lands some of which were beyond the tourist circuit. Visiting these in an entire lifetime was unlikely. It was a storybook coming alive before my eyes!
As is natural between young unattached adults we developed a certain degree of intimacy. However as my feet were planted on the terra firma, I never allowed him to overstep the limits in the physical sense. Although there were temptations and opportunities I never succumbed since I knew there was no future for us.
Once during an emotional moment, I had foolishly blurted out a few lines of Byron, “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘tis a woman’s whole existence.” I had indeed grown fond of him.
Yet again Joey’s answer stumped me. He said he liked me but was not in love with me or anything like that. For the simple reason that most sailors (aka shippies) mingle with dozens of women during their journeys. That was part of their lifestyle.
He felt I deserved somebody better who would provide me with a sheltered existence. At this point, I felt thankful towards him for not abusing or exploiting me till then.
Finally, my training ended; it was time to go our separate ways. Joey came to see me off at the railway station. We bade each other a cordial goodbye. As the train chugged out of the platform I caught a final glimpse of his smiling face and receding form and in a few seconds, he was gone from my life.
Today after years, safely ensconced in a fairly stable conjugal life, I still (occasionally) yearn for an exciting, eventful life which could’ve been mine had I married Joey. I never saw him again after that, and the only memories that remain with me are a few comics and novels gifted by him.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Meri Pyaari Bindu
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