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Pale leaves of autumn -The Asian Age


The last time I met her, a slight but insistent drizzle kept London in its grip. She met me at the tube station, warning me to desist from doing anything romantic until later. The wickedness in me could hardly wait, for once we were in her car, I went searching for her lips and she mine.

The inevitable happened. And then we drove off, to spend nearly a whole day outside London. We had coffee in a small roadside café; we went seeing plants in a greenhouse, she holding on to me all the while. The wind played in her hair as I gathered her in a long embrace. The sun was setting as we drove back to the city. There was a musk rose smell in her as we kissed goodbye.

Neither of us knew that that was to be our last meeting. Now that many moons have shone and paled and innumerable clouds have floated through the seasons, I sit on the banks of life's river and remember the woman who once let me in on the idea of true romance.

It was on a bright spring day that she traipsed into my office to share ideas about publishing poetry. She was vibrant. In terms of physical appearance, she was unlike most Bengali women, being on the slightly large-ish side.

But there was little mistaking the sensuality in her. Something clicked and we exchanged phone numbers. A few days later, she called. A couple of days after that call, I turned up at her place for breakfast. The morning was spent in poetry. She held my hand. And then a lot more of wonderful things happened.

It was one of those times when the country happened to be battling a dictator and his cohorts. Two days before the fall of the dictatorship, she called and asked if I could come over. I went to her in the evening and spent a whole night reciting poetry to her, interspersing the narration of the verses with doses of humor. She laughed uproariously. And then, suddenly, she fell quiet.

Something of a wave I saw in her eyes, that spark of love in a woman who knows someone has made her happy. As we turned from reciting poetry to creating it, she called me her tiger. As she lay in my arms, I asked her why she did not get into writing. You really think I should? She asked. Your conversation is a temptation to things aesthetic, I told her.

And, yes, over the next many years she wrote --- poetry, short stories, travelogues and essays. Many were the times when her book launches took place in Dhaka, she having travelled all the way from London, occasions I could not be present on because of professional preoccupations. But she sent me copies of her books all the same.

Her visits to Bangladesh were frequent but our meetings were few. After those three years in Dhaka when we discovered and rediscovered each other, she had gone back to Britain, where her literary exuberance swiftly began to express itself in the printed word.

On a trip to the airport in Dhaka to say goodbye to a sibling, I glimpsed this songbird in my life as she stepped out of a car, on her way back home again. She was in shirt and slacks, looked ravishingly beautiful. I kept looking at her rather than going up to her and saying hello.

Some years later, on a cold March morning, we met in London in the warmth one expects lost, long separated lovers to demonstrate as they rush into each other's arms. She blinked constantly, mischievously, quite unable to believe I was in her city and would be for sometime.

We glided into each other's arms. That old musk rose smell filled the room as we told each other we did not have to let go. After that day, we met over coffee all across London; we spoke on the phone; we exchanged thoughts on new arrivals in the bookshops. She sent me a copy of Eugene McCarthy's poetry.

And we walked through the parks. I spoke, spoke a lot and she threw back her head and laughed till she thought her sides would burst. Tiger, she implored, don't make me laugh any more. I took her in my arms, to prevent her falling, and told her she had a curvaceous waist. She went passionate, for a full five minutes. Around us, the autumn winds scattered the pale leaves.

Some years before she died, she let me know by e-mail that she was not keeping well. And yet she kept telling me to take care of myself, not giving me a clue into how ill she was. I cheered her up slightly when I asked her about the day she had turned up at my place, lovelorn and beautiful in a white sari, to spend the morning engaging in epic romance. She did remember. How can I forget, tiger?

She wrote back. Now it was her turn to ask me: do you remember, tiger, the first poem I wrote, my first verses of love for you, my passion rising for you? I did remember.

We belong to each other, she had told me on that last meeting as we sat sipping coffee from the same mug, sitting on a cold bench outside London. As the Baishakhi storms now rage through the streets and alleys and village paths and over her quiet grave in the shade of the bamboo grove, I tell her, in a whisper: yes, my beautiful woman, we belong. Beyond time and space.


The writer is Editor- in- Charge,
The Asian Age