Holding hands

‘A stone is hard but soft to crush.
‘Wax is soft but hard to crush.
‘A diamond requires another diamond to crush.
‘…… Everybody has a different CRUSH.’

I shared it with my Partner, who poked me about my crush.
My Partner was a lady friend of mine. I call her Partner; although she had told me that her name was Vijayalakshmi G. Balkrishnamurthi… I better thought to call her…’PARTNER’… easygoing and rather crispy to call.
Frank and bold, very clear about her views, she pierced me through on that day, as always… and I got an ignition to explore… on really who my crush is or was.
I was neither a stone, nor a diamond and nor wax. Then what and where was I…? Couldn’t figure out…

After a silent moment, I bounced back asking her who her crush was. But, that bit of silence, had prepared her for my question perhaps.

‘Oh, well… I thought of one… really, I always dreamt of one, which unfortunately couldn’t happen’. Partner answered quite clinically. She mustn’t be diplomatic, I sensed. What she said further was more convincing. She continued, ‘if you be frank, they take you for granted and start flirting. You know, I’m too clear about it. Flirting is no love and love no flirting. It’s as simple as that.’

Partner was an impressive orator. Her words would befit the meaning she wanted to convey in an exact size, as clothes befit a person. After all, she was a costume designer by profession….

Partner and I met first time at a cultural program in City Theatre. She was there as a costume designer of her drama team and I had been there with my team to perform the play I had directed. Despite being competitors, she helped my team too. I appreciated and thanked her. Her response was ‘thanks for thanks, but no appreciation for mere appreciation. I would appreciate, if you make me your partner as a costume designer, since you need one, I mean a good one… I think.’

Quite outright, her approach appealed to me and in just a few days she became my Partner.

We started working together on a project. It was a fairy tale to be staged targeting vacation audience. We were short of time, since it was almost Feb. end. The vacations were to begin around March end. Partner’s role was crucial, as it was a fairy tale demanding lots of detailing in costumes. She did it all with a dexterous hand. The play was a big success. When interviewed on a TV channel regarding the innovative variations in her costumes, Partner stated, ‘See, you require different strokes for different folks. One size fits all is a superstition.’ We all were awe-stricken to hear it. Overwhelmingly I exclaimed, ‘O wow, your words too come out like a tailor made job… cutting edge but no loose threads.’

‘Thanks! My work is my worship. To emerge from something, first you have to immerse into the same thing.’ Partner’s reply was so instant like a scissor smoothly gliding through a fabric with lightning speed and cutting out an exact size, so unknowingly.

My Partner proved to be a lucky charm for me. Soon after the big hit of our fairy tale, we got an offer from Kidzwee TV channel. My joys knew no bounds. In a feat of excitement, I informed all my team members and we rushed to the office of Kidzwee channel. All joined … except Partner. ‘Why oh why… she was so punctual otherwise…’ I called her but she apologized. ‘Well, I’m not going to join you this time.’ I sensed something wrong. After signing an agreement with Kidzwee, I met her in the evening. Before I could open my mouth, she congratulated me, gave me best wishes and strongly rejected my offer, even before it was placed. I was baffled. Failed to understand…

‘See, I’m your partner, as you call me. You cannot take me for granted. I can be your friend forever but elsewhere not here.’

‘Did I mistake anything?’

‘No, not really… However, I’ve my own reservations taking the project manager at Kidzwee. A couple of years back he tried to molest me. Of course, he got a well deserving and a big resounding slap for that, but that is a different story. I have decided never to work with him… and that is for sure. You please go ahead, as you have already signed an agreement. I don’t want to be a stumbling block in your way.’

In a go, as always, she made it clear and my Partner left my team.

Though professional, I still found it difficult to accept her absence. Then, with a new costume designer, we continued working. The days passed by. We got name, fame and lucrative returns too. Meanwhile, the other day, the same project manager revealed his side of the story. According to him, Partner was too rigid to work with. She would have lots of terms and conditions. They had a clash at a fashion show. He expected her to design the clothes deeply exposing bust. But, at once, she turned down his proposal saying she better knew what to hide and what to expose. The project manager, however, didn’t tell that he had asked her to strip in a private trial room. I learnt what he tried to hide. A trusted spot boy working there shared it with me.

Partner discontinued working with Kidzwee for that reason, but I couldn’t. There are many stories behind the curtain and you have to fight for survival … ignoring them… Was I so mean to ignore…? I questioned myself and the question kept pinching me. However, pressed for time and deadlines hovering overhead, I had to focus on my work, difficult though…

Soon our TV serial ‘The Princess on the Magical Island’ caught momentum. Appreciations and accolades flocked in. Amidst them I was looking for Partner’s feedback… But… none came… Despite being busy with our shoots and all, at the lunch time and at the breaks and between two shots, whenever I had breathing space… frequently, she would pop up there… in a spur of moment… I felt… but whatever you feel is… not necessarily the reality around you.

Was I involved in her? Was she my crush? The answer, I thought, was ‘no’.

Perplexed was I… If she wasn’t my crush, then what was it that kept me tossing and paining? Perhaps, it was my own sense of justice mixed with a bit of guilty conscience or my professionalism clashing with humane values… Yes! I thought, I was much closer now to a convincing cause. My restlessness was due to the molestation that came her way and the support that I failed to extend, while following my professional commitment. So, it was no emotional involvement, but an absolutely normal human response of a sensitive individual to a sensible one. When I claim myself to be sensitive and her to be sensible, I don’t mean that I lacked sensibility or she lacked sensitivity. We had both the strengths positioned in opposite directions perhaps. In my case, sensitivity was in the driving seat and sensibility on the back seat. In her case, it was opposite…
I tried to analyze and soothe my restlessness. And yet, couldn’t get rid of the riddle that continued occupying the backspace of my mind… So I decided to meet her again and accordingly we met in a coffee shop.
‘So, anything special?’ she started.
‘No, nothing special… But… do we need anything special to meet and talk?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I think, though not you. I need a reason to meet and greet. Especially, after my divorce, I have decided to be strictly professional.’

Her divorce was new information for me. After a bit of silent transmission between us, I breached, ‘is it due to your divorce that you have become a little curt?’ I asked looking straight into her eyes.
‘Yes of course I’m curt, but out and out… not just a little, as you say and I know you won’t get hurt, if I be so. I appreciate that you don’t have that cheap male ego. So, you can take my twits in the right spirit.’
I remained silent because I wanted to hear her further… There was something suppressed beneath the surface. But she was controlled enough not to let it burst out. Certainly, ‘a burst out’ is hardly healthy in such a case. I was wondering, if I could open up a congenial outlet to release her suppression gently. However, being a good judge of human character she sensed my inner feelings and released all that…
‘You know, neither you want to peep into my personal life nor I want to expose it. But we are sometimes on the borderline between the personal and the professional parts of our lives, as we are there today. I normally try my best not to let the personal mix up with the professional. But today…, I hope, you’d take it sensibly …’
She paused for a moment and continued ‘I left my parent’s house to pursue my passion of costume designing. Also, got married without their permission with Kunal Mishra, the famous costume designer and my first ‘crush’… that’s what I supposed… But in a couple of years, we divorced. He tried to restrict my professional space. His CHEAP MALE EGO would get hurt, when I would sign any new contracts without his permission. Well, it’s a long story… I divorced him but not my profession. I cannot make any compromises with my personal freedom… and my passion… costumes. But, when the things are mixed up, however mature and balanced you may be, you have to choose either of them… And I chose costumes… sacrificing the family of my parents and my husband… That’s all!’
I was speechless…
I was lost…
I was lost in some kind of spell…
I never had experienced a spell of that kind in my life…
I wanted not to leave her alone… desperately… not to leave her alone…
After a while, gathering all my courage, I looked up, expecting to see her stressed face… but… but, I was taken aback. She was looking straight into my eyes screening me with a usual charming and cheerful smile on her face. She was back in the ‘Partner mode’, looking perfectly normal. And, on the other hand, I was rather struggling to retain my own normalcy. I really found it difficult to overcome the complex I was lost in.
‘Forget it. Life is all about patches and stitches and not only about the cuts and crushes.’ She only consoled me, when, in fact, I was supposed to do that.
‘See, I like it when you call me ‘Partner’ … quite a neutral and professional identity. The very identity ‘Partner’ keeps one aware of his or her ‘part’ to play… yes, the part to play and also to part away… at the right time…’
I kept hearing her like a dumb man… Then pausing a little, she gasped and asked me a little tenderly…
‘Well, do you have any ‘crush’? Her voice was unusually soft… Judging me further, she cleared, ‘I know, it is something personal, but we have been on the borderlines today… you would agree, I suppose.’
… Silence on both the sides… Her question came unexpectedly. Obviously, I was not prepared for it. I was still preoccupied and engrossed in what she shared a while ago… I really was not sure to talk anything about myself on that day. She was asking me about my crush and I apologized,

‘Well, sorry… But can I talk about it later? Will it do?’ said I.

She just PAUSED… SMILED… and LEFT it… saying ‘IT’S OK’…

Things teach you a lot sometimes in your life. I thanked her and left the coffee shop with an unanswered question in my mind… ‘Who was my crush?’ How could I answer her, when I myself was truly unaware and unsure of my own crush? But there was one thing… surely; Partner impressed me a lot on that day. It is the clarity of one’s own stand that makes him or her… such an impressive being.
I thought and thought of answering her question but not being firm on anything….I couldn’t. Ah! … But time doesn’t wait long for one’s answers.
After a couple of weeks, I received Partner’s letter sent in an envelope. Apparently it was a feedback on my TV serial, but besides appreciating the serial, she had mentioned at the end of the letter that SHE WAS LEAVING THE CITY…

It was a big blow… quite unexpected… I tried to get back to her, but … in vain! Her phone was consistently out of range and even the sender’s address was not mentioned in the letter… I visited the hostel, where she lived, but no way… She had left the hostel a week before…

Partner’s whereabouts remained unknown to me thereafter…

Life doesn’t allow one to linger back long… I tried to focus back on my commitments, but couldn’t concentrate well. So, I tried to follow Partner’s view… not to mix up the personal and the professional things. Yet I felt left out… shared it with some of my friends… They felt for me. Again I questioned myself… Was she my crush? Was I emotionally involved? And again I felt… I was NOT… this time more certainly…
Not in love…, rather, I was worried taking her well-being… One need not be in love with anyone to feel for her or his well-being, I suppose. And that was a reasonably convincing thought, I felt.
But still, how could I ignore, when a good human being like her kept suffering…? I just couldn’t… That wasn’t my way… just to leave her to her own fate.
And at that very moment, there popped up in my mind… her cheerful smiling face… proclaiming her confidence and fighting spirit… the lady, one must be proud of, for being so confident… and I got revelation… felt enlightened… the same time I took pity on my poor reading of hers too… Why was I so sure that she was SUFFERING? Wasn’t she able to handle her own matters? Wouldn’t it be unjust to doubt her abilities and thus to dishonor her very being…?
With this…I gave out a sigh… and felt relieved…

Of course…, Partner just couldn’t pass in oblivion. However, I decided to remember her as my inspiration.

My journey continued thereafter on a different road … I understood that our meeting at the coffee shop was a meeting at the crossroads…

People meet and people part. Not necessary that they remain together lifelong… in a man and wife relationship… in a live in relationship… in a friendship… or in some other relationship… What matters is how long they create space of their own in each other’s lives… the space that becomes PART and PARTNER of their lives…

… After ten years…, I heard about a new brand of costumes that had become popular in the South… ‘PARTNER WARES’…

I PAUSED… SMILED… and felt just PROUD of… my PARTNER…





Other blogs by Dr Umesh Jagadale-


Fast Food, the Last Food


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