The pale crescent moon hung on the ash laden sky, even the usually tranquil night was brimming with the prospect of idiosyncratic souls sparking a genesis. All great stories of acquaintances usually begin with boy meets girl but this one is about two women meeting and their journey, trust me this one is way off the charts.
The black leather seats on The Beast were heated and sunk right into the road; it embraced the highway and glided with the speed of wind. She drove that vintage Mercedes fiercely like she was a part of the mechanics. The chilly wind outside rushed to touch us but broke down on the clear glass windows, misting my view of the outside, not that there was much to see on that small dark highway. The incoming traffic from the other side flashed a light on the massive diamond on her petite finger and refracted the light in my eye. It was beautiful and went well with her completely black attire for the day, matching the time outside.
We pulled into the parking, cracked a couple of gravels against the vintage tires and stopped only centimeters away from the small wooden board announcing the name of the place, ‘Lenny’s’ as they fondly referred to it. As I stepped out in the sharp December air of New Haven, I could feel the blood draining out of my face, it was cold! We stood in front of a massive double door and asked for a place to sit. The rather unamused hostess showed us into our cozy wooden booth. I slid inside waiting for the conversation to begin. The car ride had been oddly quite.
The waiter interrupted and asked for our order. Carole smiled at me and asked me if I have a preference, I indicated none. So she ordered two bowls of Clam Chowder and some crab cakes. On went our conversation. Carole asked me where I got the bravado to fly solo across the pond to be there, she was partly amused with me. I was 24 and talkative, it was a long night of knowing each other. Me twenty four and she some six decades older to me, it was one of those one in a million strangers from two different continents meeting stories. It was extraordinary.
I can describe Carole in two words- Vintage Jazz. Yes, I can picture her and still don’t have words, which is extremely rare. Some people have a very harmonious but impactful existence, she has that gift, those symphonies just working together like a Nat King Cole song. The way of life for older generation in India is majorly only passing time after their retirement, she was a refreshing change. Carole was living the life back then and even today.
She plays golf and wins championships, attends lectures in Yale University, extensively carries out philanthropy in the third world countries and the USA, goes dancing in galas, drives like the speed of wind, a concerned patriotic person in these times and above all she is a mother of three amazing daughters. I learned a lot about how to live life, every step of the way. She was always so down to earth and loved me dearly that it left a lasting impression on my mind. The kind of affection I was unused to and I felt eased in even in that very new house and environment.
In Branford, Connecticut, I walked into the most beautiful home I had ever seen. The house was right on the water and you know how obsessed I am with beaches, it was heavenly. Carole showed the way to my room with a little balcony which embraced the ocean outside. My stay with her was of four days and some of the most peaceful ones. We sat down on the kitchen counter with coffee or wine depending upon the time of the day to talk about the changing culture, intentions, religion and politics in the world, it opened the door wide open for my brain to learn and be sensitive to so many alien elements, it made me a little astute to other sensibilities.
I would deem a visit to Connecticut fruitless without n number of trips to New York to see the wonder that the city is, really. So one fine morning, we dressed up (Carole in her usual black) and off we went to New York to see a broadway play, she was an avid investor in broadway shows and wanted me to experience the enchantment and power of those shows. The Phantom of the Opera was in its usual Majestic Theater on the W 44th street in New York. It blew my little mind; the quality of production, the song, the actors and the sets, I loved every bit of it and it was a big tick on things to do before dying!
I was introduced to her grand daughter Grace who is my age and such a wonderful soul. We spent the New Years’ at the Quinnipiack Club for a tranquil dinner and an elaborate breakfast at another seaside club in Connecticut where I brought together all the people I had come to visit. Alan, Mary, Carole, James and Jenny, all of them under one roof, I can never forget that day, it was a spectacle!
I left her house with an oddly unsettling feeling. When the distance is as huge as New Delhi and Connecticut, you don’t know when you will see the person again or if you will ever see them again, quick secret, I did.
Through the years, the love and fondness between us grew. We wrote to each other and talked over video and phone. When I decided to get married, I knew I wanted her to come but it seemed like a daunting task and a distance too big to travel for her. I had made a friend in Grace and she decided to represent her grandmother at my wedding. Boy, was it fun, I can’t speak on her behalf but we did try to make her do every Indian tradition possible including performing on stage to a Bollywood number. So much joy and love.
After missing each other even after being in the same country repeatedly, we finally met again last year when I decided to make, my now grandmother, Carole meet my husband at her summer house. The car ride from Orlando to John’s Island in Florida is beautiful and we enjoyed the scenic route to reach a rather Spanish residence with white walls and wooden windows. The sound of our car announced our arrival and I stepped out to see a beaming grandmother with arms wide open to welcome us. It was so wonderful!
Anuj (my husband) and Carole bonded over the diversity of their backgrounds. His take on things interested and puzzled her. I took a glass of wine and sat in the corner to watch the two of them talk. How I had been planning it for years now! While we gossiped over things lost, a rather enormous puzzle kept Anuj busy throughout the night.
We all have had some or the other kind of profound experiences in life. They were never lived alone unless it was something spiritual. A greater part of all of us are fragments of other people’s lives and their impression on us. A shooting star can only do so much if you don’t ask for the right thing in life and that’s also true for every person you meet. Our mind more often than not isolates us like an island. We feel we are trapped by uncertainty in the form of black ocean on all sides and there is no coming out of it unless there is a metaphorical ship which decides to inhibit us. That ship is the memories and relationships we cultivate. It is not only imperative that we let that ship dock but also let it be a permanent resident.
I was attending a wedding in a small village in Kerala back in 2013 with Alan. It was a day wedding of one of the FFA’s beneficiary’s daughter. The whole atmosphere was thick with excitement and happiness, everyone was scattered around under the glimmering strings of silver making a roof outside in the bright pitiless sun. The family was in tears thanking Alan for the financial help to make that wedding even possible. A deep sense of indebtedness and gratitude flooded their face. All they didn’t understand was that the sponsor was sitting thousands of miles away in her home not knowing the magnitude of impact she had on their lives. This was one of the countless examples of how one by one Carole helped and changed lives in my home country without an ounce of selfish rationale.
As I sit and write this, I ponder over the decisions I took in life. The outlook for each decision as simple as the last, to invest in ‘living’ life than owning ‘things’ to leave behind a priceless legacy. My relationship with a woman who lives half her time in Branford and the other in Florida is inexplicable and yet it exists. It not only exists, it thrives on love and respect.
At this point, you must be wondering how I really know Ms.Brown! My meeting her was in the stars hence it was partly written by the astrologer in my life, Alan. I can not thank him enough for this like so many other things. I lost my grandmother when my dad was a young kid, so its safe to say I never really got to know the unconditional love of a grandmother. Carole filled that void by telling me one day that she is like my grandmother and there I had it, the most beautiful relationship that I had missed out all my life.
Today, when I find something randomly just lying on the floor in my house, it reminds me how she puts her phone and cigarettes literally anywhere on the floor or the stairs so that she doesn’t have to ‘remember’ but only ‘stumble’ upon them. Its crazy if you think about it but it makes complete sense in our lives.
And it all started with a hot bowl of Clam Chowder on a frosty December night……..
Aur Ravaana Ho gaye
Zindagi kya hai,
Safar ki bat hai