She was speechless. No other word could probably describe her reaction as she looked up into those daunting eyes.
“Majestic! Marvelous! And so huge! I wonder what it would be if he were to come to life…” were the thoughts that chased each other.
This was the effect the monolithic Narasimha had on invariably each person who had ever seen it. And Andal Srinivasan, ‘Andy’ to her friends, was seeing it for the first time.
Andy was at Hampi – an erstwhile metropolis of India which, in its heydays, had given stiff competition to Rome. Today in ruins, it was still grand enough to be declared a World Heritage Site.
None of this mattered to Andy. All she was aware of was the partially destroyed yet regal Narasimha idol in whose presence she was standing awestruck. Nearly 20 feet tall, the lion headed god sat serenely, smiling benignly at his subjects while waiting for his consort to join him.
“Splendid. Isn’t he?”
It was the voice, not the words that made Andy take a deep breath. Honey smooth yet pleasantly gruff with a deep tenor to it. She turned around - slowly. And let out a silent breath.
“Imposing. Handsome… And so huge.” were the words that crept into her mind as she looked at the stranger who had addressed her.
The feeling was one of being captured in a time warp – just her, this stranger and the ruins of Hampi. And the unspoken communication that was taking place between them as they looked into each other’s eyes. No words, no sound. Just silence.
As if drawn by some invisible string, each took a step towards the other.
Another step and Andy would have been able to count the stranger’s eye lashes when suddenly she heard laughter. The silence was shattered as was the invisible hold he seemed to have on her senses.
Andy turned and hurried away, not responding to his whispered ‘Wait!’ Hoping that he would follow her and yet praying that he would not. Her feelings were too new and raw at this point of time for her to analyze what had just happened.
It had seemed back there, at least for those few seconds, as if she had actually met her soul mate.
“Soul Mate. Ha! That is a laugh. I am not so destined.” were Andy’s thoughts as she boarded the train to Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, that night. Distressed that she had not been able to get the stranger (who seemed vaguely familiar) out of her mind, Andy was glad that her co-passengers in the Coupe allotted to her was currently missing – she was in no mood for idle chit chat.
The train started to roll and soon all that was visible through the windows was the warm black sky studded with countless stars and an iridescent full moon – like a delicious blanket waiting for lovers to snuggle under it, the thought crept into Andy’s mind.
Distressed, she stood up, wanting to literally shake off her thoughts. Just then the train lurched and Andy started falling. Into the hands of the ‘not-so-strange’ stranger who had just opened the coupe’s door.
A feeling of being touched by electricity shot through her. Looking up at her rescuer, Andy was yet again bewitched by the riveting eyes of the man she had seen at Hampi in the morning – the one who had been in her thoughts as recent as a few seconds ago.
The lights of the coupe flickered and died. Yet neither spoke nor moved away. They just continued to look into each other’s eyes. Till, unable to resist, he lowered his face and sought her lips.
It was instant combustion for both of them. No words were spoken. None were needed. All that existed then was passion and more passion.
Harsh reality intruded when the door of the coupe was thrown open and a child rushed in followed by his mother. Andy stepped away from the man hurriedly. That there had been an instant powerful attraction between the two was now an undeniable fact.
Disturbed by what had happened just now and her ambivalent feelings, it was nearing day break when Andy finally fell asleep. All the while, avoiding looking at the Man who was right opposite her.
The slowing of the train woke Andy. The Man was still fast asleep. The coupe was otherwise empty.
Not wanting to face him immediately, Andy went to the washroom. Entering the coupe with trepidation, she was relieved to see that he was not there. And glad that they had reached Bangalore. Grabbing her things (which had not been unpacked last night) Andy exited the train before one could say ‘Hello’.
Sighting her cousin Vijay on the platform, Andy ran into his open arms. Glad to see her, Vijay hugged her to him and placed a kiss on the top of her head.
Smiling, Andy lifted her head only to find the Man’s eyes on them. She saw recognition, surprise, shock, anger and disgust flitting through those expressive eyes – all in a split second. Continuing to look at him, Andy deliberately reached up, placed a kiss on Vijay’s cheek and then steered him away. Placing one heavy foot after other, Andy walked away from the Man, too frightened to stay back and face his questions.
Having moved to Germany right after their marriage, Andy’s parents had made sporadic visits to India till their death in a car accident 7 years ago – an incident that had totally shocked Andy and changed her life forever following which her fiancé had walked out of her life and stayed out.
Her cousins had wanted Andy, the only child of her parents, to move to India. When she had politely yet firmly declined, they had remained in constant touch with her and visited her as often as possible.
Andy just loved her bubbling, interfering, caring family.
Vijay, a talk-show host on television, had lined up a lot of activities for Andy during her stay including meeting many of her parents’ family members, especially the elders.
Taking in the hustle and bustle of Bangalore and meeting her family members was like a soothing balm for Andy. She wanted to do a lot before she left for Hannover in a month’s time. Despite memories of a ‘near-stolen’ night with the Man.
A Bharatanatyam dancer, Andy loved Indian Classical music. Aware of this, Vijay had purloined 2 tickets to a Classical Music Concert by the world-renowned Kannan Iyengar that evening. Glad for any diversion, Andy was ready on time. However, hampered by traffic, they barely made it to the venue on time.
”God! He is not even near me and yet he is making my pulse soar!” were her first thoughts. For, on stage, ready to commence the concert was The Man. He was Kannan! No wonder he had looked familiar - he was after all known the world over.
All thoughts however vanished when Kannan began to sing. Andy was totally entranced. 3 hours had never passed by so fast.
Still lost in the web spun by his music, Andy ignored various questions that the audience was asking Kannan after the performance. The first sign of disaster appeared when, ever a journalist, Vijay stood up and asked, “Kannan, when are you getting married? What do you want in a wife?” Smiling, Kannan turned towards him and responded, “That is a cheeky question. Let’s see. My wife should be a person with whom I can discuss the nuances of music. Someone who …”
The abrupt cessation of his answer made Andy realize that Kannan had spotted her. His eyes appeared to be questioning her, pinning her down to the chair.
A question from another person forced Kannan to turn away. Andy ensured that she slipped away from the hall without any further confrontation.
During the days that followed, Andy’s thoughts were all about Kannan, always. She had checked on the internet and learnt a few things about him - his passion for music, love for travelling and the respect he commanded from his peers. Vijay, a little surprised by her interest but not commenting on it, had mentioned that Kannan NEVER gave interviews – he valued his private life too much.
Andy was beyond caring. Somehow, without wanting to, she had fallen in love with Kannan. But she was also very sure that a life with him was NOT meant to be - he was too precious to be tied down to her, she with her baggage from the past.
Her undeclared love however gave an edge to her dancing – something that had not existed earlier. While she and the children at the special school for Hearing and Speech Impaired (whom she was teaching dance for the duration of her stay) did not realize it, others observed it. It was in one such class that Kannan, there for a Managing Committee Members’ Meeting, found her one day.
Looking into the classroom, Kannan, while fighting mixed feelings of an unexplained attraction to her combined with anger at her apparent infidelity, marveled at the ease with which Andy communicated with the children, teaching them to dance to a tune they did not hear.
Once class was over, Andy, unaware of any other presence, continued to dance. To ‘Raa ra, itu ra ra’, where a lady is beseeching her lover to come to her. As the last strains drew to a close and she raised her hands as if to embrace her lover, Kannan stood before her. It seemed but natural to move into his arms and remain there forever.
Vijay calling her name broke the trance both seemed to have been in and saw Andy running away from Kannan. Yet again.
Waiting for Vijay outside the centre, Andy observed with trepidation as Kannan strode purposefully towards her. The arrival of Vijay’s car between the two prevented him from reaching her.
Recognizing Kannan, Vijay stepped out of the car, walked up to him, introduced himself and handed over a visiting card saying, “Would love to do an interview.” Tight lipped with anger, not sure of Vijay’s role in her life, Kannan replied with a curt, “Let me see.” He then turned and walked away.
As they drove away, Andy could not hold back her tears. “You love him, don’t you?” asked Vijay. Seeing her nod, he asked, “Want to speak with him about it?” Noticing her distressed ‘No’, he added, “You do not want Kannan to know anything about you, right? When will you ever realize that you are a very lovable person? I just can’t understand your stubbornness Sis”. Predictably, the ride was completed in silence.
Hours later, after his anger had subsided, Kannan, an intelligent person, sat thinking. From the time he had first seen her, the messages he had been getting from her had been contradictory. He could sense her attraction to him. He was also very sure that she was holding herself back for some unknown reason. Wanting to get to the bottom of it all, he dialed a number and said, “I need some answers. Let us meet now.”