I was sitting in the sun, waiting for a dear friend in Trafalgar Square.
It was the first time I had gone back since I had left. Sometimes, when you love something too much, it is easier to stay away from it. Everything, in excess, even love, maybe especially love, can become harmful. I went back because to heal, I needed to go back to the place where much of me had begun and ended.
So after half a decade of staying away, after half a decade of writing about it, and remembering, and reliving, and relieving, I returned. To begin again.
You can fall in love with a place as deeply as you can with a person. Sometimes love becomes all the more poignant, and painful, because we make people into places. To hide from our own flaws, to run away from our fears, for others to serve as shelters from the storms that are inside us. People are not places. Not all places can be homes. That is the first thing I learnt when I left. It is the thing I needed to remember when I went back.
Healing begins when you arrive.
In Trafalgar Square, a short distance from where I sat, there was an earth sign. A street artist had left lines of poetry in chalk:
“Love, I love, above the stars and below the sands of sea, forever I will love you and know that you will always love me…”
This may have been the last thing I had said to him in a letter I wrote when I left, all those years ago.
It seemed fitting that this once almost-home was welcoming me back with the same letters of love.
I have learnt many things about love from my parents.
They do not speak of it often. They are not people of poetry or the romantic. They work hard and they turn up for each other as much as possible. They argue often. They appreciate distance as much as they do their closeness.
They lived apart for years as newly-weds, communicating through letters, because that was all they could do then. Life demanded that they work in different countries so that they could make a home. Not of each other, but one, together.
As of this year, they have been married for 34 years. They celebrated their wedding anniversary as they do every other day – by having breakfast together, with my mother reminding my father of the chores he had to do, with my father casually ignoring my mother. Before she left the table, my mother leaves my father a glass of water for his medication. When he is done reading his papers, he goes to iron the clothes, just as she had asked him to earlier.
My parents do not speak of love. And yet, love is all they know, it is in every little thing they do. Love is all they have for each other. And that, that is the most important thing I have learnt about love from my parents.
Lal Ded, on love:
“I, Lalla, entered
the gate of the mind’s garden and saw
Siva united with Sakti.
I was immersed in the lake of undying bliss. Here, in this lifetime,
I’ve been unchained from the wheel
of birth and death.
What can the world do to me?”.
I surrender to Thee, Love, I love.