Thursday, July 09, 2015

Love, Dona!

July 2014, 6:30am, Small-town, USA.

A white Audi driven by a woman in her 40s going way below the speed limit on a State highway The woman, Vice President of finance company has slowed down her car because she is having trouble seeing the road. The reason why she cant see the road is because she is crying...the reasons she is crying is because radio in her car radio just played a song called 'Red' by Taylor Swift.

"Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street
Faster than the wind, passionate as sin ending so suddenly
Losing him was blue like I'd never known
Missing him was dark grey all alone
Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met
But loving him was red
Loving him was red!"

The night before she had a surprise from a long lost friend. They re-connected after 25 years. They shared the gifts and ironies that life brought to them since that fateful night when Atlanta played Minnesota for the World Series in 1991.

She stops by the shoulder of the road, takes her contact lenses off and cries heart out. 

Winter 1991, GA Tech, Graduation Day

I am standing with other students in the University Stadium for the commencement ceremony.  My friends Dona, SK, Ted, Steve, Gortitude all are in the audience taking pictures. Speeches are being made as my mind is racing in all directions. It’s a flashback time. The images from past three years of struggles to get to this very moment are flickering one after the others.  My heart is in turmoil but am smiling like all my classmates standing along with me. The one person I am missing most at this time is my father.

I think a father -son relation is the most complex of them all. Complex, coz here is a man you want to be your idol, yet you be your own man. Even though you want to be a lieutenant, or a vice captain in his team, yet you feel immense urge to lead just one time. You respect him but you want your father to go "wow" just once for you.  I know a graduation ceremony is not a wow going moment, but it does not hurt to see what he is thinking of this act.

"Shahid Parvez Sayed, Masters, School of Civil Engineering", comes the announcement as I walk to receive my degree from President Dr. Crecine.  Later during the reception I go and meet Dr. Crecine again and apologize to him for causing him trouble on the championship game day in 1989. He smiles and says " Not a problem. I am glad you called. Its so good to see you graduate today despite all the hardships your endured".  

Winter 1991, Poona Restaurant, Duluth

SK has given a party to celebrate my graduation at this Indian restaurant in Duluth. We are having fun. SK is a great talker and is keeping all in splits.  We are sitting by a table next to the window. I am feeling confident about my future, as getting Masters from GA Tech is a big deal. Not many successfully graduate from there.  

The only problem is that I do not know that the future will take me back to the same table of Poona restaurant in 1998. I will be wearing a white shirt, black bow tie and serving food and water to the guests. One day Ahsan Rashid wud walk in the restaurant (Ahsan had played a role in the play I had written), upon seeing me as a waiter he is shocked.

I take glasses of water for him. He gets up and hugs me, then introduces me to his family and kids.

Later that night when I wud call India.

"Main Haar Gyaa. I am coming back" - I have tears in my eyes as I narrate the Ahsan Rashid incident to my official girl frnd whom I have left in India. 

" Aap to Ameer e Qfila hain. Aap Kaise Haar Sakte Hain? I am with you. We will get thru this." - She tries to lift my morale up.

Lets save that story for some other day!

July 2014, Small-town, USA

The white woman in the Audi is still crying.  What is she crying for? She has everything that people dream for - a big house, kids, and great job - everything. She worked hard and faced all the challenges that life threw at her. She is an independent minded strong woman - still she is crying like a baby?

Tears that coming our of her eyes are drowning the words like Kaafir, Gentile, Non gentile, Malacchi, Dalit, black, white, brown, Americans, Indians, Shia, Sunni, 24, 26 and all other labels that bigots use to discriminate against other humans and to keep the world divided.

Taylor Swift still singing…

“Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes
Tell myself it's time now, gotta let go
But moving on from him is impossible
When I still see it all in my head
Burning red
Burning it was red”

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Love, Dona!

Fall 1990, GA Tech

"So you guys walk in the middle of the road in India?"

That is when I realized that I had her walk in the middle of the road even though sidewalks were empty. We were walking to aimlessly on campus after the class. God, she is smart. I thought. 

"Actually in India, the sidewalks are occupied by illegal hawkers, parking and slum dwellers. So in order to get anywhere faster,  one must walk on the road. See, what challenges we take in order to reach our destination." I tried to make light of the situation.

"There is no such challenge here; we can go back to the side walk!"

Walking with her was fun. White top, brown long skirt and flowing hair and tons of smiles used to be my company as we wud come out of the lecture room. I have not seen anyone enjoy the winds and weather like her. She was in love with nature and nature loved her back. She still looks as if time just passed by her, without taking anything away from her. 

Mirza says her smiles were not as a result of weather or the wind - but you. Your presence. I don’t know…may be that was the case.

Winter 1990, GA Tech

My graduation is getting closer. I am busy with International Student Festival and my duties as the Senator of the School of Civil Engineering. Life is good.

One evening it was raining heavily when she stopped by my apartment. We still go on a long drive. Somewhere near I-85 and Piedmont an insect gets stuck in the Viper of her car. She stops the car and gets out in the rain. She removes the entangled insect and places it on the RCC wall on the side of the road. She gets back apologizes to me for a sudden stop.

"Poor thing, he would have died stuck in the Viper blades"

I am thinking what a beauty of a heart she is. That was FDR with her real character and personality. I feel deeply for her in a heartbeat. That was not a pre-planned act but a spontaneous one. Our spontaneous acts are the windows to our real character and inner beauty.

As she gets behind the wheel I am thinking far away in the future. If we get married grow old together and when  Kids are gone. And we are sitting in the porch of my house and if she asks me "Why I married her?” I would use this example, this very moment to tell her why.

It’s time to see Dona now.

There is this girl I want to talk about...
What about her?

I am with Dona on our monthly meal at a Vietnamese restaurant. I brief Dona about FDR about everything. Dona, being the practical person, raises some legitimate questions. I would like to skip that part for now.

However, I decide to overlook her objections and do what my heart was saying. But there is something else is in store for me. FDR started backing off on me. I am surprised at this change of behavior. Phone calls were reduced and long drives became less frequent. I am wondering what’s going on. On our last day of the class FDR writes the exam paper before me. I know she is up to something what it is?

She leaves the class room in a hurry and after getting out of the classroom,  she shows me a card. She sticks the card in the door handle. I finish my paper and run after her. She is nowhere to be found. I open that card. Written in silver words were her last words....

My immediate reaction is anger. 

Spring 1991, GA Tech

One day, I go to the computer room of the college and see her with her friends. My heart stops at her sight. But I take a U turn and head back. She runs after me. She stops me out on the middle of the street and starts explaining something. I am just staring in her eyes and thinking how long before I would be able to see these eyes so up close?  I will be in India in three months and will never return.....will I ever see her like today.

I don’t remember what case FDR made for her behavior. I don’t care for the reasons. I am an egoist who does not believe going down to the knees should even be part of any healthy relationship.

I still do not know what caused her to take a U-turn on me. I wonder if Dona asked her to leave me alone. Did someone wanted me to return to India without any baggage? I dont know. 

To this day - I don’t know!

I n the meantime, I have completed all the  requirements for the Masters Degree and  the department has approved my petition for graduation.

I am going to GRADUATE, Finally!