Last night my father and I sat down to dinner, in the dimply lit dining room of my uncle’s house. I don’t quite remember the last time my father and I shared a meal, just the two of us. The table had a huge plate of prawn biryani, thayru (curd), chamandi, water, pickle, and two slightly awkward, slightly tired people who once shared a home and life.
It had been a long day of travel for my father, on his was back to Saudi Arabia after Eid in Kerala. It had been a long day for me as well, one of sadness, trying desperately to catch the attention of the boy I love and had once loved me back. We had both had our better days.
As I picked at my food, and watched my father eat, I thought about us. I thought about the similarities between the two of us who had sprung into existence from each other. We’ve always been different, and see eye to eye on little. We probably share more differences outwards, in our physical appearances. Receding hairlines, crooked teeth, round eyes. But then again, we’re also both quiet most of the time, few words leaving us, usually preferring to listen.
Last night, however, sitting amidst the soft ruins of my broken heart, I deciphered another similarity between the old man and I.
But first, bits of some stories must be told.
Around three months ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. It was not a clean break up. It was messy, painful, and to my bafflement, continues to this day. During these past few months, I’ve cried myself to sleep at least once a week, tumbled into my insecurities everyday, and struggled with eating, sporadically. Yesterday, on a worse day, I had old monsters escape out of my belly and throw back the food I was fighting to put down my throat.
The love story of my parents came to mind last night, at dinner. It’s one I’ve only heard a few times, in fractions, and only after some coaxing. My aunts are usually the amused tellers of this story. After both sets of my grandparents rejected the idea of my in love parents marrying, my parents dealt with things very differently. My mother, puzzlingly, coolly acquiesced, and asked to meet other men. My father on the other hand, alone in Saudi Arabia, refused to see the logic and believe that this was the end of their love story. He descended into an awful downward spiral. Plagued by head aches and heart aches, he locked himself up. Worried family and friends immediately brought him back to Kerala. The processes of proposing, convincing the elders, and actually marrying were all promptly set off. Soon my parents were happily married.
What is striking is how my father shut down everything the moment his relationship was forced to end. Our situations are as different as can be, but we both deal with this sort of unhappiness in the same way. We both shut down. We shut things down. We shrink and just about disappear. While my collapse hasn’t been as destructive as his, it makes me think. Maybe I haven’t resorted to the extreme because this isn’t the end, and I have to confess, that doesn’t quite sound so bad. Or maybe, it isn’t the only love that will come my way, and in some deep corner of my being I realise this, and don’t completely fight it.
Whatever it may be, I’d love to talk to my father about it. Hear what he thinks. Hear his reassuring words, because my father’s face is the face of reassurance. I’d like to stop holding it in and tell him how for the first time I offered my love wholly, and how it was returned for being insufficient, for being too strange, for being too confused. I know he knows how we can feel exhausted and diminished and hollow from loving. He has known it and lived it. But our times and situations are different.
And instead, we discussed the prawn biryani.