Boy-Man

2010

If a boy of fifteen can catch an angry bull by its horns and force it to bow down to him, he must be something. And if the very same teenager, changed into a benevolent leader of sorts in a school hostel a year later, silences bullies-to-the-weak with just a look, he effectively tattoos his path of choice for the rest of his life. The path of Selective Toughness. This boy, now a boy-man, is Bhartan. My husband.

Bhartan is proud of his machismo; and justifiably so, I hear. The boys of yesterday have passed his legends on to those of today. The narrow streets in the tiny Nainital, his home town, sometimes witness a whispering huddle, talking of his triumphs with unabashed awe. Still. After all these years of his having become a reluctant adult. It makes me chuckle in amusement. And swell with pride. But I confess I see more in him than the valour and physical strength. I shamelessly admit that I find that More more disarming than the punches he’s capable of.

At four, he went missing. He used to play in the market square in front of the house and used to be back before sundown. That day, he didn’t come home. People rushed around, search parties were sent. He was found 500 metres away in an elephant camp, sitting next to the animals. Just sitting there, being with them. The next day, the mahout offered to give him a ride around the then sleepy Nainital on top of his best tusker. Quite a sight it must have been. And such a thrill for Bhartan.

His fascination for beings doesn’t end in just wonder. It begins from and develops into care. When he was about six years old, his mother has related this story to me a number of times, he went with his parents to visit an aunt who kept a cow. He heard its calf mooing in distress, because it was tied at the other end of the shed. They needed to milk its mother. It bothered him for a long time, the calf’s call. When no one was watching, he untied the little one. It drank to its fill. That day, little Bhartan was the happiest in that house.

What about the bull-fighting macho, you might wonder? Where does that fit in? His father told me this story of when he and Bhartan were walking through the jungles of Nainital on a narrow footpath. A bull, who apparently saw them as intruders, charged at Bhartan’s father. I don’t think the bull knew what hit him next. Or grabbed him. Before long, the beast was pinned on the dirt track — the calm, still boyish, boy was holding him down with its horns for having put his father in discomfort.

2011 Some things never change.

The many unannounced strengths my husband has somehow take a back seat for me, because this unfaltering love for all beings, including humans, is a virtue with which I am quite content. It will make him do no harm. And when he does wrong someone, he will make up for the mistake with  a natural logic and precision. He always does.

The boy you’ve just read about hasn’t changed even after all these years. Through national boxing championships, boyish ego duels and immature need for a macho image, he has retained the sincere child in him, who will rush to pick you up if you fall, and never laugh at your misadventure. His love for life and its creatures is unfailing, and honest. His honesty, in fact, can be disconcerting. At least for me.

I used to drink wheatgrass juice in those days, when we’d just met. During one of our walks at a stage of our friendship when an infatuated man is normally inclined to please his love interest, he stopped me from cutting wheatgrass from the endless fields the villagers grew close to where we were. “You have no right,” he said.

He was twenty nine then – a boy much beyond seeking the pleasures of a ‘manly’ show of strength; grown up to become a boy again. And back to looking at the world with a wonder reserved for the innocent and the wise. I like to think I was the same, only, thankfully, a girl. This shared wonder must have been the thing that made us run away whenever we could from the boarding school campus we taught in. We walked the hills, felt the desert sands, biked to the remotest village for a cup of tea or drove to the faraway city to eat pizza. The wonders never cease, they say. For us, it was just that, an Endless Wonderment. Perhaps with one difference in the way we saw it. He soaked it in. I rattled on about it. And it’s still the same.

During our trip to Narkanda, a beautiful village in the Himalayas at 11,000 feet. It rained that day.

Five years later, however, our time is filled with hurried love. There’s work to do, dogs to care for, more work, parents to think of, and again, unfinished work to go back to. It becomes a little too jet-setty at times. But that is how I see it. Bhartan seems wisely unfettered. He talks of the love nest we have created. Of the richness of loving and giving and receiving. I try to see it from where he views it. However, my selfish desire to just be with him and get his undiluted attention makes it a little difficult. In his strangely gentle way, he reminds me of the fact that we are together, and want to be, too.

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15 thoughts on “Boy-Man”

  1. Bhartan sounds like someone who knows what strength is all about — something to be used only when necessary. His real power, it seems, lies in his humanity, and in his sense of right and wrong. Those qualities are becoming harder and harder to find, and you’re right to cherish them.

    This is beautifully-written, Priya. Your love and admiration are present in every line. I have no doubt Bhartan feels the same appreciation for you.

    1. Thank you, Charles. Yes, there is much love and admiration between us. And it helps us tide over the random you-are-eating-my-head-you-oaf times.

  2. A lovely post, really lovely, Priya. I’m so happy that you’re both well suited to each other. Me and mine are too, though differently. I wish I could write about mine, but he’s very reserved about anything to do with his personal life.

    Also very glad to see the photo of you both.
    🙂

    1. Don’t we look good?! 🙂 I love this picture of ours.

      I know how you feel about wanting to write about your relationship with your husband, but not being able to, because he wouldn’t appreciate it much. Bhartan is an extremely private person, too. But this time, I decided to just give it a try. This post was a struggle, because I had to keep out most of the things that make this relationship a beautiful one! And Bhartan approves, thankfully. He liked the post when he read it. I suspect he got lost in all the praise he got here and didn’t have time to say “Just why did you mention this, hunh?” 😉

  3. You’ve painted a lovely portrait of Bhartran, the man/child and Bhartran, your beloved husband. It seems you are perfectly suited to each other, each of you filled with warm hearts and kind souls. I’m sure he will blush with pride and humility when he reads your post about him.

    It was refreshing to read such an uplifting post at a time when it feels like the whole world is reeling.

    1. It is inconsequential people like us that make this world, Linda. At least inconsequential enough to be ineffective in bringing about changes to the world. Isn’t a sort of a miracle, then, that when we get together, we can and do make a world of a difference? That is what is human spirit, I think. And Japan demonstrates it so well. All of us do, in fact.

      Thank you, Linda, for liking and appreciating this post. It was a long time coming. I tried to put in a little of no-it’s-not-perfect-but-we-love-it, just to tone down the admiration a little. I hope the words don’t ‘gush’ too much!

  4. Priya, what a loving post. I can tell you and your husband are a great match! I’m so happy you took the time to write this down and share it; it was a joy to read.

    When you started with your husband bringing the bull to bow down to him, I assumed it was under some sort of “controlled” circumstance! Then I read on, and realized it was in the heat of the moment, to defend his father. Wow.

    You really picked out and captured a family of related images, all designed to showcase your husband’s strong yet nurturing self. Beautifully done.

    1. I am not sure there is any other side to Bhartan than his strength and an urge for nurturing, Melissa. His kind are found very rarely.

      I am happy that you found this well expressed, for your expressions leave me wishing I could create images as vividly as you can.

  5. I love this piece. I need to read more of your stories! Time! Time! Also I have shared this and your work to my facebook family just now. Lots of writers there – your fan base is growing … 🙂

  6. *sigh*

    Reading this was like reading a love story, only that it is an actual experience of real people (none of the movie gibberish). I wish you and your man a fulfilling life together.

    And I have to say (complete with wide eyes and envy), you rode a motorbike to the Himalayas?!? You and Bhartan make one cool couple. 🙂

    1. I am going to tell this to Bhartan. He’ll feel happy about this.

      Our coolness has moved on to other things like waking up at 5:00 am to walk the dogs and working at the computer for 10 hours straight… But then, the love story is bound to have some twist every now and then, right?

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