If love could, it would.

He was a tall, white-haired man who looked like he still had a lot of strength in his old body despite the number of years he’d lived. She was a short, plump woman with black, curly hair always tied up in a well-oiled bun. The discernible dissimilarities ended here. All you would notice about them was their smile. It never left their lips, no matter the temptation. And it always traveled from deep within where only love can live. I know, because I felt it every time I met them.

He was my mother’s mother’s cousin. My grand uncle. Our relationship was distant, interactions sporadic, for they were tested by the trials of complicated lives and time-chasing. But the memories have left a mark, like a cairn, flagging the trail towards meadows with daisies and candyfloss clouds. A place where you know that love, in the deepest sense, outsmarts rain and hail and sleet.

She was twenty years younger than him, her husband. He took care of her almost with the earnestness of an indulgent father. Her hearing aid, I suspected, was just a contraption to send some meagre sound waves as a consolation to her very deaf years. Her ears, mere accessories on her encouraging, warm face, were only a platter to display her preference for large gold stud earrings. She positioned the ringlets on the ear in an attempt to hide the hearing aid, I think. She fascinated me, just as much as her loving husband left me in a sense of awe.

I was fifteen then — a gawky, plump, occasionally animated teenager. Brought up in places that were far from the usual benefits and demands of an extended Indian family, my brother and I resisted all attempts to meet with our relatives, who happened to live close to this town we’d come to because of the latest posting of our father’s.

They lived in this town; and that’s how we met him, and his wife.

Image courtesy: http://www.gvpedia.com

Their house was an ambitious replica of the sprawling Indian homes with courtyards in their centre. Ambitious, because it was in the middle of an inelegant, dirty residential colony, and didn’t have much space to accommodate the expanses of such houses. But it did duplicate the essence. There was a tiny courtyard in the centre, with a basil plant in its centre. The courtyard invited birds. But was more remarkable because of the numerous food-things drying out in the sun there — pickles, papads, baris. It was like visiting an ancient memento, still alive. On my first reluctant visit, I remember bracing myself up for another session of indulgent conversation, oily food, and too-sweet desserts. I didn’t have to worry. There wasn’t much conversation. The few words exchanged dripped with unsheathed care, understanding and interest.

And she cooked like she was here to serve the gods.

Every single part of the meal that came to us from her kitchen was made with love. Have you ever tasted love? I can proudly say I have. Her kind.

Love is a balancing element. There is no possible way it can make your life askew, if it really is love. The spices and the salt; the sugar and the butter; the cooking and the rawness. She knew it just right. She sent out the food through her surly children, all three in various stages of their twenties, who in turn gave the food to her husband. He took over with his beatific smile, and served us with an honest sincerity I’ve seen matched only by his wife.

I never refused going to their place again.

The times I visited, however, were very few in the three years we lived in that town. But every time I did, I came back sated with this immensely overwhelming embrace of guileless kindness. And a question. How could the children not be a part of this? What ailed them? What went wrong? The daughter, the youngest of the three, I’d mostly find sitting at the courtyard’s ledge, looking into the tunnels to places I could not see. I could see, however, the shape of her recently pubescent breasts and nipples through her sheer kurta. She never wore a bra. It bothered me for reasons I still do not understand, but it did make me feel sorry for her parents. The second son was a disgruntled youth, unable to get a job because of the all-pervading reservation (for the “lower” castes) system. He sat with us, a complete opposite of his parents, talking of ambition, greed, frustration. The eldest was fighting his own battle. Released from the army for medical reasons, he found it difficult to get a job. He wanted to start his own business — which he eventually did — but his parents weren’t letting him. Brahmins don’t earn money through businesses, they thought.

The humanness of this couple made them all the more appealing to the always-observing, always-accepting person in me. He came to us sometimes, never empty-handed. She would always pack a box of something — puris or pickles or mathris. She came sometimes, too. He said she hardly ever visited anyone because she could barely speak for the lack of practice, and could not hear anyway. But she somehow took to us. We were grateful. I am, I know.

Sometimes, love is enough.


I left the town to pursue college, and then to move on to professional studies. I thought of them occasionally. A few years later, I heard from my mother that they were both found dead one morning on their beds. They were perfectly healthy the previous day, but were no more the next. There was an empty bottle somewhere close to him. It is suspected that they took their own lives with its contents.

Diabetes had taken hold of his body, and he didn’t have very long to live. People mentioned that he’d been talking of his misgivings about her fate after him. The children were all married and gone, careless.

Love also has many ways to balance out life. If it could use them, it would. I am sure.


54 thoughts on “If love could, it would.”

  1. Beautiful story about a beautiful couple. My favorite line is “Our relationship was distant, interactions sporadic, for they were tested by the trials of complicated lives and time-chasing.” I am sad to say that line describes many of my own relationships. Every once in a while regret pokes its head in and I try to find some way to change the complications and avoid the trials that keep me from others. Often I fail.

    You say “Love is a balancing element.” That’s not what the love songs say. Or any songs for that matter. They all talk of love throwing us off balance. I think I might agree with you…love should be a balancing element. But like a spice that’s overused in a certain dish, often love is misused and unbalances our lives.

    Thanks for your wonderful story!

    1. Songs are written to depict an extreme emotion, I feel. Uncontainable joy or uncontainable sorrow. It is quite all right to think of imbalance during such moments, too. Otherwise, what is life for? The trick is to live the balance during the 98% of the times which are normally un-songed, Kevin. Wouldn’t you say?

      Lives are complicated for no fault or initiation of any of us. That’s just how we live, as opposed to the ones who are our ancestors. I suppose we’ll simply have to learn to maintain the relationships with the selected few we can — family and friends. This way, perhaps the love and care and sincerity will dilute less! Such an exciting thought!

  2. This is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. It’s wonderful that you learned to appreciate them at such an early age, and sad that their own children seemingly never did. You have once again provided more proof that what touches us the most is the small, the sincere, and the loving. This was among my favorites:

    “The few words exchanged dripped with unsheathed care, understanding and interest… And she cooked like she was here to serve the gods.”

    1. Yes, indeed. We do get most positively impacted by the simplest, and the sincerest. Every time you get a compliment for being so, I suppose it is quite all right to rejoice that you’re on the right path.

      It is still conjecture, isn’t it, whether their children understood them or not? We’ll never know. I was talking to my mother this morning about them, and she said that the younger two simply couldn’t get a grip and have been on a regular down-slide. The older one is well-settled in his catering business, and doing well. Could it be because every individual reacts to situations differently?

  3. The way you write brings the story alive, and very real, somehow. ” There is no possible way it can make your life askew, if it really is love. ” How true! If something were wrong, it definitely isn’t love. Beautifully written, Priya.

    1. Your comment reminds me of something else I meant to say. Priya, you’ve succeeded, with your words, in bringing these two people back to life. I can’t think of a more important goal for a writer.

      1. Thank you, Charles. The reason I wrote this post in spite of the incredible sadness their end brings with it is because I didn’t want them to go without some appreciation. If I’ve achieved that, I am happy.

    2. I wouldn’t know if a wrong means an absence of love, P&P. We make mistakes in all situations. And mistakes, or the lack of them, are almost always dependent on the perspective of the person looking at them. Love, however, in itself is incapable of doing harm, I believe. Mixed with something else? Well, that’s a moot point! πŸ™‚

      Thank you for reading, P&P. I like it when you appreciate.

  4. Beautiful! How sad that their children didn’t appreciate them. I felt the couple’s peace and contentment, and the wife’s predicament…RIP.
    Thank you, Priya.. πŸ™‚

    1. The wife’s predicament is something that made me shudder when I first heard of their deaths. She was a simple, uninitiated woman. It’d have been terrible for her without him.

      Mal, I’ve been wanting to visit you for a long time, but haven’t been able to. I hope you’ll forgive me.

  5. You’re such a beautiful writer Priya that it makes me cry. God bless you and please keep on marveling the world with the beauty of your words – the beauty of your soul.

  6. It’s been far too long since I’ve visited your blog. This story is enchanting – leaves me wishing I had known these people – that any of us could know such people – how lovely. Thanks for posting.

    1. I feel enriched for having known them, yes.

      Bela, you bring in the Hawaii-ness and the Maine-ness all at once every time you visit. It is always a delight to see you.

  7. Love’s veils, layered by life, display and lift themselves to those who can see, Priya. What a beautiful description of two people whose love thrived so strongly in spite of miles of silence. Perhaps it was the absence of too many words that added to the depth of their love.

    I really appreciate your characterizations, Priya. They stay with me which means they pass the test of time.

    May their love be seen by their children and passed on. If not, you’ve just done it for them.

    1. “May their love be seen by their children and passed on. If not, you’ve just done it for them.” My work is done, Amy. Thank you.

  8. Priya, you string words together, like a composer creates notes. Each word written is placed perfectly. I find myself trying to leave a comment that compares to your writing. You make it seem easy.

    I am glad you were able to appreciate the depth of their love, and I am grateful you shared their bittersweet story with us. Thank you.

    1. Pass me some of your humour, Lenore. I can use that! If you do, I’ll even tell you the secret of writing perfectly placed words. It is easy. (All you have to do is to keep doing what you’re doing, because it is great to begin with.)

  9. I had a very different take on this reminiscence. I wondered what the relationship between the parents and the children really were like. Did they all feel this “enough” love? How could two adults, so caring with the food and the setting be so apart from their children? Would they learn from their parents about this love you speak? And, what happens that children go away and remove themselves from their parents love with so much finality. I feel sad for all of them. This is perhaps not what you expected from a reader, but I see so much loss here – a giving of love to someone who could take it and walk away – but not enough for the children who were at home? Forgive me – I’m not intending at all to insult or degrade your memory. I read this as though it were a short story. It was a beautiful, tragic one.

    1. Oh but why must you apologise for wanting to look at the entire picture, Jean?

      I’ve asked myself these questions time and time again, too. It is unlikely for any of them to not have felt, and expressed, love or concern in some form or the other. But sometimes, love is not enough. Respect, understanding, inherent kindness… There are so many factors that make a relationship of love successful.

      Also, with time, I realised that it is not for us to know or to find out what went wrong. For we’ll not understand, will we?

      I am not a parent, but I am a daughter, and I do know this that no matter what the parents do or do not do, the children will gauge their “performance” in just the way they deem fit. It is usually an unfair assessment. When we expect parents to accommodate the strangeness in their child, surely the child can learn to accommodate the accommodatable failings of a parent?

      Happy to know that this story moved you on just the same plane it’s moved me all these years.

  10. My goodness what a sad story, but such a beautiful tribute. You chose your words with such love that they *sing* on the page:

    “…she cooked like she was here to serve the gods.”

    “But the memories have left a mark, like a cairn, flagging the trail towards meadows with daisies and candyfloss clouds. A place where you know that love, in the deepest sense, outsmarts rain and hail and sleet.”


    I’d also like to know what happened that the kids weren’t like their parents…

    1. Rosie, you make me smile. How do you do it?

      About wanting to know what could’ve gone wrong: In addition to what I’ve written above to Jean and Charles, allow me to say that I’d like to, too. But I do know that it’ll be difficult to understand.

  11. Beautiful Post. May be the best one i read in your blog till now. I am having a mixed feeling after reading this one. This post shows how good you are as a person. May be that’s why you are able to bring this post in to life.

    1. Happy to know it evoked such deep emotions in you, Arindam. Although I do hope that the mixed feelings lean more towards the good ones!

      1. Thanks a lot for visiting my blog, I am glad to see you in my blog. I will be more than happy, if you will read one post in my blog called Mistakes, failures & regrets. I have a feeling that you may like that one. I hope you will read that one, on your next visit to my blog !

  12. I have to echo what Arindam said. I have so many mixed feelings. You’ve written a beautiful story about them under incredibly tragic circumstances. Like Jean, I wonder about the bigger picture. And I feel so much painful loss just imagining their world together and with their kids. Thank you for sharing the pain along with the beauty–the fragile aspects of living.

    1. The beauty of such things, and life in general is that the feelings they evoke are hardly ever a 100% of something, I’ve noticed. It’s usually a mix of so many apposite and opposite colour schemes that the mind boggles!

      I feel like a carrier who’s been able to pass on a little of them. It’s a good feeling, and it’s all because of you, and the others who’ve let me know their feelings. Thank you, Darla.

  13. Priya, yet again, another work of magic. You become more and more skillful in painting the world with your lovely words. And you honor the deceased by seeing into their hearts and sharing the beauty you find with the rest of the world, making those people eternal. Oh to have an ounce of your beautiful humanity.

    It is unfair to try to single out a single sentence of phrase as my favorite, because each one leads to the next favorite. But here is one of the first that creased my face into a smile: “But the memories have left a mark, like a cairn, flagging the trail towards meadows with daisies and candyfloss clouds.”

    1. Oh Linda! If I could run and hug you right now, I would! “You become more and more skillful in painting the world…” I strive everyday to somehow find signs of this very thing. And you’ve said it when I least expected it to come from anywhere. Thank you!

  14. We can’t know what is happening in someone else’s life, even our own family. There are always ebbs and flows in people’s lives, together and alone. It’s terribly sad that they took their own life, it’s sad that their children were so distant from them in personality or activity, but that’s how things are. There are cycles, I believe, in each generation. Loving, caring parents, often produce disinterested ineffectual children… Indifferent parents often produce children who are loving and committed to others’ welfare. It always seems a reaction, to me.

    Your writing, as ever, is beautiful and inputs care into the areas of others’ lives where before there was none, and an eagle eye’s gaze at the less than pleasant areas. I love reading your writing, Priya, whether it is fact or fiction.

    You’ve written a tribute to these two wonderful people… if there is any way that they could know, I’m sure they do.

    1. You make me happy, Val. Thank you for letting me know how you see my writing. It feels good.

      Even though a parent-child relationship is supposed to be the usual — love, respect, care. It almost never stops just there, does it?

  15. “they were tested by the trials of complicated lives” Perhaps here is the key to a disconnect between parents and children. Children may not understand their parents’ journey. That would take interest, probing, asking questions, thoughtful reflection, purposeful interaction… hard work. But if they feel betrayed that their life is not what better circumstances had promised, that sense of betrayal can bring a resentment difficult to hurdle. The stumbling blocks become greater and the task insurmountable. You have written a wonderful tribute. Your words, expression, heart show timeless understanding. Please keep writing as you do.

    1. Yes, the chasm does seem insurmountable with time, I see. It is such a pity, is it not? The love between a parent and a child is supposed to be purest, the most accepting. And yet it turns out to be the one that hands in baggage of guilt, disappointment, anxiety. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it is for many.

      Thank you for your interest, Georgette. As for timeless understanding, I could say the same for you, and add immense maturity to it! georgettesullins.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/what-is-class-i/

  16. This reminds me of my grandparents. They had 16 children and raised 12 to adulthood (as well as many of their younger siblings and grandchildren) in a home brimming with love. Having grown up with a large extended family, I can say I have been fortunate to have ‘tasted love’. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy your writing.

    1. It must have been delightful and wholesome to live in such an environment with such giving people, Hanna.

      Thank you for your visit. I look forward to our interaction.

  17. How is it possible to feel so connected to two people without ever meeting them? You have metaphorically managed to bring them back alive. I can see them, I can smell the food. I can see the sadness of the family learning about their tragic death. Beautiful.

  18. I feel blessed to be part of a very large and loving family and understand that love is a balancing element…however, I have heard people say that…Love flows downwards…have you ever heard this Priya? It has always struck me as very harsh…your bittersweet story reflects this bitter truth sadly…you have however presented it beautifully… A tribute to love despite the sad end…many thanks….

    1. Love flows downwards. I’ve been thinking about it, and find it difficult to understand it. Could it possibly mean that love flows from the older to the younger generation, but not vice versa? Oh. That really is sad. Perhaps true in many cases, too. And yes, very harsh. Love should be like perfume that wafts wherever, don’t you think?

  19. I visited your space some days back. Not sure why I didn’t bother to subscribe πŸ˜› Stumbled again today, and I get to read such a lovely post that I don’t know what to say.

    I find the emotion subtle, yet thought provoking. Loved the lines, “Have you ever tasted love? I can proudly say I have. Her kind. Love is a balancing element. There is no possible way it can make your life askew, if it really is love.” Well said!

    I am not sure if there is ever a perfect defn. than this πŸ™‚

    1. Happy to know you found Partial View worth another visit, SB.

      Do tell me, though, if I am not being too intrusive, why have you deleted your blog? Is there another you’ve started?

  20. Oh that. I changed my blog link the minute I created it, and for some weird reason, my default link is not changing 😦

    Yeah, I do have another under my sleeve – sbonlifensuch.wordpress.com πŸ™‚

    PS. I get to read your posts, so it’s all my pleasure.

  21. Hi Priya,
    This was hauntingly good. This line, “And she cooked like she was here to serve the gods,” tells me everything I need to know to understand this woman. Yet all the other descriptions you painted in this picture only enhanced. You added just the right amount of detail to make the picture full, but uncluttered. And well worth looking at. I feel I would see something different every time.

    1. There is beauty in simplicity, I’ve come to realise. And a person, who chooses to talk through one simple language, in this case this woman’s food, is able to give it all their attention — enough to immerse its recipient in an unforgettable elixir. Phew. That sounds like too much over-excited bosh, doesn’t it, Melissa? But the fun is that it isn’t! And you know that already, I know.

  22. Your posts almost always evoke so many emotions in me, Priya.

    If I were to write here everything I felt as I kept reading, it would become a post itself! Love flows downwards, does indeed sound sad. Having said that, I do not feel the same love for my parents as I feel for my child. Why so? It is true, then? I feel a sense of protection for them, a sense of duty towards them.. more so, after becoming a parent myself. But it is not the same. I am afraid of the time when I will be at the receiving end of this cycle.

    How sad is it that 2 such loving people felt they have no other option but to end it the way they did? Why do we live carrying so many grudges? With people we love the most? I have a cousin in my family who does not care for his ailing mother, did not even visit her before, during or after her triple bypass heart surgery, who did not even visit his grandmother after the doctors said it was only a matter of time. She passed away without seeing him. That was a life.. one whole life.. wasted for what? To what end? That person became a father a few weeks back and proudly sent all family members pictures of his newborn. And I couldn’t help wondering what kind of a father he will be and what expectations he will have from his child, now that it is his turn.

    “If it really is love, there is no possible way it can make your life askew.” (..pondering over this.. a lot)

    1. Your mention about your cousin reminded me of a long-forgotten song I just heard yesterday — Cat’s in the Cradle. Have you heard it?

      I reckon the passing on of “more” love to the children is because you add a sense of responsibility to it. So it seems as if the intensity of love is more. It is not possible to love people in gauges. You love your parents, you love your child. And you love them differently, in different ways. So will your child when he grows up.

      I thought I’d thought of all possible variations of love (or the lack of it) when I wrote this sentence you’ve quoted. Perhaps I didn’t. I was thinking about it yesterday, and realised that it doesn’t accommodate a possible fading of love. Love fades with time if you don’t nurture it, and then you begin to doubt whether it was there in the first place. That than make things awry too. No?

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