#8: When Fiction Meets Fact


*This is a real-life story. It has some gaps, which will require some imagination on the reader’s part. This story has been transcribed after it was told to me in bits and parts, orally. The names of characters have been changed. Apologies in advance for the bad narration.*

In 1943, a Jewish refugee from Vienna came to Bombay. He spoke only two languages – Yiddish and German. Somehow, he tried to build a life for himself and started a pharmaceutical company. In that company, was employed a widowed woman who was doing this job to raise her three daughters. Over a period of time, this man fell in love with the woman and eventually, they married each other. Although, the man was Jewish and the woman was Catholic, their biological children were not inducted into religion while growing up. The man always looked upon religion as a divisive force, and wanted his children to grow up sans it. However, when the man was diagnosed with an intestinal knot and was asked to undergo a surgery, he found himself scared for his wife and children’s future should anything happen to him. Therefore, to get inducted into society, he allowed his biological daughter to be baptized.

His daughter, Rose, grew up to be a well-meaning and lovely young girl who went on to work for the United Nations. In those days, she was working in England, a 27 year old girl, thinking of taking on the world, when one day Rose got a call from her home in Bombay to inform her that her elder sister had died of a heart attack. By then, Rose’s father had also passed away, and her mother was a widow now, suddenly having to care for her deceased daughter’s three children. Rose left her life in England and came back to Bombay preparing herself to become a foster mother to the three children of her dead sister. When she came to Bombay and found herself in a situation that she had never even conceived, she began to panic. She had no idea how to be a young mother. She had not even found someone to share her life with and now she felt responsible for three young lives. During the time when Rose stayed in Bombay weighing whether she wanted to stay in Bombay and be a mother, or return to England ans start a new life, her brother-in-law (the children’s father) expressed a wish to marry her. Rose was positively horrified and she felt trapped. She had to do something, but she didn’t know what. So, one day, her friend told her about the cross at Azad Maidan and that wishes made at that cross came true. In desperation, Rose went to Azad Maidan, and made a wish to God.

A week or so later, Rose’s friend told her about a boy who expressed interest in her. He had seen Rose at the church and wanted to meet her. Let’s call this boy Jack. After some persuasion, Rose’s friend arranged a meeting for Rose and Jack, where Rose went very uninterested. She had given herself 15 minutes after which, she had decided to leave. Rose and Jack met in an apartment somewhere in South Bombay. It was sometime in the evening and Rose didn’t speak to him properly and said she wanted to go home a few minutes into the conversation. Jack offered to leave Rose home, which she refused saying that she was perfectly capable of going home alone. Jack insisted. Rose relented. On the way to her house, Jack asked her, “Will you have dinner with me tonight?”
“No, thank you. I have to be home with my mother.”
“We can ask your mother.”
Rose was taken aback by Jack’s persistence. When they went home, and Jack asked her mother if he could take Rose out to dinner, her mother agreed. So, that night, Jack took Rose to dinner. Rose knew that Jack was in the Merchant Navy and had to leave the city in two days’ time, so she told herself all she needed to do to get rid of this boy was simply have the dinner and be on her way. During the dinner, Rose kept looking everywhere in the restaurant but at Jack.

After the dinner, Jack dropped Rose home and asked her for a postal address. Once again, Rose thought of this boy who was leaving the city in two days, and gave him her address. A few days later, on Valentine’s Day, Rose received two bouquets of flowers – one was red and the other was yellow. The red one was from Jack. The yellow one was from her brother-in-law. Also, on Valentine’s Day, Rose’s friend met her and handed her a box, which was left for her by Jack. In that box were two rings – a wedding ring and an engagement ring. The friend said, “Jack wants you to have this.” Rose was torn with bewilderment at this boy who wouldn’t stop his advances, and terrified of the brother-in-law who kept pushing for marriage. After a few days more, Rose received Jack’s letter in the mailbox. After a few more letters, Rose wrote back. Eventually, Rose fell in love with Jack, and in a few months they were married. Funnily enough, it turned out that Rose was not the girl Jack had seen in church.

Rose and Jack have been married for 40 years now. I met them and spent a considerable amount of time with them on my trip. On one day, Rose hurt herself after she fell down the stairs. The next morning, I asked her if she was doing fine and someone else chipped in asking if her knees were fine. Jack promptly told us, “She doesn’t have such problems. She just goes weak in the knees when she sees me.” I have seen Rose and Jack look after each other and look around for each other like they had just met. In fact, over a lunch, when they didn’t notice I was sitting right there, I saw Rose look at Jack and ask him, “What is it that your eyes are telling me?” I looked up and she blushed when she saw me. I haven’t seen a young woman blush like that. One night, we were in the hotel lounge, and the pianist was playing for the audience. Rose and Jack danced on a song and I sat there watching this old couple, so madly in love. The younger ones couldn’t even hold a candle to them. I didn’t ask them how they did it. How they still danced and loved each other like dew on a morning rose. I didn’t want to know, because I saw that there existed real love in this world. The kinds that we wrote of, in books.

It’s somewhere out there.


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