Nishi Malhotra

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Ode to the Sukhna Lovers

Ode to the Sukhna Lovers

YOU don’t need to necessarily eavesdrop on conversations at Sukhna Lake to realise that love is in the air. Take a walk on the lake shore any weekday morning. That’s the time dads and moms are either in their offices or busy with household chores. It’s a safe time to play hookey, grab the paramour’s hand and head Sukhnawards….

Walk along the lakeside and you’ll find them sitting, evenly spaced, on the lake ledge, the steps, and in the gazebos. Lovers’ etiquette seems to require that no other couple shall come within a 200 meter distance of another. Each flight of steps shall belong, as long as they continue to sit there, exclusively to that couple. Firmly turned backs signal displeasure at intrusion, those holding hands withdraw gently as a walker passes, and heads lower to muffle conversations from being overheard. 

There is a stillness but no quiet at Sukhna at this time. The birds and the bees are energetic on the neat borders of the pansy and the marigold beds. And a lone figure walks the water’s edge picking up discarded plastic bags. 

The lovers are lost to all this - their words and silences and gestures circumscribed. A charmed circle envelopes them and you feel free to weave stories only from the outside. 

There is in the distance bobs a green turban listening intently to a tale told by wringing hands. Will her parents force her to leave him and marry the thrice removed cousin who runs a kapde ki dukan in Thailand? A more confident looking couple, both wearing jeans and red sweaters, walk past holding hands. Will they still be seeing each other next February or will he be back on the geri route in a couple of months?

Good luck to all you, lovers by the lake! May the magic of these February mornings stay forever in your heart—this is my Valentine’s Day wish for you.

(This article first appeared in Chandigarh Newsline, Times of India, on February 12, 1999.)

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