Tumhe aur kya arpan karoo main, archana?
Ali Peter John
I have done many things, some of them the most mad things, according to the world, but the most pleasant and precious things I have done are in the service of love, which is my only belief, sometimes even more than God and all His good and great ways.
One of the best things, according to me, is the way I have celebrated the birthdays of my loved ones. The last time I had the time of my life was when I celebrated the 100th birthday of my mother during the lockdown, on August 28th, in the presence of some good friends and the angels who, the priest who had buried my mother had told me, my mother had gone to in Heaven.
The other birthday I have celebrated even during the days I was living in poverty, was the birthday of my first love, Molly. I still celebrate her birthday after 55 years.
And now I am celebrating the birthday of a young and beautiful girl who, I must say, touching my heart where I think it is, has been the most amazing vision I have seen in recent times.
She has changed my whole life which needed change at a time when I was losing faith in almost everything, except love. I had seen her in a cafe called Chaayos where she was serving tea to tea-,lovers like me.
The admirer of women in me leapt up with joy every time I saw her and I wondered why the God who created her wasas so mean to her by placing her in this cafe when she should have actually been in a place where there was love, happiness and peace, and her number of admirers who would sing songs and write poems about her. I knew I could do what others didn’t do for her, and I started respecting her, admiring her , and I am still not clear in my mind whether I’m in love with her, and if an old man of 70 can still fall in love.
The lockdown came into my life like a villain and took her away from me, but whoever the power was that took pride in taking her away from me didn’t know that I had already locked her up in my heart and in my eyes, from where no power could take her away. I started putting my feelings for her into words, and after a few attempts I realized that I could write poetry in a language which was a blend of Hindi and Urdu, a language which I had studied but not with an authority to write my feelings.
And the way some of my friends reacted to what I wrote, encouraged and inspired me to write more and more until I could compile all that I had written into a book. And if I knew anyone who could fulfill my dream by publishing a book it was my friend, Mr P. K. Bajaj, who is not only one of the most senior and respected Hindi film journalists, but also the owner of the massive Mayapuri empire in Noida, Delhi.
He asked me to send him my manuscript, and the next thing he did was to call me and say that the book would be published and ready by the day I wanted it, which was October 8, the birthday of the Dream Woman who had now become a part of my life.
The book arrived a little too late to have a celebration on that day itself, but I have done it today. As I write, the bouquets have already started coming in. A few special guests I have invited on this rare occasion are my very old friend, actor, comedian and man of God, Johnny Lever, my lawyer, Saveena Sachar Bedi whom I had met in the same cafe just a year ago, and who has been such a source of support and inspiration to me since then, and especially during these lockdown days. And there are some others who may come.
I am so scared about losing out on love once again that I keep looking at Archana to make sure she doesn’t run away. She is a very shy girl who is not even aware of how beautiful she is and what she means to me. And look, my friends have come, and the smiles on their faces make me feel elated and joyful as if it is my own birthday.
I hope my celebration of Archana’s birthday brings to her the realization that she is not meant to be working in a tea shop where she has to plead with customers to take decisions on rebates and other such things which don’t have any meaning for me because the only thing that matters to me is Archana and her future which I know is not, and cannot be with me, but cannot be without my respect for her.