This is a page, dear reader, from my life
about a love both secret and unspoken,
for, you see, she was the landlord’s wife –
and I, a lonely surveyor and month-long tenant.
On a misty eve in an icy, grey, November,
did I make my way to her elegant door,
as the mountains with sparks of sunset did smolder;
and I, greeted by a grand moustache and cigar smoke.
Puffing away, the landlord let me in
to this wooden house with an old-world charm,
my booted footsteps seemed to assail it with a din
until I was seated before the fire warm.
A word or two about my train journey, these cold hills, et al –
and the reticent landlord retired to his bed.
It was at that juncture that she stepped in the hall –
a vision exquisite, before whom all sights faded.
Beaming and smiling, with a regal poise, did she advance –
I stood as if in a dream, enchanted by her fragrance,
afraid lest my cheeks betray my emotions entranced,
and I make a fool of myself, thus out of my senses!
With a zealous shake of hands did she bid me welcome,
conversing freely, despite my stunned station –
while I marveled at her soft voice and deep tone
telling about the prospect from my room of the tea plantation.
Presently the manservant to my room did lead the way –
the lamp light revealing a floor length window and a light blizzard.
Her words saying, “I hope you have a wonderful stay”,
lingered in my heart as the moment in it I preserved.
The days that followed were blissfully pleasant
as she showed me round the plantation and we visited the workers –
and I made my notes by the light of their lanterns quaint,
lost in the enigma of her company, and happy as in a drunken stupor.
Wrapped in blankets of alabaster mist, she told me of the leaf-gathering process –
in a white blouse, long grey skirt and and wide-brimmed hat – fancy, yet industrious;
with a charming smile for the employees, and for the children, an affectionate caress –
a woman of substance, with humble grace and drive – despite a life luxurious.
By the second week, a strong sensation, in my heart grew –
from the early planted seed of infatuation, watered by ceaseless adoration,
something beautifully divine had blossomed and I knew,
my heart had given itself in love, to the lady of this plantation.
Time slated for surveys and reports was breached,
as my nocturnal hours were spent tossing and turning;
the limited ink supplies I had were diminished
in pages upon pages of romantic writing.
I wished I could act upon my desires,
or at least banish her from this heart unsettled –
for, spurred on by love’s pure, wild fire,
it rode on the very plantation, unbridled!
I thought of little else, no thirst for a drink or hunger for food;
gripped with dramatic, fanciful ideas both daring and bold.
Rainy mornings and moonlit nights mirrored my restless mood,
as all I wanted was for her to be mine – not the distant landlord’s!
Yet each time I saw her, my poetry took flight,
and in its place settled the cold and harsh reality –
this love was beyond manifestation or a fight,
for we were, both of us, bound to our varied duties.
The third week onwards, I pulled myself together
realising, gratefully, as we sat before the glowing embers –
how such precious moments I had with her gathered
to keep me warm in life’s lonely winters.
Renewed, I visited the huts of the workers once more,
interviewing and typing papers upon papers,
for the end was nearing and soon, I’d pack and go,
with a light bag and heavy heart, and this place captured in pictures.
The night before I left, we dined upon the picturesque roof –
though being with her was enough intoxication and I didn’t need a toast –
she raised one to me, beneath the stars – driving all my despondency aloof –
with twinkling eyes and that heartwarming smile – ever the perfect host.
I knew that years later this image would come to my mind –
her leaning her cheek on her hand as a lock of hair fell across her face,
and how she chuckled coyly, latching it to a clip behind,
making my passionate heart skip a beat, and race!
And in that moment it dawned on me
that my heart had faced its best and worst,
and how much I’d miss her company,
when November ended, ushering in the real frost.
Morning came, bringing with it feelings bittersweet –
I went downstairs and handed in my keys,
wondering if our paths would cross again and we’d meet,
or if we’d fade away, like whispers in the breeze.
Taking the keys, she referred to me as a new found friend –
carried away, I thanked her, kissing her hands in ardent reverence.
Surprised at the gesture, she hesitated, just for a little moment –
then taking a step back, bid me farewell, still gleaming in radiance.
The manservant then barged in, breaking the silence,
saying, “Madam, a young man would like to lodge immediately“.
Charged by his mistress, with administering the preparation at once,
he left, as I walked out too, feeling a slight pang of jealously.
I was surprised to find the landlord on the porch, not on plantation duty,
saying, “So long, young tenant, and back to your employ –
then spotting the new tenant, adding, “When one is married to a thing of beauty,
one must put up with each infatuated young boy!”
Cowed and feeling admonished, I left for the train station,
and waited on the platform bench for it to arrive,
wondering how, even after reaching my destination,
this pain of a doomed first love, I would survive…
© Isha Garg