Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Flame Collector

My friend Sarat is a self professed "collector of old flames". In Hindi, his native language, his name translates approximately to Autumn - the season of bright colors and falling leaves many parts of this country and of a nip in the air and sunny skies back home in India. He has had former girlfriends remember him nostalgically and send him surprise e-mails.

For old times sake he has responded to these missives and discovered that they had both never forgotten or fully moved on. The woman is now married but does not feel the deep emotional connection with her husband like she had once done with Sarat. She wants to talk. He hesitates but agrees to listen. Every once in a while when her pent up emotions need a receptacle, she reaches out to him. Then one day the inevitable happens. She asks him "If I were to leave my husband would you give us another chance ?"

The flame collector pulls back in fear because he is no marriage wrecker. He was once her friend and lover. He tries to be somewhere safely and in between the two now that it is over at least logically. So I asked him " How does it help you to form such deep emotional bonds with women and then not have it work out in the end ? Why don't you leave much sooner ? Why don't you just invest less of yourself until you know its for life ? Why do you go out on a limb and get hurt ?"

He says he gives a relationship his best because that is the only way he knows to give and is glad for the old flames who remember him with such fondness. He is glad to be part of their life's happiest memories. "But does that not make you the marriage wrecker you don't want to be ?" I ask. "I don't seek them out after they're married. They are the ones who come back to me because they married for all the wrong reasons and don't have much in common with their husbands".

He has been flame collecting all his adult life and will likely stay single for many more years. He is waiting to feel that special connection he felt for the first love of his life at nineteen." Anything short of that, will be settling" he says.When the leaves swirl down, his phone will ring and beloved voice from the past will say "Sarat ?" and he will relive the passion they once shared. The oldest flames will die out in time, their ashes blow away in the wind bringing peaceful oblivion. I tell him he needs a touch of Vasant (Spring) in his life. "Maybe we should start with renaming me" he laughs.

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