He was a man of moderate build and of moderate means. His was your average ‘boy meets girl, gets married, has two children, one girl, and one boy’ story. On a regular day, if I passed him on the street, I wouldn’t see him at all, so well camouflaged in the everyday.
But today was not a regular day. Today, I stood outside the gate to his house armed with measuring tape and graphite pencils in hand and stars in my eyes. Just beyond the white painted gate was a green garden as green as the aliens we drew as kids and as alien to its city context. The house sat comfortably warm wrapped in its green blanket. A wrought iron balcony cutting gently through the mass of green along the twines of a pink blossom.
Strangely, it felt like standing at the entrance to a shrine. I peered intently through the gate, closed my eyes, and opened them again a couple of times before I rang the doorbell.
The man emerged from his house. He wasn’t an ordinary man anymore. Sure, he had his face and his build but his eyes were those of a man possessed.
He threw open the gates, smiled infectiously and bolted back towards the house. I scuttled up to him awkwardly not knowing how to respond. The moment I entered the house, I knew. I knew instantly that this could only be the doing of a mad man. A man so entirely consumed and possessed, so entirely smitten that it transcended into worship. This man was a lover and a dreamer.
He animatedly took me through his temple, what was once an ugly utilitarian pre-independence steel structured military barrack had been transfigured into a humble warm home for his family. He described every detail, every corner, every arrangement, every object, every material, every composition, every frame as though deliriously in fervent prayer. Everything about his manner caused me to sit back on the floor in his shadow and just listen, listen to his prayer and see the fruits of his offerings. I felt uncomfortable as though I was listening in on a confessional booth conversation of a religious fanatic in the inner sanctum of a church.
Here I stood before him at the beginning, before everything else, after Christ.
He told me of everything that went into the carving out of his home, all the sacrifices, all the hardships, all the little inconveniences, everything. He spoke of how each space came about in its own time, as and when he could afford it, and when he couldn’t, he’d dream out all the details for when he finally did.
The staircase mesmerized me, the light, graceful steel staircase that effortlessly pierced the double height of the living space was gorgeous. The man remembered every measurement and angle, every riser designed to perfection not only for his current needs but anticipating the future needs of his wife’s fraying legs.
I saw how much he loved his family through his love for his home. How much he cared about their every need. How his home had been shaped by this love. His own bedroom doubled up as a consultation room for his patients allowing major chunks of his house to be family rooms and spaces for everyone to gather in. There was a front garden, a back garden, a jhulla, a living room, a gathering space and a family room. He envisioned each object in each space to really embody ‘home-ness’, to embody a home of love and for love.
But today as I stood before him, he seemed a little disappointed. He had failed to fathom one thing. He had failed to take into account that someday his kids would grow older and would want their own space. Their own exclusive space. Not family space but a space of their own. A space shielded from the glow of the temple he had built. A space where they would not hear his prayers or see his sacrifices.
But he wasn’t disappointed. He now started dreaming their dreams through the eyes of a father, through the eyes of a son. And what beautiful dreams they were. What delirious and passionate dreams. What humble and embracing dreams.
I was immediately taken up and enthralled and thrown into his maddeningly mad world.
An ordinary man, transformed into a lover, a dreamer, and then transfigured before me into something far more extraordinary- a father.
There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
– Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven)