And then there was the matter of the rose.
There were nine days more to go when I decided upon the D-day, and I am certain that there would be few generals who would have planned as much even for a battle as I did for the declaration of my love. Truly it was no laughing matter. There were so many things to consider. And of course how to give the rose was the most important of them.
To be frank, unlike most people I wasn’t overly fond of that flower or its smell. That is why around the time I was in my final year in college, I had vigorously pushed for replacing the few poor examples of a rose plant that we had in our garden with chrysanthemums, and in spite of facing stiff opposition from my sister, had made mom yield to my demand.
Well, it appeared as if the ghosts of those roses that owing to my intense lobbying had suffered an untimely death had returned to haunt me in my dreams. Because now I saw roses often – during daytime and by night, while snoozing on the sofa or while lying curled up on the bed, whether taking a nap or going for a niner, whenever my eyes closed on their own.
Also, I had never known that roses could be shape-shifters. For I saw one that, when I was on the verge of presenting it to my girl, suddenly grew awfully big thorns as if it had come straight out of a science fiction horror, making her draw back in fear. Or one that shed its petals before her as swiftly as elected politicians broke promises, leaving in my hands the bare stem. One of the nights I even saw a rose that made wings of its petals and glided out of my hands like a helium filled balloon, twirling upwards towards the blue infinity till it disappeared from our gaze as we watched on helplessly.
My nightmares made my sister comment that why didn’t I put my dreams on paper – I might win a Pulitzer, they were such jewels of imagination. I reminded her Pulitzers were reserved only for Americans. She said in that case I should rather focus on how to get the real thing done, than dreaming up stupid dreams about it. To begin with, I was so idle I hadn’t even yet decided from where to get the rose.
This charge was false. While she was right that I hadn’t made up my mind about the flower shop, it was simply because none of the roses I had seen measured up to what I wanted. A rose that I could point to and say to the shop owner: ‘Yes, I want something that good on Friday.’ Well, I didn’t know that hard as I searched, no rose, however beautiful, would be sufficient to fulfill my expectations; smell sweet enough to be presented as a token of my love.
There was something else weighing heavily on my mind. Where to carry that damned rose? Because I wanted to talk to my girl for some time before giving the flower to her. I didn’t want to be abrupt, wishing to lead her to the topic slowly, as she had once guided me on a muddy path, hopping with nimble steps from stone to stone.
Also, since we both worked in a school, I had to take classes before I could have the opportunity of meeting her alone, and I couldn’t possibly walk into the school with a red rose in my hand without raising eyebrows. I might as well have announced my intentions on a loudspeaker. And though I could have decided to bunk my classes and arrive at school just around the time when she became free, in order to minimize the damage to the rose, an inner voice told me that gods might not be too pleased with this shirking of duty for personal reasons. Not being keen to offend them right then, I dropped the idea.
It was quite clear that I couldn’t carry the rose in my shirt or jeans pockets, for they were rather small and would have made mincemeat of the flower by the time I decided to bring it out. My bag was the next alternative and a good one too; I could easily carry it around while chatting with my sweetheart. However, a field experiment I performed with it led to the early demise of a pretty specimen and so that option had to be abandoned too.
Then I briefly flirted with the idea of carrying the rose in an opaque polyethylene bag. But my sister baulked at it saying she had never heard anything more unromantic, and even I fell in line after she asked me to imagine the scene myself. Try taking a rose out of a polybag!
At last, after thinking on the matter for two whole days, me and my sister arrived at the conclusion that to succeed in my endeavor of carrying the rose hidden safely to its desired destination, I had no choice but to wear my navy blue blazer as it was fitted with a roomy inner pocket that had space enough for even a big rose.
People who have lived in Western India in the month of May would probably comment that if all I wanted was to roast myself alive, I might as well have committed suicide and gone to hell. It would have served my intention better. But as the saying went, sometimes one had to make great sacrifices in love, and sweating profusely in the middle of May while articulating sweet nothings had to be one of mine I presume. Moreover as my sister pointed out to boost my courage, I looked quite handsome in the blazer. I prayed to the almighty that he make things better by making the day cooler.
My sister had three more instructions to offer in her “how to give a rose successfully” course. That I should, at intervals of an hour, sprinkle the petals with water so that the rose stayed fresh till the time I gave it. I was also to wrap it in a small polyethylene cover, both to preclude the possibility of the petals getting scratched or my blazer’s getting wet. In addition before giving it to my sweetheart, I should smoothen the stem with a penknife, so that she did not feel any discomfort while holding it.
It was the only time I sincerely wished I was a girl.
And then there was the matter of the rose.