Love at first sight is something that happened only in movies and in books, has always been my opinion. But Makuka, the hopeless romantic that he is, claimed that he fell in love with me when he saw me at the reunion, and that his belief was confirmed when he saw my pictures in the camera I forgot at his place. He wasn’t a classmate, but the younger brother of Siami’s husband, the one who we thought stayed put in his room that reunion day. He and his parents came out for dinner, and he claimed he saw me then and “his heart beat a thousand times faster” as he put it. Of course I was easy to spot - at five feet six and a half inches I towered over all the other girls and some of the guys. Quite tall for a Mizo girl. Tallness runs in the family, Kimteii is five six, my mother was five-five, and all my uncles on my mother’s side are well above five-ten.
Makuka got my phone number from Siami, and came to my house to return my camera. It wasn’t long before he was a regular visitor. He proclaimed his undying love for me every day, sending me cute text messages and calling me every night before he went to sleep. At first I thought he was not serious, but as time wore on I realised that that was just the way he was. He was very sentimental and not afraid to show his feelings. I liked him very much, he was funny and made me laugh, but I wasn’t sure if I loved him because love was something I had never truly experienced. What I liked most about him was that he was different from the other men I knew. It didn’t worry him that at 27 he was four years younger than I was, and not once did he mention my height which was quite a relief after a lifetime of hearing people always telling me how tall I was. He was of average height, not good looking, but had the most beautiful smile. When he smiled his eyes twinkled and his whole face lit up. How I lived for that smile!
I would often inspect myself in the mirror. What did he love about me? I am not beautiful – my eyes are too far apart, my forehead too wide, my hair too curly. I am not clever or funny, I am terrible at conversation. Yet he remained true. He said he loved my innocence, and my truth. How could one argue with that? If I’d only known that he would break my heart and cause me so much pain I would never have given myself to him. It took me a year before I finally opened up and admitted my love, but he waited patiently. If I’d only known that he would hurt me so much to make me want to give up my life I’d have made him wait forever.
When I was with Makuka I felt young and alive, as if I had just recovered from an illness and the air was buzzing with life and activity. It was as if the world was made just for us, for us to live in and to be happy.
But there were times when he scared me with his intensity. He felt everything deeply, strongly, passionately. I was his greatest love, the best thing that had ever happened to him, the answer to his prayers. He said I meant more to him than his siblings, his parents, his friends, that he wouldn’t survive the day if he didn’t see me or hear my voice. I thought nobody ever actually said those words, but Makuka said them to me (“When I don’t see you or hear your voice I feel empty, incomplete”).
And there were times when I felt suffocated, smothered by him. He was like a faithful and loyal puppy, eager to please and desperate for attention, sometimes too protective and possessive. He’d call me, send me text messages, come to see me everyday; he wanted to know everything, what I ate, what I did, whom I saw, what I thought. I'd never had anyone so interested in me before. It was an unbelievable experience – being in love was the most incredible thing I had experienced in my life.
My family and friends didn’t approve. My aunts said he was after my money (What money, I asked, the money that my father accumulated with unfair means, or my monthly salary?) Though my father didn’t say it out loud I could tell from his behaviour that Makuka wasn’t exactly the kind of man he wanted as a boyfriend or husband for his daughter. He probably preferred someone who was gainfully employed, someone God fearing and a regular church-goer. My friends claimed to know all about him, telling me he was a no-good person who drank alcohol and who never attended church and didn’t participate in any of the social activities. Hearing them talk you’d have thought Makuka was a criminal who was only a few steps away from prison and eternal damnation, who didn’t deserve a church-going government-job-holding God-fearing girl like me.
They were right. He was unemployed and wasn’t the most popular person in town. But he made me happy. He made me believe that I was the most wonderful, most beautiful person in the planet. I truly believed that love would conquer all and that we’d live happily forever. All my life I had followed all the rules, colouring inside the lines, always doing the ‘right’ thing, and never once strayed from the path. Being with Makuka made me feel bold and adventurous, made me feel brave and daring. I felt free, and alive.
I will always remember that day- 12th June 2007, a cloudy Tuesday. My father had gone to
with Kimteii and her husband. After nine years of marriage they were still childless and it worried everyone. They had consulted a stream of doctors, seen healers and evangelists and pastors, and prayed every day for a child. My father too desperately wanted a grandchild; the baby born of his special child. I was my mother's child, and since childhood Kimteii was always my father's. He gave her everything she wanted. So when Kimteii and her husband heard about a fertility clinic in Calcutta with very high success rates, my father immediately announced he would bear all the costs. They called the clinic, made an appointment, and were off. I took the day off from work and went to Lengpui and waved goodbye to my family. Calcutta
It was the first time I was alone in the house. All by myself. I called Makuka and invited him to dinner. He had never been invited to eat at our house before, what with my family not thinking too highly of him. I felt lightheaded and delirious, as if I was suddenly set free. I didn't remember what we ate or what we talked about. But I can still picture vividly the expression on Makuka's face when after dinner he took my hand and led me to my bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Six months later, we eloped.
(to be continued....)
(to be continued....)