Recently, I read the book, the ‘Forty Rules of Love’. It’s a sweet story which narrates how a person discovers love. At some point of time, each one of us have felt the need to be loved. For a few, it may have stretched to the extent of feeling lonely or desperate. Why does this happen? What does a person do next? The second question is more crucial. To answer this, let’s look at the life of one woman, Ayesha, who is in her mid-forties, a hard-working house wife, married to the love of her life and a loving mother.

It was a pleasant morning, the sun rising from behind the trees and the tall buildings of New York, the birds chirping in chorus, the aura of the morning was special, and why not? After all, it was the day of love, the Valentine’s Day. Ayesha woke up at the rise of sun as usual, and headed to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. When she was taking the milk out of the refrigerator, she read on a piece of paper ‘Put more efforts to bring back love.’

Ayesha always felt that love is one of the most important things that keeps a relationship going. She had been married to Ryan for 20 years now but, it wasn’t the same. The spark between them was long gone, the responsibilities and boredom had taken its toll on their relationship. They rarely spent time together and Ryan was always busy with his own work. Ayesha often wished to spend time with her husband but, something always came in between; he was out of town, too busy or tired. She started feeling ignored and tried spending time with her teenage daughter, to take her mind off it. However, she too was busy with her own life. Though, there were a few friends with whom she could share her feelings, she liked keeping things private. Initially, Ayesha felt like it was an imaginary problem, which her mind was forcing upon her and she tried ignoring it by doing yoga and cooking. However, there was nothing that could keep her mind off it. After all, it’s the human brain, the more we want to ignore something the more we think about it. At times, she tried talking to Ryan, but there was no use, it would always end up in an argument and love was long gone. Years passed and she couldn’t do anything about it. There was nothing left in their relationship and if the same continued, she feared it would end soon. She was now pouring milk into cereal for her daughter. However, her mind was still wandering around the piece of paper when she was interrupted by Neha.

“Mom, you are pouring too much milk into my cereal. Where are you lost?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice”, Ayesha replied

Neha continued “I’ll be late today, I’ve got a date tonight.”

Ayesha immediately reacted like an Indian mother “A date? If we live in America that doesn’t mean we follow this culture as well. I’ve already asked you to be away from such things. ”

“Mom please, I love this guy.”

“No, you aren’t going anywhere with him. It’s just an infatuation, get over it.”

“Mom, it doesn’t mean that I don’t get to celebrate love only because you can’t. Don’t try to force your way of life on me”, she smashed the door and left.

Ayesha stood there speechless. It wasn’t the first time she argued with her daughter but, this was beyond limits. Ayesha started to doubt herself. Was her daughter right? Why wasn’t she able to do anything? Meanwhile, Ryan came into the kitchen. She gave him bread and decided to talk to him and see if they could start things up again.

“Ryan, today is the Valentine’s Day. Can we go for dinner tonight?” she asked hesitatingly

“Not today. I’ve too much work and we are not in our twenties now.”

“But, let’s at least…..”, she continued when Ryan interrupted her,

“It was different back then. We were falling in love, it’s not the same anymore.”

She was sad. He noticed her and said “Look there’s nothing to worry about. Get these imaginary problems out of your mind. You know we have more important things to do, right? I’m getting late, bye”, and he left.

“It is not an imaginary problem”, she murmured but he was gone.

There was bread left on her plate, but she didn’t feel like having breakfast. She needed a break and decided to take a walk. She walked past the nearby avenue. As she kept strolling, a cute puppy came onto her feet and started wagging its tail. She was patting its back when she heard a voice.

“She really loves dogs don’t you think Julie?”, an old man asked his wife.

“She sure does Jack”, Julie replied. There was now an old couple standing in front of her.

“Is this your puppy?” Ayesha enquired

“Yes, it is. Isn’t it lovable? Jack gifted it to me today. Even I love dogs, like you do dear”, the old lady replied.

“Jack?” Ayesha exclaimed.

“Yes, this is my husband Jack and I’m Julie.” “That’s a really cute gesture sir. You both make a lovely couple.” she replied.

“Thank you dear. I love giving her presents which make her happy and today’s Valentine’s, the day when you are never old to fall in love again.”

The puppy started running ahead and the old couple went behind him. Julie looked back at Ayesha and said “Take care dear and Happy Valentine’s day!”

Ayesha wondered how it was possible for this old couple to be madly in love even at this age. Would love ever bud between Ryan and her again? This made her ponder more about Ryan and her relationship. However, she started walking ahead and went to a park nearby. As she kept walking, she saw a young couple sitting on a bench. Everything around her was making her think more about what she wanted to ignore. And especially, the usual bench where they would always sit, where she had sweet memories of the past. She started recalling the past and many thoughts occupied her mind.

This is the place where Ryan called me out on a date for the first time, on the Valentine’s Day. It was so good back then, when we fell in love with each other. I still remember that note he gave me, as he was shy to ask directly,

“Have you ever visited Central Park? It’s lovely there in the morning. I’ll show you around tomorrow at say, 8. I will be very glad if you come”. Ryan.

That time is gone. It made her heart ache and tears rolled down her eyes. She started thinking about that old couple again and wanted to take some serious steps to revive the spark in her marriage but, it had become very difficult.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Hi, Ayesha! How are you?” It was Aryan, her first crush when she was in India.

He was her best friend in college and she was attracted to him, she always felt that he liked her as well. Before he moved to America, he was going to confess something to her but, nothing ever happened. Maybe, because they were too shy or maybe, because the society frowned upon such matters.

“Hi Aryan…I’m great”, she replied wiping the little drops off her eyes. It was surprising for her to see him after so many years.

“You look great but, I notice something’s wrong with you. Can I help you out with it?”

“Oh no! Believe me, there’s nothing. How are you? It’s been years since we talked”, she replied trying to divert the topic.

“I was your best friend Ayesha, I can still read your feelings. You were crying, would you like to share anything?”

“There’s nothing Aryan, really!”

“I still care for you Ayesha. I may have left back then but, I still…..”, and he paused.

She didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Did he still like her? She was desperate, the feelings were uncontrollable now and there was he, her first crush standing in front of her, who wanted to understand what she felt. No one had asked her before but, he did and she got confused. Do I share with him? But I must not be desperate, I am married and can’t do this, just because I feel lonely…but, he cares for me….I must be determined to work on my marriage, will that really work? It’s not far until it ends……What am I thinking this isn’t right? I really don’t know what to do……………..

There were two roads in front of her, one which would lead her to the same old life and her marriage would eventually break, and another, where she saw a ray of hope and would find love. One was difficult, filled with many hurdles and the other much fascinating and amusing, the one where the pursuit of love would end.

What would you do if you were Ayesha? Some of us would choose the path which was alluring where, there was an immediate benefit. But, is that a correct choice? Many would argue yes, because Ayesha’s marriage had turned into a void, and a human needs love and must be given the freedom to love anyone he/she wishes to. One may also argue that, Ayesha was vulnerable and that would be a snap decision. Others would say, she has to put in more efforts, love is not about having butterflies in your stomach all the time, it’s about commitment. Everyone has their own opinion. But, I’m sure you are wondering what Ayesha’s decision was. Which path did she choose?

I would just say that, when Ryan returned home that evening he found a note,

“Have you ever visited Central Park? It’s lovely there in the morning. I’ll show you around tomorrow at say, 8. I will be very glad if you come” -Ayesha

Ayesha didn’t chose the paths which were before her but, took a third path instead. The path where she hoped to fall in love with Ryan again, there were hurdles in the near future but, the end would be a sweet one.

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