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This tribute has been a long time coming – almost 7 years overdue, which is when we first met. Or maybe, the time is just about right. The day something snapped in me to hear you needlessly criticized – my own reaction surprised me, since I never thought of us as ‘belonging’. The roots was firmly elsewhere, back in a sepia-toned era. My head (unknown to my idiot heart) always assumed we were in a symbiotic relationship, with no expectations on either side, no tearful goodbyes, no drama. With your reputation of being a ruthless opportunist, and my cynicism, I was in a delusional bubble that we were in a safe zone. That mutual selfishness was our connection – and our shield. There is really no accounting for love, is there?

I was – and sometimes still am – repeatedly warned about your dubious reputation. No one, including myself, expected it to last this long. But slowly, insidiously, my defences have been penetrated until the ‘dark side’ feels like home now. It is no surprise really, if you analyze it objectively, since we are similar souls. Outspoken, often arrogant, not wasting too much time on niceties, with an ill-concealed disdain for the less enterprising. And reluctant to let people in. Or catch a glimpse of the softer side. Whether we just happened to be dancing to the same beat when we met, or whether time with it’s tricky ways has synchronized our rhythm, is something which is irrelevant now.

What is relevant is lazy winter picnics spent in the sun with ancient crumbling remnants for company; crackling rooftop bonfires on freezing nights, the charred smell of barbecued meat, the twang of the guitar, and voices blended in chorus. Tenaciously shivering in unmissable concerts, and foraying into dubious alleyways in search of delicacies. Summer dust, and hiding out in the comforting shade with an ice-cold ‘bunta’. Memories of a sweltering hostel room with the heat waves from a stubborn ‘cooler’ adding to the agony; finally giving up and migrating to the roof, only to find it “otherwise occupied” and beating a hasty retreat! Suddenly, inevitably, growing up – you were not made for adolescence – loving you was an adult job. And then, just like that, glimpses of another facet of your many layers. Of carpeted, hushes tones, muted glassy clinks, stark white walls with dashes of paint. Inane conversation, exchange of visiting cards. Purposeful. And watching, awed, how they all melted into each other effortlessly, with each existing as if the other doesn’t exist – and allowing me to flit in and out to wherever I find peace for the day.

There are brighter lights that sometimes attract the restless, sounds of the sea call out, and raindrops come crashing down from faraway times. There are exciting unknowns to discover and beckoning temptations to resist. Delhi, there may be breaks, but never separation. For every oscillating compass there is the North star, and every gypsy soul someday trades in the caravan for home.