To say Hema was excited about going back to Pune could be my biggest understatement. When we started planning our India trip our biggest dilemma was, what part of India should we visit this time. For me, it was easy. Goa had to be on the list again. I remember the moment Hema looked at me with this quiet subdued excitement, just before she proposed the option of going to Pune. For those of you who don’t know, Hema grew up in Pune and it was there that she created and molded the wonder woman she would become. When we first met, she would tell me snippets of memories she had of this magical and life altering place. She was educated in Pune and so I was about to get first hand account of the place that had provided her the knowledge and intellect which I have the privilege to be the recipient of on a daily basis. So, it makes sense that within minutes of arriving at the hotel in Pune, we were walking to her College. We walked up a narrow roadway to the main roadway, which is called Ferguson College Road. The sidewalk was filled with young students and the road cluttered with traffic. The first thing I noticed was how updated Pune was. It was no Hyderabad. It has a modern feel to it. There is an excitement in the air, young minds that will forever shape the future of Pune and India.
Hema usually has a casual stride to her walk but at this moment, she has a steady confident walk. I am made aware instantly of the impact this place has had on her. It is apparent the confidence and pride Hema has to this place. I can feel her trying to contain her excitement. I know she just wants to stand in the middle of the road and yell,
“I’m home! This is where I belong!”
I get the same feeling when I land in Portugal. I’m smirking at the similarities.
When we get into the grounds of Ferguson College, one is immediately reminded of the amount of knowledge that has been shared and acquired. You have the typical cluster of students socializing and the ever cliché student sitting under the Asoka tree reviewing her notes. Also, I should point out, and with great admiration, most of the students I see are young women. I really wish young men were as eager to strive for knowledge as women.
Hema walks me through the college grounds and I feel as if I have travelled back in time with her. I’m now in the presence of the young college student, Hema. I can feel her memory and account of her experience. It’s a warm and wonderful feeling, I too feel young. She keeps repeating one phrase,
“My friends and I…” followed by a recount of a memory. That’s one thing that Hema and I don’t share from our past. She has proud moments and cherished feelings of friendships she made in college. Friendships that she holds dear to this day. If (when hehehe) we live in Pune, they would be a constant in our lives.
This brings me to the most intimidating lunch I have ever been invited too.
Hema made plans with her friends and went alone. And I quote,
“It’s a girls lunch.”
I made myself unavailable to attend. I spent the time in the hotel room enjoying some alone time. Didn’t last though. I got a text from Hema.
” Hey. My friends want to meet you.”
Oh my god. Maybe I can get sick in seconds.
“I would love too, but I just contracted Ebola and I think I should stay in the hotel.” Nope, that wouldn’t work, how about,
“I just got a call from CSIS. My mission should I choose to accept it…” Augh, there was no way out of it.
” Sure. I will get ready and meet you there.”
Hema met me halfway and walked me to the restaurant. Like a Chaplin escorting a convict to the executioner.
The restaurant is packed and we walk in and pass all the people still waiting for a table. I catch looks that are asking, why are they so important? I have a look like, ‘I’m with her’. We walk to the back of the restaurant which is an outside patio. It has a mediterranean feel. The crowd is young. There in the middle of the patio is a table. Seated are 5 women.
I feel as if I am being introduced to a panel.
“Please Ricardo, sit down. We have many questions to ask and we know you are guilty.” I probably am but I will try to get an acquittal. Maybe I can bribe the panel. Yes, that’s it, try to outsmart a table full of highly educated women, that should work. And men wonder why women think they are so inadequate? We have underestimated women for too long. They have always known we were and are full of shit.
I go through the pleasantries of introductions, if you think I can remember their names, then you are a fool. I sit at the head of this table. To my left is Storm. Her silver strands remind me of the super hero from xmen. Quiet, but powerful enough, I could tell she could change the weather. Beside her is Batgirl. She is the embodiment of a woman in Pune. She spoke with confidence. Then there was Captain Marvel, she is accomplished and has never allowed failure to define her. At the far right end of the table there is Harley Quinn, she’s a business woman who can always be up for some fun. Last but definitely not least there is Jean Grey, she has a fiery phoenix inside that I feel she tries to conceal. The world would be a better place if she unleashed it upon us. Hell, the world would be amazing if these superheroes showed their true powers. I have five pairs of eyes looking at me. The relieving part is I am not feeling judged. So far so good.
I scan the table and look at each one of the women. What is striking about this group is that they are all so unique and different. Having grown up and educated in Canada, I was subjected to the cliques of the social structure in Canada. If you looked the same and acted the same then you were part of a group. Not so with this group, or should I say, the common thread with this group was, educated women, who cherished each others company. What I didn’t know and only realized after was that they had forged a friendship that transcended time and distance. Yes, I am envious. But I also feel that Hema has a strong foundation of people who genuinely care for her. Something I was never privy too.
The conversation is light and I am updated on the fact that Hema has told our relationship story to this group of women on how we met and our wedding plans.
So Wonder Woman goes back home to share her story and how she fell in love and now they are curious if whether or not this MAN is worthy. I search for the lasso of truth.
“Yes. I love her. Yes, she is my equal. I am only the man I am because she has elevated my intellect to match hers.” Gees, is it hot out here or is this lasso just uncomfortable?
I am in the presence of Wonder Women. Each an Indian Warrior Princess, with strength and wisdom that would lay shame to any common man.
When I finally speak, I am careful with my words. After every sentence I am hoping I haven’t embarrassed Hema. What happens if I fail the test? Will they begin the ritual of beheading as do the preying mantis’?
I work everyday, sometimes fail, to be Hema’s Superman. The only way I can do that is by letting her be the Wonder Woman that she is. These women I am sitting with, are no more a threat to me than Hema. The conversation is entertaining and pleasant.
Pune is a forward thinking city. Its streets are filled with modern well-educated citizens. I don’t feel out-of-place at all. I could actually live here. I would feel comfortable and appreciated. The city has a very bright future. I know I would be safe. I get up from the table and I know I am in great company. I am standing with Warriors of Pune. India is in good hands.