With Nascent Love, They Watch The Other Lovers (?)
The Gothenburg Tales
River Göta was beckoning to its bosom, to its shore. The sun sparkled on it. The Nordic sky backed it. Scandinavian Summer.
Teresa Goswami felt she was rewarded for hard work, to be here, on a paid assignment, from her home country to another country in Europe. Today she could finally sit by the riverside for which she was longing since she had landed in Gothenburg. She could not resist from expressing her admiration for the city. “What a beautiful city, with a river.”
“That is why I brought you here,” Siddhartha Sinha said.
“Thoughtful of you,” Teresa acknowledged. “Thank you.”
“You like it, ah?” Siddhartha asked, and expressed without waiting for her to say more. “If you like it, I like it.”
One should have one’s own opinions, she inferred to herself, about one’s life, about where one wants to live when the world has become smaller for those like her and him, though world is wide, wider, widest. However, she liked that he liked what she liked, Gothenburg: Göteborg. She noticed the adolescents, or, the adolescents on the threshold of adulthood. “They’re so cute.”
“We too cute,” he appreciated himself, her, themselves.
Teresa was swayed into his vanity, even it if was meant to be a joke. How the others would see us? The only one person who could be seeing them was a statue. She pointed to the statue. “Who is that?
“A statue. Someone Swedish,” Siddhartha said who had the least interest in statues, or in arts for that matter.
Teresa stared at him, smiled. “It is obvious.” She re-saw the face of the sculpture, she felt she saw him somewhere; she could not recollect where and when. In 2013, a Google Doodle honoured the man in the sculpture, when she had seen him on Google’s default page when had started to work as the computer engineer.
The statue is a sculpture of Evert Taube sculpted by Eino Hanski. Teresa guessed the statue could be of an important person, possibly an artist. Otherwise why would the tourists gather around him, taking photos: selfies, also. The Chinese know more about the statues in public places in Europe than the Indians in Europe.
* * *
Evert Taube was an eminent Swedish artist, composer and singer, and the foremost troubadour in the Swedish ballad tradition. He was one of the few troubadours of the twentieth century who sustained the endangered art by practising it among other vocations with the patronage of the Swedes.
Troubadours are travelling poets-singers, storytellers. They were popular in the Middle Ages in Europe, especially in France, for their art: telling stories in songs and poems.
Maritime life influenced Evert Taube; he began his career as a singer-songwriter as he collected sailors’ songs.
The son of a lighthouse keeper-father introduced Argentinian tango and Ceylon tea to Sweden. His poetry evoked anti-fascism, anti-war, about a Cuban girl in Havana, and environmental movement.
The son of a mother from an untitled branch of the Baltic German noble Taube family, Swedish House of Nobility: Noble Family №734, was also a painter. His paintings depicted idyllic settings, motifs of Swedish archipelagos, and Mediterranean landscape from the perspective of Swede who had been a four-week-holiday tourist.
In the autumn of 1917, Evert had been ill from the Spanish flu, however, he survived the influenza pandemic at the time that endeared and devoured the youth and the young.
* * *
Siddhartha Sinha saw many statues in the city, if not a statue some artistic installation: They put any damn thing and say, art, modern art. He informed, “The city is full of statues. Mostly women.”
At least this Swedish city is paying homage to the women, she thought. She could not resist from watching the couple of different colours. “Do you think they’re in love?”
“Otherwise why they here? Like us,” Siddhartha said. And he moved closer to her unlike the other couple who sat with dignified distance between them, more than the would-be social distancing that the coronavirus pandemic would dictate, but engrossed in a conversation.
Teresa could have moved away from Siddhartha but she allowed him to have the pleasure of touching and sitting next to her, just the limbs and the trunk and the arms. The nagging question popped up on her mind. “Do you think our castes matter?”
“If that the case, we not here like lovers,” he said. He was sure they were lovers but she was not sure, though. “Your mother knows we are here now. Having a good time by the river.”
“Will your parents accept us, ah? We belong to different castes.”
“That mattered not. Personally, for me, you matter. I don’t care about caste. Do you?”
“Not really,” she said. She was intrigued about his family, how many were there, and she wanted to know about his parents. The meaning of family has assumed a different dimension in the twenty-first century. A family means husband and wife? And children. Or, husband and wife and children with grandparents, from maternal or paternal side? “Your family?”
“They’re well educated. My brothers and sisters are well settled.”
“I’m asking about your parents,” she emphasized.
“Father is in heaven. My sisters and brothers and their families still manage, they look after my, my mother also.”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“Four sisters and two brothers.”
“All live together? In the same house? In Benares?”
“No. Not like that,” he tried to clarify. “The eldest brother and my sister-in-law stay with my mother and my widowed sister.”
“Younger sister or elder sister?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. She empathised with the unseen widowed woman: how his other family members would be treating her.
“Do you look after her?”
“Of course, I send her money, directly.”
“You’re a good man,” she said turning her head in his direction. She could see his face in profile. His gaze was fixed on the river ahead, and the blue sky. She had more questions popping in her head. If Siddhartha Sinha has such a big family including a widowed elder sister, what would my mother think about his family, oh my god! Will my mother accept this guy with such a big family as my future husband? If not, why would she willingly agree that we should go out together and have a nice time? For Teresa, her mother was a perennial conundrum and perpetual influence in her life. She wondered what thoughts sat in her mother’s head, and what ideas she harboured in her head, while she languished here, with her, when she was supposed to be with her father in India. Are all mothers like this, or, only my mother? She had no answer. She was pulled back to the present as Siddhartha came further closer to her, his right arm almost scraping her left breast. He collected her left hand into his hands. She allowed him to have the pleasure of her hand in his hands.
“Can I kiss?”
“We can wait,” she said softly. “I think.”
“You’re right,” he said equally softly. He gently dropped her left hand back on to her thighs, deliciously shiny.
PS: Reader, respectable reader, the featured photo in this story was taken with the consent of the subjects. Thank you.