Saturday 15 June 2013

Eternal Love on a Mountain Top

Eternal Love on a Mountain Top

The taxi that came to take us back to our train for Turin at Avigliana after a grueling climb up to the Sacra di San Michele was late. The abbey towered over the valley so that the towns like St. Ambrogio and Avigliana at the base of the mountain were clay red rooftops, barely visible, like punctuations in an emerald green landscape. It was late afternoon as we packed into the taxi and I wondered if I could nap for the brief ride to the train station.

Savoy collection, Turin

The driver, a man in his late 70s, spoke Italian but I could catch a few words, enough to keep the conversation going. I listened to him as he proudly talked about his town, Avigliana, pointing to the ruins of the castle on a cliff and the picturesque lakes in the center. Then, in mid conversation he reached for a small picture of his wife stuck to the dashboard with a small plastic heart stuck on it. As we passed by the Church of San Giovanni he raised the picture of his wife towards it and said a little prayer, kissed it and then paused, to take a last look at the tiny photograph and then continued on.  
For the rest of the way and the train journey back I kept thinking about the man being separated from his wife by death. I was sad for him and yet happy for him that he found a love so strong that her passing did not stop him from having her in his thoughts all the time.

So much is written about love and sometimes it seems hopelessly dramatized or alternately trivialized in teenage romances. I read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  by T.S. Eliot in college and reread it recently and think of all the triviality of life and how sometimes we tend to overlook what is meaningful in life and relationships. Death is the ultimate separation but does that mean your memories die with someone? I think memories are living, they bloom and grow.

One of my sketches done in Florence

I found this beautiful translation of Faiz’s poem about love and separation, dasht-e tanhai mein sung by Iqbal Bano and it translates to English on screen as you hear it. Love and death are themes that repeat themselves in paintings and poetry, in art and sculpture. The story of the taxi driver from Avigliana is everywhere. Sometimes all you need is a small gesture to remind you that life and love can be eternal only if you want it to be.