By Punyakante Wijenaike
Both looked sad as if they were contemplating jumping into the running waters and being swept away in the current. Both looked in their late twenties and their complexions were darker in colour than the citizens of London going about their business on a busy road. No one stopped to look at the couple holding hands so close to the edge of the bank of rushing waters. But that was London. No one had the time to stop and stare nor care. He was simply clad in a T-shirt and longs while she wore a loose flowing Indian style Salvar Kameez. They both looked foreign to their background.
Both wore dark glasses as if to shield the emotions in their eyes from each other and from the world. He was a Sri Lankan and she a member of the Sikh clan of India. The Indian Ocean bound their homelands close to each other. But now London, England had become home during the years of study in their British University.
"When did you get this call from your home?" he broke the barrier of silence.
"About a week ago," she admitted slowly, reluctantly.
"Why did you tell them about us? Or could one of the students from India have sneaked on us?"
"My father rang me on his own and warned me."
"How could your father have known about our love affair unless someone told him?"
"I don't know..." she said helplessly. "They may have told a contact to keep an eye on me since this is the first time I am on my own, away from our people in a western country where there is so much freedom for youth."
"We fell in love. You made me understand old beliefs and traditions no longer mattered to you because we are now in a brave, new, emancipated world in the West."
She kept her eyes, hidden behind dark glasses, steadily on the flowing waters.
He suddenly let go of the hand he was holding, warmly folded in his own. At last, slowly, reluctantly she withdrew her eyes focused on the running waters and faced him, removing her dark glasses so that her eyes looked straight into his.
"It was no one but me who called my family and spoke to them about us. They only confirmed that what I was about to do was the correct thing. Yes, my beloved, we have to break up, part from each other and await our turn to marry. We have been sent here to get an education and not to find partners for life. They, our people will see to that. You and I should concentrate on our studies and maybe find temporary work and experience before we return to our homelands. We must never think of London as 'home.'
"But the world has changed!" he shouted, losing control. "We are not puppets still dancing to the string of tradition. We are free individuals sent round the universe to learn and make our own lives. If we chose to live here we are free to do so provided we are given the permission to become citizens from the British Government. If we find our life partner in a foreign land we must be permitted to be happy!"
She looked away from him, looked down on the flowing waters of the river Thames.
"This is only a part, a period of our young lives. "This is only a short episode in our lives. I am glad I made you happy in that short period."
He stood as if he had received a bolt of lightning from a clear sky. The world began to spin round him. She held onto him so that he could not leap into the flowing waters of the river Thames.
"We cannot make it in an alien country," she said."Our roots are not here."
"You lied to me then!" he shouted, losing control.
"No!" she said firmly. "I only wanted to make you feel less lonely in this foreign land. I never expected our beautiful friendship, our love and understanding to extend to formal marriage..."