I picked up the book, misreading its title as A Man Called Love. Being the incurable romantic that I am, I thought “I’d love to read about the story of a man called Love.” And it was a best seller to boot. “Of course, it would be!” I silently remarked to myself.
It was only when I finally sat down to begin reading it that I realized the novel was about a man called Ove. Ha ha ha. I am going to enjoy this book. And I did.
Ove was an old-fashioned man who was good with engines and cars – old ones that is, before cars became rolling mobile computers. He was good at making things with his hands and fixing things in and around the house. Even in and around his neighborhood, in the case of Ove. He was also a Luddite.
He saw the world pretty much in black and white, where right is right and wrong is wrong. And never shall the twain meet, except in the cosmic battle of good versus evil. He lived and stood by his principles ready to pay the price and fight the battles to defend his. So, he ends up being brutally frank, speaking his mind even if and when he would offend the feelings of others. But he never does so out of spite or hatred. It is just that right is right and wrong is wrong.
The only color in Ove’s life was his wife, Sonia. Where Ove was all muscles and skills and principles, Sonia was all emotions and arts and compassion. It was not beyond Ove to knock sense into the heads of ruffians using his brawn. Sonia tamed the hearts of hooligans by teaching them Shakespeare. Somewhere in the story, Ove finds himself an ally to a young tattooed teener, who turned out to be one of Sonia’s former students.
His comments and descriptions about people are so straightforward and accurate, they were funny and hilarious. Many of his remarks offended people. But for him, he was just telling thing as they were.
In many ways, he reminded me of a good man with whom I had the fortune (serendipity) of working. He was rough. He was tough. He called things as they were. And, of course, he offended and hurt the feelings of many people. And yet everybody loved him for they knew he was speaking the truth. And he said it in his inimitably humorous manner.
Like Ove, he was a man of simple but functional taste. He wore that same set of clothes – striped blue seersucker shirt jac with blue nylon pants. Not a few people called him ‘the man in blue’. Like Ove, his language – sparse as it was – was liberally laced with profanities. And he could cuss fluently in the four languages he was proficient in.
The Man in Blue was a man of principles. He would call you out when you do wrong. But he would always be the first to offer help when help is needed. He would never give an inch in a negotiation when he does not have to. But there is no negotiating with him when it comes to giving to those who are less fortunate. I remember him sticking to his principles even if this meant losing on a business deal.
I loved working with the Man in Blue. He was a reasonable man but he has got reasons that many could not or would not understand. He had a talent for words, that few truly appreciated and so found it difficult to work with him. His humor is very subtle and can be very profound. Often, he would end up laughing at his own jokes. And I could still imagine his quiet laughter rumbling down as waves down him ample belly.
He once called me ‘El Hombre Misterioso’. And that is so true. For even to this day, I still remain a mystery. Even to myself.
The story of Ove and of the Man in Blue in my life powerfully illustrates to me that the most serendipitous mystery that there can be is love. We do not really choose those we love. They often come into our lives rather serendipitously. But love itself is a decision, born out of our freedom. And the people we love. They never die nor ever leave us. We never lose them. Somehow they stay and remain. For always.
Yes, this is all serendipity. And I would have it no other way.