Anniversaries have this way of inspiring reflection on who we were, who we are now. Each year as the week of Valentine’s day comes around, Saathi and I talk about the day we met and how we decided in a couple of hours that we were to be partners in life. I don’t think I agonized over whether I wanted to fall in love with, wake up every day for the rest of my life with this person. I was so focused on whether or not he would say yes to me, to being wedded to me, to wake up with me for the rest of his life. It seemed then that I had no agency in this decision that would impact the rest of my life. I remember relief coursing through me that this ordeal was over. That I would not have to put myself out there again, to be held up against other women, to be scored on my appearance, on how much I earned, how obsequious I could be.
The months leading up to the wedding was so much of energy spent on making the event memorable and less about learning about the man I was marrying. I knew the details but I sure as hell had no clue if we would tick. I knew I would put my best foot forward, I would compromise, I would adjust, I would make this work.
In the years since I have looked back on the day we met, the conversation we had, the weeks leading to the engagement and the eventual move to a different country. I can’t remember the moment I fell in love. It must have been somewhere during the first few months. A day when I woke up and realized that I no longer carried trepidation in my heart, I no longer waited for the shoe to drop, that there what I saw was what I got. That sometimes in life, you get lucky, that you find that your partner is truly one who shares, one who listens, one who respects and one who loves.
Often when I meet someone new and conversation revolves around marriage and love, I end up sharing the story of my arranged marriage. I pause for dramatic effect, I play up the exotic nature of the whole process all the while knowing that to me this was routine. It was expected. I did not really think my life would be any different. As much as I wished for someone to sweep me off my feet, chances were that I would have found my partner in someone my family vetted.
Growing up the words “I love you” only featured in movies where the hero would mouth the words and the heroine would instantly fall in love. There was no falling into love. It happened instantaneously and it meant they would be married. There was nothing shown of the getting to know each other, the ups and downs of navigating an intimate relationship let alone any talk of sex. Or that I was not seeing the right kind of movies.
I remember using the words flippantly. I “loved” everyone. I dropped it easily as email signatures, as tail-enders in conversations. I probably still do. I’d love to think I am a bit more discerning now. I talk to my children about love often. I tell them that I love them many times over. When I am mad, I remind them that I still love them.
As someone who is past my prime I am discovering love now in forms I could have not conceived of before. I see it in the oddest of things, the lingering second before the garage door closes, in the sight of my twins walking home from the bus, in the sound of my Saathi’s voice as he bounds down the stairs each morning, in Laddu’s form as she cuddles with me each afternoon.
My idea of romance now features an occasional lunch and movie when the kids are in school. It is in little notes, unexpected hugs and small treats. The idea of growing old together is probably my notion of romance in the years ahead. If in the years before I envisioned the silhouette of a family, increasingly it is about the two of us on a beach watching the sun go down.
Happy Valentine’s Day all!