Nostalgia is part of who I am. I meticulously track birthdays, death days, wedding days, and anniversaries of all kinds. I used to be able to remember dates. I used to call, email, text until my forties hit me with a vengeance. At my last annual physical, I had trouble recalling words in order. I messed up dates and numbers. My doctor attributed it to pandemic anxiety.
This year, I heaved a sigh of relief when I aced these seemingly simple tests. I have taken to relying on my phone to remind me these days. I no longer remember phone numbers. I prefer texting to calling. A part of me thinks it is the pandemic and the overt reliance on my device. The rest of me attributes it to age and the enforced social isolation.
It hit me out of the blue that twenty years ago today, I bid adieu to Bangalore.
Bangalore epitomizes all that was good about my life. I worked. I had friends. I had a life outside of work that did not include family or anyone not of my choosing. I experienced hostel life. I experimented with living alone. I stayed with the parents of my friend. I loved and lost. I laughed a lot. I knew the best places to get luchi poori, ras malai and, channa bhatura. I had my favorite coffee joints. I loved the SLVs and the Darshinis where I stood amidst daily laborers as they ate their hot breakfast, jostling for my turn at the counter.
I owned my own little stereo speaker which blasted MLTR, Backstreet Boys, Savage Garden, and Bonnie Tyler. I fell in love with music. I watched movies in theaters. Most of all, I had people share in my life unabashedly, willingly, and wholly.
Marriage brought with it a new set of highs and, an altogether new set of challenges. My sixth-anniversary post was an ode to the institution, a hymn to the beauty of intimacy and the flush of new love. My tenth wedding anniversary post was a look back, a tribute to the storms weathered and was filled with optimism for the future. My fifteenth-anniversary post was by far the longest, hardest look I had taken at the institution of marriage. Saathi and I were still plumbing the depths of the sonata. We were taking apart, building back, and tearing back the curtains on all the scars of the fifteen years.
As we approach the twentieth year, it feels strangely similar to my first. There is a full awareness of the person I was pre-marriage, pre-kids. I have come into my own as a person sans labels. Saathi is insistent on respecting the spaces between us. We bounce around in our bubbles, happy in our fullness as people of our own accord. Our children bind us but they are not the only things that connect us. He listens as I drone on about astrology and writing. I grudgingly accord tennis the status of first love in his life.
He cheers me as I make plans to go away for a week on a writing retreat. I wish I could be as much a cheerleader of his pursuits as he is of mine. I am a work in progress. We are works in progress. There is a fullness to this phase. A recognition of the work that has gone in and the work we will put in. This is truly the time in our relationship I am looking forward to, the mellow quality of the love we share, the sweet ripening of our affection. As our children grow and the empty nest, a good decade or more away, I am celebrating the awareness that pervades our life. The knowing, the acknowledging, the accepting of who we are as people.
Together, but separate. Alone but not lonely.
I’d say we are happy. I’d say we love each other. I’d even say it is a good life we have built together.
So, to twenty more, happy anniversary, dear Saathi.