The marriage was fixed, it all happened too quick; was I even ready for a woman in my life? A life where I was surrounded by a younger brother, an austere father, and a loving mother; the only woman in my life. She was unfailingly present for all of our inconveniences, always cooking up something delectable in our tiny kitchen, washing grimy clothes with her bare hands, and even mopping the filthy floors of the house everyday, which invariably collected dust as if it were its permanent job. I was almost certain, that no woman could ever care for me the way my sublime mother did.
And now, this was my situation: sitting directly opposite a young lady, stealing awkward glances at each other, but neither of us plucky enough to stir up a conversation. We were to be married in the next month or so, and were more or less forced to spend time together. How does this even work? I never bothered about women and their silly ways, never troubled myself with buying roses or chocolates; it was all futile, according to me.
A week later, and we had done just about everything a juvenile couple would do. A movie and dinner? Check. Charming love letters? Check. Cheesy good morning texts? Check. But one scorching June afternoon, under the Delhi sun, as my lady love got onto the backseat of my highly perilous bike, she encircled her hands around my waist, and whispered in my ear, “honey, let’s grow old together”, while I started my bike and drove at an alarmingly high speed. I smiled to myself, the huge helmet covering a majority of my face.
Three months after our extravagant wedding ceremony, I found myself sitting next to Her on an unusually unbearable train seat, rhythmically shifting left to right with the movement of the train. She was sat next to me, with her head on my broad shoulder, and a photo album in her hands; flipping over the pages filled with memorable photos of our trip to Manali. A wayward monkey on my head, an alluring portrait of the snow-clad mountains, a candid picture of us both laughing because she spontaneously jumped onto my back when I definitely did not see it coming; these snapshots brought a tear to her eye, which she briskly wiped away. An unforgettable journey, she told me, as we got off the train with our over-stuffed bags, heavy-heartedly making our way towards our minuscule car, to go home.
Two daughters. I must admit, I was overwrought at first, I doubted whether I could raise my daughters the “right” way, and give them all the love and affection they needed. Despite my imperfections, notwithstanding the suspicions loaded in my mind by my nosy relatives all around, my determined partner and I were propelled into this perplexing, yet superlative journey, one that would mould our girls into the women they are today. Looking back, there is nothing that would compare to our memories; from their early childhood days of eating ice cream at odd hours of the day and going to grocery shops, their tiny fingers wrapped around my much too large wrist; to their teenage years of drives to extra classes and fancy dinner dates. Even our relationship during their adulthood was striking- exquisite vacations and humorous conversations. Without reassurance from Her, it is highly improbable that I would have the confidence I needed, and conviction required from time to time.
To say our usual merry and tumultuous house seemed so very lonely and calm, was an understatement. It was just the two of us now. One of our daughters was in Sydney, the other in Sweden; both so, so far from home. But that did not dampen our cheerfulness, and we made a promise to each other: life is too short to brood over, and we would make the best of it.
Belgium, Brazil, Thailand and Spain, were just a few of the places we travelled to; but to every city we went, and every lavish tour we attended, my mind always went back to the vile train seat in Manali, and I chuckled to myself- some moments were frankly irreplaceable. And truthfully, it is not unchallenging growing old. In all honestly, both of us were too headstrong to admit that we were getting weaker- we went out less, ate less, and slept less. But our spirit did not wither.
Now I lie here, on our mammoth bed, that never before seemed so huge; thinking about everything, reflecting on my eventful past. And as I look back, I feel so overwhelmed, and grateful; grateful for love. I cannot deny that although I do have a few regrets, some witless decisions that I have made, but in spite of them all, I have fulfillment and warmth coursing in my body. I lay alone on this rigid bed, peacefully, aimlessly and maybe a little bit glumly; I could not block Her voice in my mind that was deafening me, over and over, the only thing – “honey, let’s grow old together”.
Written by Nandini Sethi
Photography – Srijesh Sajit (Follow him here)