“Tell me. Who proposed? Did you propose to Dada or did he propose to you?’ Princess asked me last week. We were on our nightly walk after dinner, Princess and I. What was once an exercise in solitude has now become a family activity where Princess or DQ or HH or all three, accompany me.
“Weren’t you present when Dada got down on his knees the day before the wedding?” I replied.
“Not that one. He only did it because your friends insisted on proof at the mehendi party that there would be a wedding the next day. I am asking about before that.”
I couldn’t clearly recall who had proposed, when and how. So I did what anyone in my position would do. I changed the topic.
It wasn’t a “senior moment” that had me at a loss. Perhaps it was the fact that for me, this time, it wasn’t an arranged marriage. HH and I had known each other for almost a year. Perhaps these details are not as important second time around where the focus is on the specifics of what happens next. Or perhaps, we are just an unromantic pair of oldies who would rather skip the rigmarole and get on with our life together. I think it was simply because I did not insist on a formal proposal even after we broke the news to our respective families, which included our kids who would take on starring roles in the new family show.
Coming from a cultural mindset that puts marriage as the center-piece of a woman’s existence, I had taken a long time to get over the fact that mine had crumbled. After the formal divorce, I went through a phase that alternated between relief and grief, freedom and fear, exhilaration and exhaustion. I struggled with anger, sadness, rage, self-pity and remorse. I stayed away from depression because I did not have the luxury to do wallow in it. I focused on rebuilding: a home safe for the two of us, a career that would support my single-mom lifestyle and a reputation that would enable me to respect myself and my choices.
I also avoided men, if not ignored them completely.
Until one morning, feeling particularly happy about the life I had created for myself, attributed in part to a good hair day and a hearty lunch, when I confessed to a friend that sometimes I wished I could share my life with a suitable man. My friend, no points for guessing, a guy, put on his problem-solving hat and said, “I know just the person you should meet.” With those fateful words, my fate was sealed.
HH came into my life first via email, then phone calls. We shared stories, songs, quotations, book reviews, movie dialogs, quiz questions. The first picture of himself that he sent should have warned me about jolly times ahead when I saw a photo of an ageing movie star with the modest disclaimer that he looked better in person! Our first meeting was, to put it mildly, dull. The great phone conversationalist was tongue-tied. A true scientist, I called him to ask why. And once again, we were on track. Thanks to technology, I got to know more about him through text messages than eye contact. He joked, I laughed. I sang. He listened. We talked, shared, connected.
At a restaurant one afternoon, he sat across the table. A comfortable silence hung between us. A random thought, like a spider’s web, took root from thin air. “If he walks away from me now, I don’t know how I would handle it.” That moment I realized how much I had come to count on him. A part of me was tired of being alone. Strangely though, we lived in different cities then, bringing up our kids with our own support systems; we didn’t really have a pressing need to be together.
“I am not tired of being alone” he said. “I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
Was that the proposal? I am not sure. All I remember thinking later was what I should have said.
“I don’t want you to marry me because you don’t want to be alone. I want you to marry me because you want to be with me.”
Sometimes my smart-alec brain is not fast enough. So the words remained unsaid.
And now I find myself at an important milestone. It is exactly six months since we tied the proverbial knot. I know more about HH (and as a corollary, myself) now that we live under the same roof.
He needs to play a sport everyday; I find solace in meditation
He loves to surprise me by walking in unannounced; I prefer to know if he will be late.
He can spend hours researching what I call “pointless trivia” and quotes Bertrand Russell -“there is so much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.”
I see him differently now. “That’s because I am not your boyfriend anymore” says HH, with his infectious smile.
I know why.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Once I broke my walls built of anger and covered in hurt, I didn’t have to look far. Love walked in without an invitation. We are bound together now, still unsure who asked first. But I have made a promise – to see, to be, to bear witness.