It began once upon a time,
When two orthodox middle-class families decided to search for a suitable match for their son and the daughter.
It began once upon a time,
When two horoscopes matched perfectly.
It began once upon a time,
In the traditional set-up of an arranged marriage proposal.
It began once upon a time,
When we, him and I, met for the first time, amidst all the chattering of the elders, as the two families fixed a date for a matrimonial union.
It began once upon a time,
When I didn’t even know what love was.
I didn’t know what love was. I might have nursed some teeny-weeny crushes but my cultured and old school upbringing had only taught me to push even the tiniest of those thoughts far away from my mind. My cells were not built that way.
His was the first proposal that had come knocking at our door. My parents were very happy to have struck gold right the first time.
Gold he was, true to the word!
The groom’s family dropped in at our house at exactly the time mentioned by them in the letter. Not before or not after. It was a little intimidating to have our small abode suddenly being invaded with fifteen new members. The hustle and bustle to receive them with hospitality, to cater to their needs, to provide them with snacks and filter coffee, and make them feel at home kept my parents and siblings quite busy. I was this silent spectator standing in a shadowy corner, taking in the scene of one large family that could be my prospective extended family. It was going to be decided in a matter of minutes.
The anxiety on my face might have shown up. As if on cue, he looked at me and smiled amongst the sea of faces. The heart-warming smile flooded me with an inexplicable placidity almost immediately. I felt my cheeks flush as I smiled back.
I couldn’t even recognize the feeling, for what it was.
Yet, it happened that day, when I met him.
We were asked if we wanted to talk to each other in private. I was aghast at that thought. I had no idea what to talk to him. He transformed into my saviour once again. He politely refused and announced that he was fine with the elders’ decision.
I felt more and more drawn to him. I wasn’t able to describe the feeling exactly. His character, his poise, and his smile were quite attractive.
I wasn’t even able to pinpoint the feeling that caused my heart to flutter. But, it made me happy.
Happiness all along!
Wasn’t that all we long for, in our married life?
To be happy with our partner, throughout life!
I said yes to the marriage proposal. I prayed for his family’s affirmative. And, they did, very soon. I felt on top of the world, dreaming and imagining a life with him.
The betrothal followed soon after. Meeting him again during the engagement made my heart buzz with joy. It whooped and cheered at meeting him again. I was demure and shy but my heart was doing somersaults cheering itself at the opportunity to see him. All we exchanged during the event were bright smiles. No words. But, his presence beside me throughout the evening drenched me with such ecstasy that I felt connected to him at a different level.
I felt as if a thousand words were spoken between us.
I felt I could face anything in this world if he was with me.
I felt protected and safe when beside him.
I realised a new meaning in my life at the age of 22.
The wedding date was fixed and the few months between the betrothal and the wedding seemed to trudge forward in a slow motion. Yet, time seemed to stand absolutely still during those couple of times he visited us along with his parents. We just shared pleasantries and nothing more.
But, emotions were bubbling high on the inside, thankfully unnoticeable to him.
Those were the days when having a telephone landline at home was deemed expensive and was almost unaffordable. We didn’t have one. Even if we happened to have one by chance, I know that my strict disciplinarian father wouldn’t have been too happy to have his daughter chat with her groom before the wedding. So, I waited for every visit of his, until the day of the wedding.
Two and a half days of wedding rituals whizzed by in a haze. None of us had any time and energy to actually relax and enjoy the events. As the hymns were chanted and the percussion instruments played music at the highest pitch, he made me his, amidst the pomp and show, and amidst my incessantly flowing tears.
Those briny tears tasted both of ecstasy and melancholy. Ecstatic about going to start a life with him. Melancholic of leaving my home, parents, and siblings.
But, the delight and contentment of having become his wife seemed to fill me, only exponentially increasing every moment. I basked in it. I glowed with it.
With each passing day of our marriage, as we got to know each other better and better, I was only brimming with awe and admiration for his personality. I, his lawfully wedded wife, could only find more and more reasons to respect and adore the person in him.
We celebrated every moment of happiness together. He was by my side, even happier to see me happy.
I only grew fonder of him each day.
Was that called love, as they all say? I didn’t know.
But, I kept wondering how two complete strangers, who hadn’t even had an inkling of each other’s existence until three months before the wedding, like and respect each other so much beyond words.
Was that even possible?
I understood that it did, quite soon after the wedding.
We have never once been explicit about our affection for each other all through our life together. But, the unsaid and unexpressed emotions filled us through and through enveloping us thoroughly.
Wasn’t that enough? To be truthful, both of us didn’t feel the necessity to say it aloud.
I, being a timid and shy person, had never opened up to him about how much I worshipped him.
Yes, I worshipped him. He had never demanded respect, but involuntarily gained mine.
Was that called devotion, then? I didn’t know.
I seemed to feel complete with him. I could see my life turn more meaningful.
To me, he was one wonderful husband, who cared for me in ways I had never expected a partner would.
To our children, he was one doting father. They loved him as much as they feared him.
To my parents, he was more a son than a son-in-law.
What more could I ask of life?
Nothing at all.
Years passed by. Our marriage had reasons only to glow brighter and brighter. Growing old could be even more enjoyable when you had the best person in the world by your side.
And, I did. I had no qualms.
Until one day…a deadly enemy struck a vicious blow. He was diagnosed with a disease that screamed of warning signs of his short span of life thereafter. I was worried sick and insane. My peaceful dreamless sleep was exchanged for sleepless nights or sleep that drowned me with nightmares. Most of my nightmares had left me awake, sweating profusely, shuddering at my image standing alone without him.
How was I supposed to live without him? I wasn’t prepared for it. I hadn’t learnt that at all. My sweetest dream ever had been my octogenarian self with a walking stick, standing beside him smiling. Our first photo together, which was hung at the hallway of our house, suddenly seemed to bring more and more tears to my eyes. I didn’t know or fathom a life without him. How could I, when he had been with me at every step forward and every fall?
Four decades of our life together shined above us like a beacon, only giving me more strength and hope that we would be together for even longer. Together, we fought a hard and long battle comprising of painful surgeries and treatments. Amidst all that, he stood like a rock. His willpower didn’t falter one bit. And, that supplied all the energy I needed, to fight more to save him.
Even when he was convalescing from his second and most critical of the surgeries that he had undergone, lying in an ICU bed, all he could think of was me. He was not able to talk and apparently he had written down on a piece of paper asking if I was okay and if I was not left alone at home when our children were with him at the hospital.
I dreaded that word.
He had worried about me being alone at home when he was at the hospital.
But, had he even thought of my predicament when he left this world for a better place, a couple of months after the surgery?
I was nothing less than shattered and broken into pieces. I recoiled. I retreated. I didn’t know a world without him. He was my world. He was my strength.
My children did stand by my side and help me out. But, I couldn’t even recognize myself without him.
I seemed to reduce to nothing. I couldn’t think of anything but him. Sweet memories with him seemed to haunt me from then on, teasing my very existence without him.
Days stretched into weeks and weeks into months. I tried to piece myself together but only in vain. The nightmares continued, only that they were no more a blur.
Every second thing at home reminded me of him. Not just once. But, every time I looked at it. Such were the memories with him, intense and deep, running right into my heart. I sometimes could feel his presence beside me, consoling me and blessing me with the strength to move on. But, didn’t he know that he was my very strength?
I felt sucked out of all my cheerfulness.
With him gone, I was left bereft of any trace of joy. Wasn’t he the reason for my happiness, after all?
I seemed to fall apart bit by bit. I seemed to crumble from inside. I knew it. Yet, I didn’t resist it. I felt like being drawn into a strange darkness. I didn’t fight it. I seemed to feel closer to him, all over again.
One evening, months after he left me, as I was retiring for the night, I was feeling quite breathless. Every effort to gulp down air was heavy and difficult. My children panicked and rushed me to the doctor. I was hospitalised immediately. I was under constant medication, continuous check-ups, and regular monitoring.
My body tried its best to accept the steady inflow of artificially injected power to fight the disease. My children wanted me to fight back. Yet, there wasn’t even an ounce of energy left in my mind to fight the alien inside my veins. Every bit of my willpower was him and he had taken all of it when he left me to fend for myself.
How was I supposed to fight then?
Had he been there by my side, I would have had tremendous energy to put up a fight, even if my body protested to combat.
I saw myself ebbing away. I accepted defeat wholeheartedly. There was no victory or defeat in a world without him. Everything remained meaningless.
I could feel myself being attracted to oblivion. Black engulfed me. I could feel myself being absorbed into nothingness.
I experienced calmness.
And then, I opened my eyes.
That very moment, I witnessed a lot of light. Light like I had never seen before. Light that lighted up my own self.
Someone tall was waiting. It was him. Indisputably. Just the way I remember him. The image, only more realistic then, that I had been clinging on to for my very survival during those months after he passed away.
I was able to see him again. I felt euphoric. An odd kind of joy encapsulated me. A warmth so unique only to the aura of his presence washed over me. It relaxed my senses like nothing before.
He beckoned me with a smile.
The same smile that quelled the anxiety of a younger me once upon a time, on the very first day he had come with his family on an auspicious day to meet my family and me.
Life had indeed come a full circle.
No, not life. What we were in was way beyond. Larger than life itself.
I smiled back and walked towards him. I took quick strides to reach his side. He patted my shoulders.
That was all. And, that was enough. I knew we were together again.
I foresaw a union, the most marvellous one ever.
He was my soulmate in a place very far away from where we were, then.
But, that moment, as we walked side by side into a brilliant glow of heavenly light, I became a part of him.
I merged into his.
And eventually, ours unified into one.
We became one, for eternity.
I didn’t know what love was, before I met him.
I didn’t know if it was love at all, throughout the journey of life with him.
I didn’t know if what I felt for him could be termed as devotion.
But, I sure know that what we shared was much beyond ordinary human comprehension!
Author’s Note :-
This can be referred to as a eulogy, in first-person narration. Although, I personally would like to refer to it as a fitting tribute to the life of a beautiful couple I love.
Love – Isn’t it universal? Isn’t it quite beyond the mortal realms of faculty and reasoning?
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