(As told to Eleena Sanyal)
How it all began
I met Mira at an alumni event in London. We got talking casually. I was watching her from the time she casually sat on the bar stool next to mine and asked for a martini. Then I realised it wasn’t her first drink. I was staring at her but as soon as our eyes met, she caught me abruptly looking away and smiled. That broke the ice and we got talking. It took us another drink to figure out that we were from the same engineering batch. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and wondered how I remembered her only vaguely from back then. She was already drunk out of her wits and woozy as hell.
The morning after
When I woke up, Mira was lying next to me. My head was still in a whirl. It took me five seconds to return to my senses. We were in my hotel room. Had I just spent the night with a girl I had forgotten all these years and thought she had looked hot and inviting 8 hours ago? I felt her weight shifting on the mattress and saw her waking up. We chatted for a bit while still in bed and then I asked her rather apologetically if I could drop her home. I whispered a sorry to her. She seemed unruffled as she stifled another yawn.
She asked me to relax and I really did when she said she had enjoyed being with me. I felt an inexorable pull towards her. I didn’t know what it was. I’d met women before but it was never this intense. She dressed and left in a cab after we quickly exchanged numbers.
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No strings attached
We started seeing each other after work most of the days. She had no strings attached and always helped me to loosen up after a long and hard day. She laughed easily and was a happy girl. We decided to split the cost for a weekend trip to Wales. It worked out well without either of us feeling awkward and honestly there was no time for calculations or accounts. It was truly wild!
When we got back, it hit me that one day she would hint about formally committing, but that day never came. In hindsight, this is what actually sealed our relationship. Neither of us felt the pressure to legalise our current status. We were living like other married couples. In the early days of our relationship, we both scribbled out our own share of expenses and settled dues every night for things we bought and used together. Over the next few months, we just got lazy and eventually neither of us bothered. We were just glad we had each other. We just spent when we had to.
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Then the parents announced a visit
I stayed mostly at her place. She continued to pay the rent, which I proposed we share, but she firmly declined. I paid for grocery and purchased meals. We then planned our first big holiday to Europe. As soon as we got the visa, my parents announced that they were coming to celebrate Diwali with me. It was October and we were so excited about Germany and Poland that for the first time in my life I forgot to envisage spending it with my family. The reason was Mira. She had become my family without ceremony.
I couldn’t reveal my state of affairs to my conservative parents back in Raipur. I was their oldest son, unmarried and turning 33. All that my mother could harp on over long distance calls was finding a nice girl of ‘any caste’ and informing them about her date and time of birth so that a horoscope could emerge. My younger brother was already married and they were expecting a baby.
I felt so nervous
My parents’ impending arrival made the fuses in my head pop. Thinking about it made me break out in a cold sweat. It was Mira who took over and told me that we should tell them about us in person and not over a phone call. I didn’t have the first clue how to do this. It seemed like a gargantuan task. The last time I felt this nervous was just before getting my MBA results.
I had spent so many weekends and weeknights at her place that my house had been uncared for. My mother would suspect in a heartbeat. I had to quickly get it spruced up. I received them at the airport and told them that I had met a nice girl. Their faces lit up. On our 25-minute drive home, my mother had already decided names for our kids. I didn’t want to deflate their spirits, so I just kept quiet.
The next chapter unfolded when I rang the doorbell instead of using my keys to enter. My parents looked at each other from the corner of their eyes and shrugged. Mira opened the door wearing my shirt, which was too long for them to notice the sliver of her shorts under it. Her hair was wound into a rough knot stabbed by a pen. A salwar-kameez clad girl who wasn’t their ‘bahu’ yet would have perhaps softened the blow but Mira was Mira. I should have known that the dress code I was talking her into was falling on deaf ears an hour ago.
How about a quick marriage ceremony?
My father nervously returned her ‘namaste’ and got in. My mother meekly followed him. They barely ate and while nibbling at the kheer that Mira had made, my mother proposed that we do a quick havan and ‘close’ the matter so that she can share the ‘good news’ when she returned to India. A vehemently disapproving Mira kicked me so hard under the table that I almost fell off my chair.
I explained to my mother later that we were both very happy and comfortable with the way things were and didn’t see the need to formalise anything. A legal stamp or certificate would not make things more permanent or damage-proof. If as a live-in couple we couldn’t weather storms, we would fail trying so in a marriage too. We accept each other and don’t look for societal approval. We’d just be happy if our parents breathed easy. My mother’s eyes clouded over when I told her that we didn’t want kids. She didn’t persist. It was a lot already.
How the elders surprised us
My parents stayed with us for a month. We holidayed in Germany as a family of 4 and when they returned, it was nearly time for Mira’s parents to visit. By now, we knew the drill. They came, saw, heard and nodded in approval. The world is evolving and the generation we feared would be loath to change is pleasantly surprising us at every stage!