The First Wedding Anniversary Experiment (Part I)

Recently written by the author of the book “Marriage In The Time Of Corona”, a thrilling five part series on how the couple celebrated their first anniversary below. Check back daily to see how the story unfolds throughout the week!

Where were we heading? To be explained in Part IV!

𝑷𝑨𝑹𝑻 𝑰 : 𝑻𝑯𝑬 𝑺𝑬𝑻𝑼𝑷

I was once told by a dear friend in my youth that I generally operate in a manner which is “old school”. I took it as a compliment thinking that it was cool. Sometimes labels that are given by those close who identify characteristics within another are like names, prescribed with the hope to see it unravel and grow as they travel along the path of life. Of course if one is truly fortunate it manifests, perhaps evolves even.

As the sands of time had Audy and I patiently await our first revolution around the sun as a married couple, I began the hunt for something unusual in early February, in that special kind of way to deem how to celebrate the occasion in suitable fashion. No targets could be identified immediately. So I decided to shuffle the sounds of jazz hoping for subtle inspiration. Plans for the immaculate beaches of the Nicobar Islands had been considered, but it seemed too obvious, too common. Perhaps it just wasn’t sandy enough. A smoother and certainly little less raspy element than the all too well known voice of Louis Armstrong was in order. Something had to give, so I put the jukebox on random search as I began reading “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”, an epic tale of family through several generations written by the literary maestro Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I became lost in thought having read the first 40 pages, and was inching closer to a conclusion: that as two married individuals we have perhaps been ordained with the divine responsibility of extending both our lineages if we so choose to, with the blessings of the nameless of course. There’s no other way heritage can be created.

Enter Duke Ellington. The scores of composition and the legacy he left behind had me thinking about the roots of this musical genre, and in turn, that of my family. I remember being shown our family tree by my Grandfather many years ago. He mentioned that our ancestry traces back to the early 18th century and pointed out that the first recorded member of our family eleven generations ahead of me, Baba Jassa, was born in 1707 in Rajasthan. The family tree was inscribed initially in Farsi and then written in Punjabi three generations later and ultimately in English, I recalled. But what had remained unclear was how we adopted our last name, Bhatia, in the early 19th century. I had asked my father just a month earlier and he mentioned that our known origins are near the border of India and Pakistan, and are most likely from the desert state.

Leaving those thoughts to brew, I subsequently shortlisted the colorfully romantic cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur as the likely venues to commemorate our first anniversary. Audy was excited to hear and insisted on a camel ride during the trip. I noted the request while attempting to channel my focus on the decorations for the affair; no anniversary is complete without a gift, especially on the first. However it does takes time for a newcomer to something to learn the ropes of anything. I was completely lost, engulfed by cluelessness. On one shoulder sat the thought. ‘Hey, you published a book about your marriage just a couple of weeks before the anniversary. How is that not enough?’, and on the other a reality check echoed, ‘Get real. It’s been a hell of year together. Reflect man!’

And so I did. While I have shared somewhat lightheartedly in the Epilogue of the book, there was one innermost anecdote which I was told by my wife around July of last year. Lockdowns had been lifted to support falling economies around the globe but restrictions on travel and the general indolence many were plagued with brought on a peculiar air of malaise. None of my deals were moving. I was becoming increasingly restless; a mind so active that when it was disturbed met with a snappy bark, one similar to that of a bitch being distracted while feeding her pups. I remember the following conversation we had one evening:

‘What makes you feel so down’, she asked.

‘I think you know what’, I responded.

‘So that’s the only thing that makes you happy?’

‘No, there are other things.”

‘But it is the only thing that is making you feel down, right’, she said after brief silence, ‘I want to share something that I haven’t told you yet.’

During one summer, her Grandfather, whom she was raised by, instructed her parents to take their daughter during the school break so that she could actually spend some time with them and get to know them better. They trekked six hours to pick her up in their ancestral home in Phimai and traveled back to their one bedroom apartment in Min Buri. Both her parents were employed and after giving her breakfast at 730 a.m. they headed to their respective places of work.

‘What did you do after they left’, I asked.

‘Just stayed in the room and watched TV’, she mentioned.

‘How did you eat lunch?’

At around 1130 a.m. every day, someone from the lobby would buzz up to the apartment. The same motorcycle taxi driver would show up daily. Sent by her mother from her place of work, he would bring one raw papaya for her. Audy would go back up to the apartment and make herself a spicy som-tum salad with different ingredients and condiments from the refrigerator. That kept her fed and the karaoke machine had her entertained till the time her parents came back home from work.

‘I can’t explain to you how happy that papaya being delivered to me every day made me feel’, she said, ‘…knowing that my parents actually cared for me.’

‘How old were you?’

‘Seven’, she replied, ‘I only spent one more summer with my Mom before she died.’

I had been showered with a new attitude, a new approach after hearing this story and I began to observe the interaction between her and my mother. As I write in the last section of the book, their relationship as daughter-in-law and mother-in-law living in the same house during a lockdown couldn’t have been more seamless. Teammates were created; not only in the kitchen where Audy learned the recipes of our family which have been passed down from generation to generation, but also as a unified force sending the same message to the respective husband and son, which I found to be a blessing in disguise. It was a year full of peace between us. Not once did she and I find ourselves with major disagreements or ongoing arguments.

The luckiest man alive, I believed myself to be, and realized that writing a book on how we eloped wouldn’t singlehandedly do justice in showing my appreciation as our first year of marriage was about to set.

𝑪𝒐𝒎𝒆 𝒃𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝑷𝒂𝒓𝒕 𝑰𝑰 𝒕𝒊𝒕𝒍𝒆𝒅 “𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑺𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒄𝒉” 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒘𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒃𝒆 𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒓𝒐𝒘 𝒂𝒕 11𝒂𝒎 𝑰𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒂𝒏 𝑺𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒓𝒅 𝑻𝒊𝒎𝒆

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https://arbindbhatia.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Marriage-Time-Corona.../dp/1636401430

https://www.bookdepository.com/Marriage-in-the-Time-of-Corona/9781636401430

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