South Asian Immigrants are not new to the concept of long-distance relationships. While a lot of these relationships are usually based on personal decisions and practical circumstances, since COVID last year, the number of couples enduring long-distance relationships has spiked exponentially.
The visa ban followed by a travel ban and just the general nature of the pandemic forced lakhs if not more couples to endure the bane of long-distance. The situation escalated to a point where embassies had to create an emergency visa stamping category just for them.
Today, I want to share my long-distance relationship story with all of you. I hope that it gives strength to all those who are still going through one right now. Trust me, there’s light at the end of this tunnel.
Mills & Boon and Sirf Tum
Growing up, I was vastly influenced by the classic Mills and Boon romantic fiction. Being a teenager in the Golden era of Bollywood did not help my case much either. My teenage mind brimmed with vivid possibilities of love. I remember watching a movie called Sirf Tum, where a couple falls in love through the mere exchange of letters. Oh boy!
Yes, of course, the writer in me should have believed in the power of words, but the concept seemed quite bizarre to me. Were just words enough? My heart and brain appeared to be in conflict. Never would I have believed then, that I would find myself in a similar situation!
Jab We Met
I met Niraj when we first joined the world of corporate India. My nitpicky mind asserted him as a spoiled brat, egotistical albeit smart and intelligent. I wouldn’t have ever let him into my inner social circle of friends voluntarily. As luck would have it, we were assigned the same project and were forced to spend a lot of time together. Phew!! Work led us into getting acquainted with each other.
Once the fog of judgment lifted off my mind, I somehow started to see the good in him, and the desire to spend more time together started getting stronger. I hardly knew that bells were ringing at both ends. We didn’t squander much time pursuing each other and started dating on a regular basis. No Mills and Boons story for me! Thinking back on it, I can only say when you know, you know. We didn’t want to waste any more time apart.
Lambi Judai & Saat Samundar Paar
The joy was short-lived though. He was planning to move to America to pursue higher studies. Once again, my heart and mind started playing games with me. My logical brain was certain it wasn’t going to work out, my heart wished otherwise. I prepared and packed his favorite snacks, personalized every piece of daily use item with our names, and did all kinds of other silly stuff before he left. The day I bid farewell to him; I cried my heart out, trying hard to etch his last glimpse into my memory.
Oh, that wretched day!!
Fate had other plans though. My Sirf Tum fantasies were going to come alive, albeit in a modernized way. Thank you, video calling!
Thus began the journey of a very long-distance relationship. We promised to call each other every day, despite everything. We were dead set on making it work. It felt filmy, but we were infested with love. It wasn't easy though. He was literally saat samundar paar, and then, the time difference reared its ugly head. After spending ten hours a day in the office, I desired for nothing other than dropping dead on my bed at night. For Niraj, on the other hand, the day had just begun. He would be full of energy. By the time I woke up in the morning, it would be far too late in the night for him. The cycle was never-ending. We struggled to snatch bits and pieces of time for ourselves. Weekends mandated household chores, college assignments, and social gatherings, leaving little time for calls.
More often than we would have hoped, we found ourselves engulfed in brawls over these issues. It led us to assign one day of the week exclusively for us. Sunday was honored! We spent hours on call, opening our hearts out to each other. Slowly, with time, an equilibrium was reached.
I can only reckon how our lives would have turned out, had there been no internet. Kay sera sera! Whatever will be will be!
Toh Baat Pakki?
I matured with the relationship. I understood that if we loved someone, distance didn’t matter. He was already family to me. And we didn't cut family for distance. What filled my heart with contentment was the fact that I had an individual life too, uninfluenced by a possessive boyfriend, crawling all over my space, unlike few other short-distance relationships around me.
I cherished the fact that my relationship never affected my career or my social circle. Unlike stereotypical relationships, where friendships and careers are easily forgotten over another person, my life and relationship were peaceful, and at the same time, secure.
Even so, this peace did not last for long. One of the most challenging, and I must say testing aspects of a long-distance relationship, is marriage. Once you have successfully maintained your relationship, comes the hardest part. Convincing your parents’ long distance.
Niraj comes from a typical Marwari family, who are highest in their devotion to Lord Krishna but quite slow in getting used to the modern ways of society. It was a cosmic challenge to convince them, quite literally!
We spent over two years begging for their acceptance. To top it, everything was happening over phone calls!
After a busload of tear shedding, emotional beseeching, a short break-up even, we were engaged in October 2019.
Picture Abhi Baaki Hai - Villain Enters
Oh, that blessed year, utterly oblivious of the impending perils on humanity. Our marriage date was set for April 2020. A week before Niraj was about to set foot in India, for the most romantic day of our lives, everything started to come apart. Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Wow God! So, my mom's chidings and prophecies of my marriage getting delayed if I ate from a cooking vessel on the stovetop, were bang-on true. Wait, did I just invite this virus for the entire world? So many thoughts crossed our minds at that point in time. Merely fifteen days were left for the wedding, all preparations completed.
I dived into a state of depression. We had endured so much already, and it didn’t seem to end. When was the pandemic ending? It wasn’t till late, that we came to terms with the gruesome reality. Visa ban, travel ban, and cherry on top of cake…the pandemic was here to stay.
Now was the time to grasp the realities of a COVID-infected world and make our peace with it. Couples living in the same cities were getting married in smaller ceremonies. It wasn't a possibility for us, thanks to the travel ban! Even then, were we really disposed to get married with just twenty people around? We were brimming with love and wanted to share it with the entire world. We had fulfilled our quota of video calls; we weren’t ready to get married on video call too!
Our relationship was tested in every possible way, but even though miserable by the turn of events, I was still proud of ourselves. There were innumerous times when everything seemed to fall apart, but our love never wavered. I had never believed in the power of love so much earlier.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Gaye
Date after date, month after month, and cancellation after cancellation, 16th February was finalized. It didn’t come easy. Niraj's attorney in the US warned him and tried to stop him from setting foot out of the US. His company gave him an ultimatum of three weeks to return. These admonitions didn’t stop him from selling everything, taking a chance, and coming back to India. My heart felt wretched and gratified at the same time.
As luck would have it, his visa was stamped within a week of his arrival and I was able to book a dependent visa appointment for myself as well. We got married blissfully on the set date with our families gathered around us and within two weeks, I arrived in the US to live forever till eternity with my chosen life partner. At long last, the gods had smiled on us.
The End or Just The Beginning?
It's been eight months since, and to be honest, it feels like we were never apart. Our lives are ordinary, but it's in the ordinary that I find peace, joy, and contentment. The mundane chores of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, daily bickers over which show/movie to watch, watching sunsets on the beach, and meeting our friends are all the little perks of life for which we had been waiting for so long.
Our only wish ever is to wish we had met earlier, and not wasted so much time on other relationships, so that we could add more years to our love.
People say the first few years of marriage are always blissful. Well, I have not seen the future and can only hope and pray that it has more love and happiness stored for us. In the meanwhile, the one thing that I am sure of is, come what may, we are ready to face it together!