“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”
– Zen saying.
I have taken many first steps on many journeys during my rather eventful life. The longest and the most memorable one however was different.
I took the first step after eight years of ignorance.
It was in mid 1961 that I met Urmeela for the first time. She was my friend’s sister. Urmeela and I had a platonic relationship which would see us doing many things together as part of a group of people who did things together as, my girl friend then was staying in a hostel run by nuns in a convent and could not come out for late evening outings.
End 1962 saw me relocating to another city for a new job in preparation for my girl friend’s impending shift there for her post graduate studies. So, Urmeela and I lost touch with each other, but I was in touch with her brother who would pop up wherever I happened to be to recharge his batteries as it were. In 1966 I was in Mumbai on a short two month internship when Urmeela had her one woman show of her paintings at the Taj Art Gallery and my friend made me responsible for her safety in the big bad city. By that time of course, my relationship with the earlier girl friend had ceased and I was footloose. Urmeela and I would meet every day and I would escort her to another mutual friend’s place where she was staying. This was for just about a week while her exhibition was on.
We lost touch with each other after that again till early 1968 when I was posted for a short time at Hyderabad, her home town. I reestablished contact with her family through her brother who all this while had been in touch with me and remained a stead fast friend. Mind you, I am talking about the time when telephones were rare and other means of communication that we now know of did not exist. We kept in touch through what is now called snail mail!
Urmeela and I started doing things together again, and after about three months of this, one day while we were having dinner together, I just asked her to marry me since we seemed to be comfortable with each other. That was the first step that I took in forty plus years of the longest and happiest journey that I have ever taken.
To say she was stunned is an understatement. She however said that she would give serious consideration to the idea and took all of two days to say yes. My friends told her that she was making a mistake. Her friends told me that I was making a mistake. Our friends told us that both of us were making mistakes and the marriage will be a disaster. Without exception, everyone believed that the marriage would not last long.
We got married on November 3, 1968. After a short honeymoon, we set up our first home in New Delhi in December and till we moved to Pune in 1990, set up homes in eight different places. Her career took its inevitable toll after Ranjan was born in 1971 and she more or less gave it up to make a home for her husband and son. We set up two more temporary homes though we retained our Pune home to return to.
A journey taken alone is boring. I should know. I have taken so many of them as a traveling salesman. But the journey of life that I took with Urmeela and Ranjan was filled with the usual ups and downs but, mostly ups. We saw a lot of the world together, took many long drives, train journeys and flights within India. We hosted many parties at home, attended many in other people’s homes, clubs, hotels, restaurants and the open air. In all these, we hardly had to talk to each other. We instinctively knew what the other would like and did it. She was wife, mother, daughter-in-law, surrogate mother for a host of kids, favourite relative for others, the boss’s very approachable wife to many others and my partner in everything that I did supporting me like a rock behind me while I took on the world.
We quarreled and made up, we disagreed on many things but moved on. She was the cement in my relationships with my family as I was for her with hers. It was the greatest show on earth.
In our journey, we came to the slowing down process in 1999 when I had to give up my flourishing career despite her protest, to be with her when she was felled by multiple cerebral and cardiac infarcts. Since then, till she passed away in March this year, we were joined at the hips. She could not do much, but she would light up the room with just her presence and laughter and love for all those in the room. I gave her as many opportunities as I possibly could, for her to do so. I could not keep doing it for ever.
Our journey came to an end on March 13, 2009. She has gone on a different journey for the first time since our marriage without me. I simply do not have the inclination to make any more journeys.
This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy , and I write one post each on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject. This week, all the ten bloggers should be posting and I look forward to reading and commenting on all of them.