Our song tag….
Kurai Onrum Illai
The times - they are a-changin
B and I don’t have one particular “our song”. But these two songs are part of the story that is “us” now. Moppet’s mom – this partly goes into the engagement story you told me to write about…
B and I had known each other for a while – I met him on my birthday at my close friend’s (his cousin) wedding in Chennai. I was visiting from the US at that time and he was finishing his undergrad and was about to start graduate school in the US that fall. Since my friend and her parents were busy since they were in the wedding, I spent time chatting with her cousins – especially this one (B) who I had not met earlier at my friend’s place somehow. We hit it off really well and ended up giving each other company (being gracious that’s all you know!) while the wedding was happening. He attended all the events at her wedding and we had a lot of time to chat. Not to mention that I was of course dressed my best since I was at a wedding - brocade sari, nearly knee length hair with mallipoo, high heels (he still towered over me since I am a shorty), the works.
He gave me his phone no at his hostel and told me to visit before I left the country. I dropped in when I went to visit another friend and gave him my US phone no and told him to say hello after he came to the US. And that’s how it started.
We remained friends for a few years – met a couple of times, but mainly connected over the phone. In the meanwhile, my parents, especially my mother was very keen that I get married. Plenty of side stories there. Leaving those aside, it came to a point of high pressure at my end when the said friend decided there was no time to travel across coasts (as he would have liked to do this in person) and conveyed his interest in a hand written letter to me!
The mind plays games with you really. I knew him well and this did not come as too much of a surprise. Yet I felt like we were only friends, had only been friends and nothing more and it will never be anything more. And I told him so. But he was the only friend I would consistently keep in touch with regularly. It was like calling my family. I could tell him anything. I did not know how close we had become over the years. Just took it for granted.
Like in the movies, we had the good fortune of our respective close friends who married each other with some role played by us in the matter of their meeting each other. And they, I suppose wanted to spread the joy and played cupid. They tried to pry open my shut mind and see that I actually cared about this guy and that it would work out if only I gave it a chance and saw that it wasn’t just another friendship. I was stuck on the fact that we were on opposite coasts and we had only mainly known each other over the phone. One fine summer day, when B was visiting me and my friends, he took me out to dinner and later that night, we walked by the river with the balmy breeze blowing, the city lights sparkling in the distance, house boats anchored by the board walk. Few others enjoying the summer were sitting around or jogging. B finally got to the point of his visit and told me that I simply had* to give this a chance and come and visit him a few times before deciding on it. In a feel good mood,I agreed to.
I visited him without telling any one in my family other than my sister (while two other siblings and my cousin lived very close to where he was – I could have been caught any time!) because I did not want my parents or my older brother to cloud my decision by pressuring me into saying a yes just because they really liked him. After a few visits, I was still afraid – I was studying in the east coast and he was working in the west coast. We could not meet casually over a cup of coffee or every day. A few visits and I had to decide on something that I had thought would never be. I was afraid of my own decision.
As an aside to the main story – since this is about the song tag – B was heavily into western music – had a huge collection of CDs – especially Rock and Jazz music. I was into western music until I came to the US. Although I had been trained in classical music while I was in India, I had no real interest in it until I came to the US. I became very interested in carnatic music and would listen to it all the time. And M.S.Subbulakshmi was my all time favorite. Especially this song – “kurai onrum illai” - sung by her. And B had this CD, the only carnatic music CD he had purchased! I love/d this song – you can get lost in the reverberation of her voice and feel entranced by the lyrics and the melody in this song.
After a few visits to the west coast to spend time with B – the last one (exactly six years back, Oct.13 weekend) was particularly memorable. We had a great time visiting the vine yards in the west coast, went to a play, got stuck outside the theater because the guard at the parking garage had disappeared and it started raining! So we walked to an Italian restaurant and had dinner that turned out to be quite lousy. We went home and chatted some more. Finally it was time for me to leave the next morning by an early flight. No decision yet. The tension behind the conversation was mounting. Unsaid but palpable. Neither of us could bring it up. My thoughts were clouded. I could not shake myself out of “I have only known him as a friend, what if I am doing the wrong thing?”. Things were left unsaid, B wished me good night and went to bed (awake all the time) and I lay down on the living room couch pretending to watch a movie while thinking about all this all the while. Dawn came, we got into the car to drive to the airport. I knew this would be it – I would have to cut off all contact with him after this visit. We simply could not be just friends after this. My heart felt incredibly heavy. As we got into the highway, with a few cars zooming by, in the quiet of the early morning wondering what the other person was thinking…he turned on the music. To this song. It made me feel melancholic. Nostalgic. Stirred. Full in the heart.
We went to the airport, I told him goodbye. Nothing had been said. Everything was assumed. That this was it. I called my sister as soon as his face disappeared from the crowd by the gate and talked to her. I cried. I could not bear it. I could not articulate it. I could not loose him. I was imprisoned by my own refusal to let go of my fear and see it for what it is. He was my best friend. I trusted him like I did no other person. I admired him for so many things. I respected him more than anyone I knew. He had the kindest smile and I loved that I had him in my life. Yet…I could not get the words out. I hung up with my sister and got into the plane. Somewhere up in the sky, it just clicked. Truly divine intervention I would say. I just felt absolutely sure of my decision. I wanted to marry him. I wanted him to be a part of my life forever. I could not imagine a life without him. And I was not just going to tell him that but was going to tell him that in those very words. Clarity of that nature is a powerful and liberating feeling.
That night, I borrowed my house mate’s laptop and emailed him. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he was still willing, I wanted to marry him. And soon. As soon as we could both go to India. We had never talked about marriage until then – it was obvious that that was the end point – but still we had never talked about it in those terms. He had been exhausted from the intensity of the weekend. He had had a long day at work that Monday. During a break from an official meeting on Tuesday morning, he checked his mail to see this* mail from me. All those years of friendship and the roller coaster ride we had been through…he was simply dazed. Just when he had thought it was all really over.
Rest is history. I could write a whole new post on the celebration that followed in my family when I announced the decision. Every one’s reaction…the million phone calls. Pure joy when I think about it even now. Three months later we were married. We had a commuter marriage living across coasts, for over a year. That Valentine’s day he had flowers delivered to my house. I came home late at night, in the cold and entered my warm room. My housemate had accepted the package from the florist and put it on my desk. It had a little printed note. He had borrowed from Dylan. It said, “The times, they are a-changin”. With love.
I tag - Mnamma, Ca.Amma, Madmomma,Boo, DDmom, Poppin, Orchid, Ranjani,Dotmom,Kodi's mom,Chitra,Shobana,Aryan's mom, Rohini, Kiran, Squiggles. (Song with engagement story please!).
Some of you have done the "our song" tag but not the engagement story. I love (and am sure the others here so as well, I mean who doesn't love a good story!) engagement stories - so am hoping all of you tagged here will do a post on both - song plus engagement story or just engagement story (if you don't mind that is).