In the late 13th century, when the French Mathematician Pierre De Maricourt discovered that opposite magnetic poles attract each other, little did he envision that the “opposites attract” phenomenon would be re-characterized by Big Cinema to sell a bunch of popcorn and romance. In much of the same spirit, little did we realize that our snobby teenager selves would each fall for a person so unlike ourselves and end up rooting for this cinematic cliche with all our heart and wit. As Madhuri Dixit would say, K Sera Sera. But this is not just a story about whatever will life and love be - it is about how that makes you feel everything between “joie de vivre” and “majjaa aa gaya”.
It started out innocently with a shy teenaged boy sharing some candies on his birthday with his class and a blissfully boisterous girl demanding she get two. But this young adult romance only truly materialized when this quiet kid sent a verbose email which the blithe girl found lurking in her inbox several months later. Cut to circa 2020, cue Google chat, and fast forward through several nights spent blasting IMs through cranky dial up internet, we found ourselves on the side of a hill in Araku, overlooking a pristine valley, thrilled by the discovery of how much we cared for each other and the prospect of spending our lives together.
We’re Jasmine + Shasank, and this is Jashan, our life, our love, our story!
There’s a little known Hindi song by Mohit Chauhan and Shreya Goshal where the guy is all waxing lyrical about love while the girl asks him to stop beating around the bush and come straight to the point. That’s us!
I am the early bird that wakes up at dawn even on the weekends to catch the sunrise while she is the night owl that can stay up long into the night discussing life and dissing everything senseless in it. He will bore you with the slowest moving western movie while I can’t stand it if the DJ doesn’t mix it up every few minutes. I am the constantly scrambling action-item fiend while she has all the patience in the world that has been the bedrock of our relationship. He is the sentimentalist who gets all crumpled by romance while I can devour a weekend full of true crime documentaries without as much as a squint in the eye. I am all about trying out new cuisines and facing culinary failures while she prefers a trusted, simple home cooked meal. He will plonk himself with his camera outside a vista while you will find me climbing rocks and sand dunes inside that very vista.
More so, in life, I have the opportunistic naïveté to his cautious cynicism. I have the careful optimism to her pragmatic pessimism. I am all about the “desi masala tadka” while he favors subtleties. I prefer artful curation while she relies on abject minimalism*. I bring the compassion while he brings the color.* I bring the energy while she brings the solidarity. He brings thoughtful togetherness. She brings unconditional love.
Early on into our relationship, we started discovering that this is more than the need for companionship and what Shahrukh Khan promised romance would be; and certainly more than what each of us is bringing to the mixtape. It started evolving into a paradigm that not only meant something profound but also one that gave our lives a striking new compass. One that would knock us out of our personality comfort zones like that first cold surge of ocean water on your feet at the beach; or a finely brewed masala chai.
Being with someone cut from a very different fabric is an experience that catches you off-guard in the best possible ways. On one level, it questions your notions and challenges your biases. Then, it brings you newfound respect for things unconsidered. Above all, it makes you question what it means to be human - in both life’s daily dalliances and noteworthy phases. It’s like an early morning sunrise hike into the mountains - you grind through the alarm and the ascent - but the reward is transcendence. We’ve been fortunate enough to have had 12 years of this quest.
As we turn the page into the 13th year of this relationship, we wanted to take a step back and celebrate with the people that have given us many moments to embrace over this time - you. And we wanted to do it through the one way that we are completely on the same page on - dance. So dust off your dancing shoes and we hope to see you at Jashan on the 23rd of July!
P.S.: Jasmine here, extensive googling may or may not have been involved in writing my end of the dialogue in this piece (wink wink)
December 2019. As the train pulled out of the Bhubhaneswar railway station, I felt this strange pit in my stomach. One that has been relatively unfamiliar to me for some years. The last time when I must have felt the same was when I was 16 and left for college, some 2000 kilometers away from home. I couldn't tell what this feeling was. I surmised that to be me simply missing you. It's a peculiar thing, specially since we hadn't just fallen in love and were not reeling in swathes of romanticizing endorphins. We lived together, saw each other everyday, and were about to spend only a few weeks away from each other, while visiting respective families back home in India. Yet, my tummy had developed a knot, at the onset of a little hiatus from you.
This brought forth a moment from almost a decade ago; a memory that is still clear as ice. December 2010. It was our first time meeting each other, after about six months of dating online. As I waved at you, boarding the bus to get back home, to a city all the way across the state, I caught a glimpse of the look in your eyes: one fused with despair and a subtle sadness that was all held back by a formidable consolation. It was the look of someone who was sad but did not want to look so for the fear of hurting a loved one. As the bus pulled away, I instantly knew I had something special on my hands - someone whose eyes had the light of love and longing for me.
These two moments punctuate our story well enough; One, which on hand, has been rife with struggle from when we were far apart, fighting and failing in the face of long-distance circumstances. On the other ironic hand, our story is also peppered with ease, a trait that I amusingly notice in our "chemistry", every time we meet. An ease; that renders no difference between dates at McDonalds and fancy restaurants, that makes drives in rush hour traffic seem as peaceful as beachside motorcycle rides, that makes calling it a night at 10 PM on a Saturday the best party ever, that completely negates the need for a hip crowd on a dance floor, I could go on.
But our times apart did not withdraw themselves away. It took resolve, faith, and composure, to fight circumstances tooth and nail and start a life together in the same city. And much of it was possible thanks to you; to you taking the harder, yet more correct route to being with me while I flew away chasing my dreams. To you becoming an indefatigable spunge that absorbed all my fits, breakdowns, and idiosyncrasies. To your resolve, faith, and composure.
But now that we live together, and have a life together, a friend asked me recently, "Do you notice any changes? Would things change after you guys get married?" To respond, I reflected upon how nothing had changed. Of course, there's jubilation. But there's the aforementioned ease. We just, started hanging out, and it felt like home.
That said, a strange dichotomy persists. Because when you're gone, even for one day of the week, I find myself lost. Even if I am among friends. Even if I am distracted and deep in my myriad extra-curricular pursuits. Those knots in my tummy come back. Why, I ask?
And I can only answer that by taking a feather from my favorite lyricist, Irshad Kamil's quill:
You're in every situation,
In-person or in-essence.
You fill my silences,
you soothe my extravagancies,
you brighten my blues.
Life is tied to you now.
So where does life go from here? If you follow the theme of this writing so far, it might sound like the tireless tirade of a man-child who needs you for his selfish reasons. But I promise, moving forward, life will be far from that.
On the darkest or the slowest days, it will be grabbing dark chocolate ice cream and binge-ing on true crime documentaries, gripping movies, and episodes of The Office or Friends.
On the brightest days, it will be festive. There will be relentless dancing in all the dance forms our bodies can absorb. There will be rhythm and aroma. There will be tacos, ramen, and biryani. There will be midnight drives around the city with the music cranked up. And travel, and discovery.
But across the board, it will be me standing by you in every pathway you choose to explore. I will take the best lessons and memories of the last decade and ensure they are never forgotten. I will keep things lively, in all things kinky and composed. And as Phoebe Buffay would say, I will always strive to be your lobster.
With that premise, I had a question for you. A proposition.
Will you marry me?
Seshavalli Nagavarapu | 1960 - 2016
My thought stream turned as blank as the white page this was originally written on. What do you write in an obituary for someone who was the basic root of your very existence? It surely can’t be an objective piece. Yet, there’re several vertices that need to be connected. There’s the impact the person has had on one’s own life. There’s the impact their loss has caused to one’s life (which arguably, is not concise enough for this post. Find more thoughts in a future post). And then, there’s the aftermath that has been felt by all those that were near and dear to this person. So here’s a futile effort at an objective eulogy:
On the 29th of December 2016, Seshavalli Nagavarapu, my beloved mother, passed away in a vehicular accident near Kakinada, the city where she was residing with my father. Dad survived the crash but is still recovering from the long-term effects of his injuries. This surely was the biggest punch that knocked the collective wind out of our family’s sails. Mom was undoubtedly the one perennial soundtrack for the three of us – myself, Dad, and my brother. She was the reason we thrived, the one we banked on, and the one we did everything for.
From the whiff of incense sticks that woke us up in the mornings, to the feel of crisply ironed clothes that were a given, to the countless mornings and evenings spent listening to wonderful music, to the sumptuous food that she’d often give up so we could have more, to the neat categorization she brought to every aspect of our lives, to several other such little details that enlivened our times together – we had her to thank for. More so: from scrambling strength in troubled times, to banter, humor and humility, to love and chemistry, to whatever meager altruism we can fathom, to beams of mustered positivity - we have sought inspiration from her.
Mom was an intensely naïve woman. I mean that in the best sense of the word – because to her, every person was amicable, every soul a friend, every moment an opportunity to be positive, and kind. The one resounding note that every person I’d met in the immediate few days after her passing remembered was how she was always smiling and ready for some friendly conversation. In a world where cynicism is a baseline, I can take naïve any day.
Humility was also her forte, centered around her argument of “let’s take what life has given us and make the best out of it”. That brought her to finding placid contentment and serenity. Also, joy and an endearing sense of humor. Even in her last few months, when she had to use a walking stick owing to arthritis, she’s often joke how she has sprouted a third leg. She was a curious cook, collecting hundreds of recipes for her often-successful experiments. Music was another passion for her, where she’d accompany cooking with renditions of so many songs. And to cap it all off was her definite place in the domain of archetypal motherhood – whose inhabitants so often choose to sacrifice everything they’ve got to provide for their spouses and offspring.
It’s hard to see where we’ll go from here. As one family member suggested, one would just have to take “each day as it comes”. On one hand, I’m thankful for the many moments I got to spend with her. On the other, there’s anger for a farewell that has come way ahead of its time. There’s always the knot deep down that every thought of her brings up. But then, there’s the deliberate contentment that she’s here: in notions, in conscience, in passions and quirks, in spirit and beyond.