Everyone would catch my eye, but it was he who caught my heart.
It was the year 2000 and huge developments were happening in the social networking and social media industry worldwide. India was slowly but steadily catching up with the western countries. By 2007, the social networking sites had taken India by the storm and Orkut emerged as the king of social media in India. It served multiple purposes for its members; social networking, dating, matrimony and a booty call.
My boyfriend and I found each other in the midst of this storm. Both of us were getting over our respective complicated relationships and the major reason to be active on the site was for social networking and a booty call. We crossed paths on Orkut in March 2008. Neither of us remembers who sent a friend request first and frankly it doesn’t really matter now.
Now normally, I share my telephone number with guys, but for some reason I chose not to share it with him [after all these years I still get taunted for that]. Therefore, while both of us were in the same city and barely 22 miles away from each other, our conversations for the first 3 months were only on Yahoo Messenger (YM).
Data phone plans were unheard of back then and his workplace did not permit him to use the messenger during work times, so our chats were reserved for late nights. We hit it off instantly and our chats never had a dull moment. Our chat topics were varied. We talked about the weather, the mundane routine of our daily life , our hobbies, families and everything under the sun, flirted like there was no tomorrow. The one thing we didn’t talk about were the people we were dating. Both of us wanted this relationship to be casual and without any expectations. I was working in the glamorous world of events and he was trying to make a career in the IT industry and we were both busy with our respective lives.
I still remember our first telephonic conversation…5th August 2008. It was my birthday present to him.
Me: Hello, is this Winston???
He : Yes, who’s this??
Me : Prachi!!! Happy Birthday!!!
He : Thank you!!! Prachi???
Me : Yes, from Orkut…
He : Oh yeah…Thank you so much!
Me : Just called to wish you a happy birthday. Have a good one!! Bye!! …
…And I disconnected. This was definitely not the reaction I was expecting and I mentally made a note to stop communicating with him.
The next day I get a SMS saying, “I am so sorry for yesterday. I was late for a lunch with a friend and was running to catch a bus and your call caught me unaware. I am glad you called.” I replied. With this new-found communication, YM took a back seat.
On one sultry October evening my mom asked me if I would accompany her to a jewelry store in a suburb of Mumbai. I was about to refuse, when I realized that’s where Winston stays and I immediately texted him to check if he was free to meet for a coffee. And thus 11th October 2008 was our first date in a crowded market. This guy walks in bringing a couple of flowers for me. (I don’t remember what kind of flowers they were or the color- cause in my head I was thinking how much more charming can this guy get.) Thanks to the crazy traffic of Mumbai, we ended up going round and round in the car and the coffee did not happen.
Our first planned date happened on the 15th October 2008. We met for drinks at a bar followed by dinner at a café by the Arabian Sea side. I fell for his cute and charming ways. He fell for my pretty dimpled smile. The evening was full of chatter and smiles. As we parted ways, he bid me goodbye with a kiss on my hand and I knew that was the beginning of the end.
We talked throughout the day and late into the night. When I look back, it seems like we were possessed. 7 days later on the 22nd of October, he sends a long SMS describing the past 7 days, ending with “I think I am in love with you”…”you don’t have to love me back”.. “We can just be friends…please don’t stop talking to me”…”I needed to tell you this”. And what did I do? Simply smiled, put my phone away, and went to sleep!
While in my head, I was singing the Britney Spears song, “Oops, I did it again I played with your heart, got lost in the game!” He thought about all his past relationships and realized, this is the first time he is truly in “Love”.
The next day we were back to our usual selves as if nothing happened the night before. Neither of us broached the topic for the next two days. We had no idea what was happening, or where we were heading. But we needed to meet so on the 25th of October we met. One look in his eyes was all I needed to kiss him and say, “Btw… I love you too” and just like that this fling turned into a beautiful love story.
We walk through hell, but it will get better because we walk together
I am older than him by 4 years (yes it’s a big thing in India), I am a divorcee with twin boys (probably a bigger thing than being older than a man in a relationship), and we belong to different religions (that tops the list). But none of the above mattered to us.
The first two years of our relationship had all the elements of a healthy relationship – the occasional fights, movie dates, weekend trips, dinners and passionate sex! We had not moved in together, but Winston made it a point to come home every night for dinner (it was a tough commute for him, but he did it every day without lamenting about it).
Just around our 2nd anniversary, the talks of his going “abroad” surfaced. He was waiting for such an opportunity for a while now and we had no plans of getting married immediately, so this news was received with excitement by both of us. The ball got rolling and we got a little apprehensive about the whole thing, but both of us knew how important and unavoidable the whole thing was for us. Finally the contract for a year was drawn, the visa was issued, stuff was packed, talks about how difficult it was going to be were had, promises were made, and after lots of hugs and tears finally on 10th November 2010 the flight to “Amsterdam” was boarded.
What was supposed to be a yearlong contract turned into a 5.5 year contract and is still going on in “Norway”. So yes we have been together for 8.5 years and out of those 6.5 years this has been a Long Distance Relationship.
While Winston had been in a long distance relationship previously, this was a first for me. I never believed in long distance relationships, because I am a sucker for physical intimacy. I used to always say “Long Distance is not my cup of te,” “I do not know how people can survive long distance.” While I was apprehensive about LDR’s, not once did the thought of this relationship failing cross my mind.
Saying the first year was tough, will be an understatement. To begin with, there was this sudden emptiness in our life (more for him because he was all alone in a new country) and of course the usual culprits: different time zones, unstable internet connections, individual social commitments, being away on special occasions, and the lack of physical intimacy.
One September morning I woke up to a mail in my inbox saying “Hope this brings a huge smile on your face!!” and attached was his ticket to India for December. I was over the moon and couldn’t help smiling for the rest of the day. The next 3 months were spent counting down the days and planning all the things we would do once we were together. Finally, December was here and so was Winston. Christmas celebration, a trip to Goa, meeting family and friends, and it was time for him to go back in January 2012.
I must say the second year (2012) was a lot easier than the first, we had overcome the initial hurdles, set up a routine for ourselves, and were more even more convinced about wanting to be together. The second year also saw us (the twins, Winston, and me) taking a 3 weeks trip around Europe in December. The boys who were 7 years then, were thrilled, as it was their first international trip and we were taking them to see the snow and Disneyland. And just like that we moved into our 3rd year (2013) of LDR.
In the third year (2013), we had started talking about getting married and me moving to Amsterdam along with the kids. It was definitely not going to be easy with children and convincing his parents for consenting to our marriage. I was getting a little edgy, because we were not anywhere close to deciding on what to do next. Whenever, we would think of me moving there, there would be news of his project getting discontinued or moved to another place. Towards the end of the 3rd year we still had no clue about what was in store for us, apart from the fact that we loved each other and wanted to be together. The long distance was not bothering us much, since Winston had started to make a trip to India every 6 months.
The fourth year (2014) was not any different and our arguments began surfacing. We had frequent arguments about why he couldn’t he just convince his parents, why couldn’t he just put his foot down and tell his company that he needed to know what is the plan. I knew he was trying his best, but since it wasn’t happening the way we wanted it, I was getting frustrated. In one of our chats, I mentioned to Winston about making a trip to Europe again, without the kids this time. So we met again in August where we spent 2 weeks in Greece and Bulgaria and 1 week in Amsterdam. It was just perfect. He took amazing care of me throughout the trip and I was pampered like a princess. 3 weeks later after lots of crying at the departure lounge, we both said our good byes and he promised things will change. I had moved to the frustration zone and the whole LDR thing was getting to me. I couldn’t handle the fact that we were spending time away from each other.
The fifth year (2015) saw us meeting every alternate month, not for long periods, but it definitely did a lot of good to both of us. Winston’s job involved a lot of travelling around the world and he tried his best to route most of his trip via Mumbai, so we could spend a few days together and help me maintain my sanity. This year we decided to travel to the Balkans and discussed our options. By the end of the trip, both of us could feel the tension setting in our relationship. I was perpetually frustrated and irritated. Our conversations were turning out to be mundane and I was slowly inching towards a mental breakdown. I was falling sick often and the doctors couldn’t find a medical reason for my illness. My physician blamed “stress” as the reason behind my frequent sickness and I was advised to go and see a physiatrist to find a solution. I started sessions with the physiatrist to work on first finding out what “stress” I had, then eliminating the “stress” from my life. This all was definitely taking a toll on the relationship and talks of whether we should continue started seeping in. Every Skype call would have me getting irritated and wanting closure. Finally, after lots of arguments, discussions, we decided we would get court married in March 2016, irrespective of his parents or my mum consenting. At least that would help me start the visa process to move in with him and eventually the twins. I was very happy and excited. I couldn’t stop smiling from the time I had submitted our documents.
The 6th year (2016) started on a happy note. His tickets were booked for his travel in March and we also planned a short trip with the twins to Goa to celebrate the occasion. His work trip bought him to Mumbai in February for a few days and he expressed his discomfort about the whole marriage thing without his parents’ consent and I knew that we are going to be back to square one soon. He did come in March and we did go for our vacation, but we did not get married. He succeeded well in convincing me to give him another year for him to convince his parents and take up a new project in India. While I gave in to his convincing talk, I was completely heartbroken and felt dejected. My mental health had gone for a toss and I started the next level of therapy – Craniosacral Therapy with a therapist. The therapist slowly and steadily helped me to have a new perspective on dealing with the relationship. The new perspective bought a change in my actions, my thought process, and helped me accept my current situations. Even though Winston was away, he completely supported me during the therapy and handled my mood swings perfectly. Once or twice he did get critical of the suggestions of the therapist, but since he knew this was in my best interest he went with the flow. I have always been verbose and the therapy enhanced this skill of mine. This time the annual summer trip took us to Morocco. We were the happiest with each other, but we talked about our future. Since we couldn’t reach a solution, and I could no longer let it affect my health and mental well-being, we had a lot of discussions about how we should not continue this relationship. On the 4.5 hour ride to Casablanca from Essaouira, there was an awkward silence with tears flowing through my eyes and the only thing soothing was the voice of Ed Sheeran singing “Photograph” which we played on loop. The next day at the airport was a disaster. I didn’t want to leave the departure area and both of us cried. Little did we know that exactly in a month we would be with each other.
Winston was back to Amsterdam and by the end of August; his deputation back to India was signed off. Farewell parties were held, the bags were packed, the visa was surrendered and finally the flight ticket was one way. He was in India in September 2016, exactly after a month we had said our goodbyes in Casablanca.
But the joy did not last long. As soon as he was in India, he was asked to take up a project in Frankfurt for a couple of months, so we were back to where we began. I asked him not to take the project, stay back in India, convince his parents and give each other the relationship we deserve. He was trying to convince me how this new project was going to be good for his career and it was just a matter of a few months. He travelled to Frankfurt for 3 weeks in October and was offered a long term contract in Germany. I couldn’t handle this anymore and I told him, its time he sets his priorities right in life: if he chooses to take up this project, he will have to let go of me. He chose the project and moved to Frankfurt in December and from then to Norway and I chose to wait for him.
He is currently in Oslo, while I am in Mumbai. Like always, we do not know when the situation will change for us. Our relationship has evolved in the last 6.5 years. We have grown as individuals and as a couple. Initially, we would text each other constantly and both of us knew exactly what was happening with each other. Now we are in a phase where we do not feel less important or less cared for, if we do not hear from each other in a day as long as we know each one of is safe. One thing we do continue is message each other the moment we wake up.
There have been times when I have lost my cool and have broken it off. I did not talk to him when he left for Frankfurt. While we did not break off, we were not talking like the way we used to. Both of us were frustrated, but Winston as usual, maintained his cool and has done everything under the sun to win me back over and make me smile. And every time he has says these things, I have seen it in his eyes.
The good phases of long distance relationships obviously include all the travel we have done to places that I have only dreamt of. My closet is full of international clothing and cosmetic brands. Also, we still have the hots for each other, thanks to the long periods of separation.
I have always believed in soul mates and I know Winston is my soul mate. He is the balance I need in my life. He warms my heart, mind, body and soul. He is my calm in the chaos, and I have never experienced this kind of physical and mental intimacy. All we know that we are in love with each other and the day is not far away when things will fall in place for us.
I hate to see you cry because it hurts me so much; but I’d die to see you smile again and I mean it – Anonymous
Our unconditional love and commitment to each other and the efforts we both take is the key for our long distance to be successful.
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