Tag Archives: brown love

A 55 Year Love Story

A Short Introduction 

This is the love story of Yatindra and Sadhana Bhatnagar – nearly 55 years of sharing cheers and tears, facing odds and overcoming them, together.

It’s a story of reaching great heights – he in journalism and she in painting and sketching.

Yatindra wrote books, Sadhana contributed to some. They collaborated on some more.

Both traveled widely. From New Delhi to Indore, mingling with Presidents and Prime Ministers, top diplomats, artists and business people.

Sadhana raised their two lovely daughters and wrote poems for Yatindra; he wrote them for her as well.

She was an excellent cook, expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, singing, embroidery, hospitality, making life-long friends and helping others. They gave love to their daughters, their daughter’s husbands, and strangers. In return, they got love from far and wide.

They were always on the same page; two bodies and one soul.

Both remained love-birds, till her last day. He would sit by her side, hold her hand, look into her eyes, and whisper sweet nothings in her ears.

This is their Fairytale Love Story.

Start of a 55 year old love story

Talking about pairs, arranged or love marriage, meant marrying in our own community (caste) and region, with similar customs and language and habits, family background – and of course matching horoscopes. None of these figured into our marriage at all. 

Ours was a beautiful combination of love and arranged. 

We had only one ‘date’ on April 21, Milan Divas – The Day We Met, and got to know each other. That was enough for us. 

In the six-months of waiting, dozens of letters were exchanged. Phone facility was not easy; it was also expensive. So we had the mailmen helping us. In this case ‘the middlemen’ were welcomed. Letters were a big consolation. 

It started with my four-year-old friendship with Indrajit, Ved’s (Sadhana’s) brother, that led to our marriage and 55-years of courtship.

Destiny had played a significant role. 

Ved was born in Nowshera, now in Pakistan, before her family moved to Abbottabad.

I was born in Indore, over 800 miles from Ved’s birthplace. She moved to Abbottabad and I to New Delhi – the distance cut by 90 miles. When we married she lived in Dehradun and I in Delhi, only 150 miles away. 

We were surely destined to move closer and closer till we became one. 

The rest is history, as they say.

We married on a ‘bad’ day but made a good life

October 8, 1961! The day, I believe, no marriages took place in orthodox Hindu families. 

That is because it is part of the Shraddh season when orthodox Hindus remember their dead, pay respects to their souls, feed the Brahmins and the poor, and pray for the eternal peace for the dead.

Our marriage on a Shraddh day!

Indrajit and I consulted ‘Mr. Calendar’ and decided on the convenient Sunday.

Everything happily fell right into place. Virtually, the entire city came to witness this ‘unique’ marriage. We got the best hotel to stay, had one of the best bands available, and the caterers were happy to get business during a slow season.

It was no “Big Fat Indian Wedding” yet lovely and pleasant; a good family event where two families became close.

Mataji (my widow mother-in-law) gave away the bride, another break from the orthodoxy. 

I gave Ved a new name – Sadhana, the desired one, my prayer. 

On the bus heading home – and to new dreams – a non-stop singing session started. Sadhana obliged by singing what became one of our favorite songs:  

Nayee manzil nayee rahein, naya hai meherbaan apna, na jane ja ke theharega kahaan yeh karvaan apna. (New destination and new path, new partner-friend, I don’t know where this caravan will end up.) 

How appropriate was her choice!  

Making of a Home 

Back home well past midnight, everyone was tired and retired to bed early. No ‘first night’ ritual. We looked forward to the future. 

The next day my errands took a long time and it was a late evening when I returned. I was stunned – my beautiful wife was waiting for me in her elegant dress, simple yet lovely jewelry, hardly any make-up, and the apartment had transformed into our “home.” 

Homes are made with love, vision, respect, commitment and a desire to become and grow as one. Sadhana arranged the furniture and other things to make the small rooms look larger and bare walls were adorned with photos and paintings. The home looked inviting; it bore the stamp of a lady with good taste and creativity.  She did everything with love and care to make it her home, our home.

Wonderstruck, I could only say: “Tumne to ise swarg bana diya (you have turned this into a heaven.) She had a lovely smile on her face as we exchanged glances that said more than we expressed. 

I was apologetic for being away for hours but she put me at ease with a phir kya hua (no problem, that’s okay).

I was stunned and could only look at her full of admiration and joy.

I fell in love with Sadhana, again. And that love continued for about 55 years. 

Our Honeymoon and More

We didn’t have a honeymoon in the traditional sense. We had made no plans and we kept everything limited and simple. As part of our wedding, just a couple days after our marriage, we were off to Dehradun for Phera (return).  

The Phera tradition serves two purposes: one, to know first-hand from the girl how she was welcomed at the groom’s place and how she feels about the groom (Mataji could tell from Sadhana’s glow); two, to know the son-in-law better without his entourage (Baraat). 

After spending a couple days in Dehradun, meeting Sadhana’s family and a host of her friends, we went to Mussoorie for a day to have time exclusively for the two of us. Unexpectedly one day became two.

Our lives had become the ultimate union of two hearts and two minds to reach the divine state of one.

That was the relation between Sadhana and I, from the beginning to the last. 

We did have a delayed honeymoon after 11 years where we went to Europe and Egypt for 40 days. It will remain a cherished memory.

Life, of course, is not a bed of roses. 

We encountered problems. We faced hardships and challenges. We had our disagreements. We argued. But they were few and far between. 

The ‘ceasefire’ was quick. Tears shared and sweet smiles exchanged happily. 

The arguments did not last long.

The ‘silent treatment’ could not go beyond a couple hours. 

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

In early 1940s in India, Brooke Bond Tea widely displayed an ad proclaiming: “Two leaves and a bud, the standard plucking method of the high grade tea.”

When we would patch up – and I loved that job happily – it was “two tight hugs and a kiss, the standard patch-up method of the highest grade of love.” 

Peace will be inevitably restored in no time to be followed by more tight hugs and more shower of kisses, enough to drown us in love and loud laughter.

Sadhana was an incredible human being!  

Yatindra Bhatnagar, a journalist, author and poet has been writing for more than seven decades.  He was chief editor of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines in India and the United States. He has done more than three thousand radio and TV programs and written 20 books, in English and Hindi.  He has extensively traveled in India and abroad. At nearly 91, he is still writing books, contributing to papers, doing radio programs and has his own website: www.internationalopinion.com

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Love: Refreshed

A husband for home, a wife for away. Intrigued by the title, I clicked on the link sent by a friend who is also my travel companion. The premise of the essay; a special kind of relationship between friends who choose to travel together, leaving behind their families; reflected the kind of trips we had taken. For several years, we had been to exotic locations within and outside India, responding to the call that dragged us away from our families, filled us with awe and wonder, and refreshed and rejuvenated us. Like the essay in the New York Times, ours was a story of friendship, but also modern love.

I read this essay in the Modern Love column on my smartphone as I commuted to work in the air-conditioned comfort of a train in Singapore. On the way back, I clicked to related links at the bottom of the first essay and scrolled through several well-told tales of contemporary love, hooked. By the time I reached home, I was transported to the Mumbai of my teens, a phase in my life where I had preferred reading romance over other genres..

I devoured innumerable tacky Mills and Boon and Harlequin paperbacks piled up in hole-in-the-wall second-hand bookstores that doubled as libraries. I didn’t expect anything depicted in these slim books, featuring people whose lives looked nothing like mine, to happen to me. I do not remember putting myself in the shoes of their blue-eyed protagonists. The books were more fantasy than romance. I read them for entertainment and, perhaps, escape.

Over the years, as my logical nature took over my impressionable self, I lost interest in reading romance. With limited time and a refinement of reading tastes, I veered towards fiction and non-fiction titles with more literary merit.

Modern Love essays came to me in midlife; a phase where my children were teenagers, I was remarried, and trying to find my way in our blended family in a new country. Certainly not the best time to idle away precious minutes in light reading when I could have been doing many more meaningful things.

But no matter how old, skeptical or cynical we may be about love, there is something about this ancient, universal emotion that tugs at us insistently, exhorting us to read and respond. No matter how crazy my schedule, I managed to read a handful of essays every so often.

Just like in teenage, reading romance in midlife once again provided an escape. This time the words held deeper meaning, because these were true stories. And they covered a wide canvas. Many featured same-sex relationships and the associated challenges. Some focused on loss; of a child, of a parent, of a way of life, and its consequent lessons. 

Except for a few, there were hardly any Indian protagonists. But it didn’t matter. I found more in common with the bibliophiles who flirted than the woman who tried to understand her Indian boyfriend. Although the protagonists didn’t share my skin color or cultural background, I suffered their heartaches and rejoiced in their success, because these were familiar emotions. From my own experience, I knew that love can hide when you go looking for it but show up uninvited, in the most unexpected places, between the most unlikely people.

Not all Modern Love stories were about romantic love. And I found them more interesting. The appeal of the story lay in the evolution of the protagonist and not so much in the specific nature of the relationship. 

I used to scoff at my friendly neighbor who, unlike me, was a happy housewife with no personal ambitions outside of her home turf. During a particularly trying time, she sent me food, lent me a gas cylinder, and offered to watch my daughter until I returned from work, thereby enabling my single mom lifestyle. Humbled by her generous gesture and loving offer, I learnt that love can grow between two very different people who respect each other. 

Not so long ago, books became movies. Today, essays become Netflix and Amazon shows. When Modern Love episodes showed up on screen, I was not surprised. But when I noticed an essay on Medium.com titled “Is Modern Love Only For White Women?” I was shocked. The writer called out the producers of show for not showing women of color as primary love interests in the eight or so episodes that have been released.

Failure of romantic relationships can be disappointing. But my life experience has taught me that even as we mourn failed connections, or deal with disappointment of interactions that do not live up to our expectations, if we pay attention, we can feel an undercurrent of deep-seated knowledge that we are richer for the experience.

Romantic love, after all, is only one shade among the myriad colors of love that we get to experience in a lifetime.

Resilience in the face of disappointment is an admirable quality. Walking into a romantic relationship after the failure of the first, is foolishness of the first order. But it is also a symbol of hope. A signal that we are deserving of respect, of acceptance, of love. I know this first hand.

Much of our ability to bounce back from failed relationships depends on how we have processed other kinds of love that preceded romantic love in our lives. From the care experienced in a nurturing home, from the mentoring of kind teachers, from the unconditional support of friends, from the solidarity of colleagues and teammates. These are all shades of love. I am sure there are more than fifty.

There is much to learn from Modern Love — not just the column and show, but from our own experiences in these confusing times. In love, as in art, taking the time to understand its subtle shades and nuances is what makes it (and us) special.

Ranjani Rao is a scientist by training, writer by avocation, originally from Mumbai, former resident of USA and now lives in Singapore with her family. She is co-founder of Story Artisan Press and her books are available on Amazon. She is presently working on a memoir Medium | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

This piece was initially published on November 7, 2019 under the title Fifty Shades of Modern Love.