When my husband and I had first met, he had asked me to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Somehow, the classic became ‘our book’, and the romance, melancholy and longing in its pages coloured the early years of our relationship.
Then, of course, marriage entered our lives and tucked romance away behind laptops and laundry.
We talked about paying bills and whose turn it was to walk the dogs. We battled about inflated credit card bills (his) and an inflated to-do list (mine). We sat side-by-side in bed working on our computers with deadlines to keep, and across coffee tables in restaurants looking into our phones. Social media kept us informed about the other’s mental preoccupations.
Romance got a new avatar.
Thankfully, we both realised that marriage is all-inclusive. It has space for both the highs and the lows, the memorable moments and the forgettable ones. We also realised that if we wanted to keep the flame alive, we’d have to do it ourselves.
And so, as a new investment in our relationship, we planned a staycation. You know, when you have a vacation while staying in town. With his habitual visits to Chanakyapuri for work and my fondness for luxury, the Claridges in Lutyens’ Delhi was a mutually acceptable choice to spend a night. So off we went with one bag full of clothes and another full of notebooks (“This can also be my writer’s retreat,” he figured).
Built in 1952, the Claridges has been witness to most of Delhi’s post-Independence history and it gave us a bit of a thrill to sit in its lawn and sip masala tea knowing this was the very spot Jawaharlal Nehru had sat once. Our room was in the newly renovated wing done up with modern facilities, and though the hotel appeared quite full, it was absolutely quiet on our side of the building. Perfect for writing, the husband said, and sat down with his laptop near the window.
I decided to re-read Love in the Time of Cholera.
But soon, the attractions of the 132-room hotel lured us. The husband headed to the spa. I mulled over what to have for dinner – there was oriental food at Jade, Indian at the famous Dhaba, and the landmark coffee shop Pickwicks.
Finally, we decided to head to Sevilla, one of Delhi’s most happening Mediterranean restaurants, and had a lovely candlelight dinner outdoors – the sangria and heaters kept the cold at bay and the food left us warmly satiated as we Instagrammed photos and behaved like excited teenagers. It was a chilly night and the heated pool gave off steam as we walked back to our room.
The next morning, we had a wholesome buffet breakfast – and several cups of excellent brewed coffee – over a hearty conversation about national politics and my neighbourhood’s WhatsApp group. Before we knew it, duty beckoned – hubby had to rush for a meeting, he apologized. I made a sheepish face, “I have a meeting too.”
He left right away while I still had an hour to get ready and check out with our bags. Hardly any writing got done, I smiled to myself as I packed away his laptop and notebooks, nor did I get too far into Marquez’s masterpiece.
And then, it struck me: both marriage and romance are but parts of the grander connection that keep two people together. “Think of love as a state of grace not as a means to anything… but an end in itself,” the Nobel Prize winner wrote in the book in my hands.
We need nothing else.