I was in Manchester when Geet and I decided to get married. It was an arranged marriage and our parents had given us a month to talk and decide. We liked each other from the first telephone conversation we had. It wasn’t awkward. It was like talking to an old friend. Then a few webcams later, we said yes. Just like that. Without actually meeting. Geet was in India.
I flew back to India for a small ceremony. That was the first time we saw each other in flesh and everything felt warm and happy. It was one of those days when the world seemed beautiful.
Our marriage was four months later and thus telephone conversations and Skype chats sessions started. We were never physically there during our courtship but we never felt the distance. After all we were going to spend our whole life together. There was sweetness in that longing. I sent her chocolates, teddy bears, flowers and romantic songs.
As the D-day approached, I started preparing for our Honeymoon. I was coming to India for three weeks and I booked a room in Leela Kempenski in Kovalam. The hotel was located on a cliff near the ocean and you could see the whole ocean from your room. It was heavenly. I kept it a secret. It was a surprise for Geet.
Marriage happened with all the riot of colours, dancing, food, loads of relatives and photographs which an Indian wedding happens to provide. Both of us were exhausted and exhilarated by the end of it. We slept like a log for two days. After we woke up, the plan was to get our marriage certificate done, go to Kovalam and then apply for Geet’s Visa on our return. We were relying on the assumption that the marriage certificate will be done in two days. Many of our friends asked us to bribe the clerks in the office so that it was not delayed. We reached the office, filed our application without bribing anyone and waited. Soon the main officer called us and asked for Geet’s residential proof of my house! I told him that we just got married. How was she supposed to have a residential proof so soon? He asked us to open a joint account in a bank and use it as a proof. Basically, we did not bribe the clerks and so they had decided to ruin it for us. After all, people had got their marriage certificates in the same office in two hours. So, we opened a joint account in a bank and submitted it as a proof. We finally got our marriage certificate in three days but there was no time to go to Kovalam. I called up Leela Kempenski and asked them to cancel my booking. The amount was non-refundable. I asked them to take the money. They were taken aback. Finally, they didn’t take the money. I figured someone else might have booked the room after I cancelled.
I was sulking. I was angry. Our honeymoon was ruined. Geet told me that it was ok and we could go somewhere else later. I promised myself that I would not let a loser ruin my happiness. We got Geet’s visa done and came to Manchester. And then I got the perfect idea of a honeymoon. It was a dream and I was scared to touch it. I kicked myself for not thinking about it before. I applied for Schengen and soon our tickets to Paris were booked. Take that for ruining our honeymoon you loser, bribe sucking clerk!
Paris was a different planet. It was utopia. We were like two wide-eyed kids lost in the streets of Paris, sometimes deliberately. We did all the touristy things – kissed on the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Mickey and Minnie in Disneyland, bought expensive French perfumes, took a Seine boat cruise, ambled in the gardens of Versailles, gawked at Mona Lisa in Louvre, sat in silence in Notre Dame, marvelled at the modern art collection at Georges Pompidou, devoured mushroom and cheese croissants and travelled in Paris Metro but all this was not what defined Paris for us. It was a tune played on an accordion.
It was our first day in Paris. We got down from the automatic metro which took us from our airport terminal to the one at which we could get an RER train to our hotel. The train soon chugged in and we took a corner seat in one of the almost empty compartments. Two women were chatting in French a few seats away, a drunken beggar was sleeping on another and a man was standing near the door with an accordion in his hand. Soon he started playing a tune and suddenly there were goosebumps all over Geet and me. We looked at each other and smiled and then Geet’s head was on my shoulder, her hand curled in mine. The tune was so unreservedly romantic that somehow the moment stood still. We wanted him to go on forever. The tune dissolved effortlessly with the rhythm of the train. That one moment defined Paris for us, not the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre or French perfumes. For us it was a city where two lovers could hold hands and melt away in the spell while a stranger played an incredibly dreamy tune for them on an accordion.
I gave the stranger a generous tip after he finished. He was surprised and said Merci. I almost asked him to play it again.
And then I did something I had never imagined I would do. I thanked the clerk who delayed my marriage certificate.
(image of accordion from – http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/texta/accordion.html)