The Physics of Space & Time

The husband and I have been married for 20 years now.  Plans were great. Let’s go on a trip to the mountains, by the lakeside, near the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Instead what happened was that the phone calls flew over the mountains, past the lakes and through the oceans as we reminisced the 20 years together. I had to come to India to look after the old parents, and the husband was making calls everyday to ensure I had the right masks, the right tests, and the right flights. 

While the day turned out to be a special one anyway with loved ones calling and making it a special one, I found myself reveling in the words of James Baldwin:

James Baldwin on long distance love

“Pretend, for example, that you were born in Chicago and have never had the remotest desire to visit Hong Kong, which is only a name on a map for you; pretend that some convulsion, sometimes called accident, throws you into connection with a man or a woman who lives in Hong Kong; and that you fall in love. Hong Kong will immediately cease to be a name and become the center of your life. And you may never know how many people live in Hong Kong. But you will know that one man or one woman lives there without whom you cannot live. And this is how our lives are changed, and this is how we are redeemed.

What a journey this life is! Dependent, entirely, on things unseen. If your lover lives in Hong Kong and cannot get to Chicago, it will be necessary for you to go to Hong Kong. Perhaps you will spend your life there, and never see Chicago again. And you will, I assure you, as long as space and time divide you from anyone you love, discover a great deal about shipping routes, airlines, earth quake, famine, disease, and war. And you will always know what time it is in Hong Kong, for you love someone who lives there. And love will simply have no choice but to go into battle with space and time and, furthermore, to win.”

James Baldwin

It turned out to be propitious indeed that I was in the very city that our wedding took place in, and the husband was in California  – the place we went on to make our home together. As James Baldwin so eloquently put it, ‘we simply had no choice but to go into battle with space and time’.  I remember my sister asking me before my wedding what my favorite place was, and somehow I answered ‘California’. I’d never been there, I simply knew the person I loved was there. She threw her head back, laughed and teased me well. I deserved it. Hitherto, I had never missed a heartbeat in saying ‘Lovedale’, and here I was, already switching my answer to a place I had never seen.

As we sat down to a meal that evening, in my parents’ home, the stories of our lives spun its enthralling web around the little table. How we welcomed the wrong bridegroom party at the station all those years ago, only to realize after unloading all the luggage that it was a different wedding party with the same name(!) South Indians, especially of the previous generation could all be gifted a baby book of names, for they named their sons and daughters after their favorite gods and goddesses, and the popular ones studded the streets like stars on a clear night.

The wedding photos that for two decades had not been taken out for a viewing suddenly found itself in demand. I looked at the album to find some loving aunts and uncles no more, some whose rich tree cover had thinned out over time, others whose foliage had turned color in the intervening decades, children who had become adults and went on to get married and set up their own families. 

The march of time maybe relentless, but the memories are timeless.

6 thoughts on “The Physics of Space & Time”

  1. Happy anniversary to both of u saums 😍 I still remember me and Prathi coming for ur marriage and relishing the vegetarian platter

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