There are some love stories that make us believe in love all over again, the kind of stories where people who care about each other beat the odds and never give up.
“My Valentine's Day is not February 14, but February 18: the day I met the love of my life. February 18, 1980, I visited Delhi to become a professor at the university. That's when I saw Raj for the first time. Forty-two years later, I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. He was riding his bike just outside the college, wearing a Firozi t-shirt, jeans, and sunglasses. I thought he looked handsome. When I left the university later that day, I saw him again! I initiated a conversation, and our love story began.
“Our marriage comes straight from a Bollywood movie, full of emotion, drama, and love. Raj came from a Rajput family from Rajasthan, while my family is Gupta from the middle of India. Our differences in family caste and religion threw hurdles in our path. But nothing could keep my husband and me apart.
“Raj visited my home for the first time on March 24, when my wisdom teeth were coming in. The process was excruciating, and Raj showed up on my doorstep with homeopathic medicine to ease the pain. After that, his visits became more frequent. We rarely interacted at work, but Raj would come over, and we'd talk for hours in the evenings. Not long after this, my mother started searching for my future husband through matrimonial connections. She had no idea that my perfect match already sat at our kitchen table.
“Nonetheless, she brought me to Delhi to meet a potential husband. After that experience, I met with my brother and explained that Raj was the man I wished to marry. He spoke to my mother, eventually convincing her that Raj and I cared for each other and should be married. Raj's family was not so welcoming. They refused to accept me as their daughter-in-law. The weekend before my husband's birthday, the day we were to wed, his family called to ask him to sign off on all the family property entitled to him. Not a family member from Raj's side came to our wedding. Our brother-in-law did spy on my Vidai, a moment where the groom's family accepts the bride into their household. Our marriage would have made a fantastic Bollywood movie. Although his family didn't attend, Raj’s six friends came to celebrate and support him through the wedding.
“We had 42 beautiful years together. Last February, my husband passed away. Our kids were worried about me being alone. Fortunately, I was promoted to the college dean and given a crazy workload: a blessing in disguise. The sheer work volume kept me from too much loneliness, although the grief is still difficult. I am grateful for the friends and colleagues at my side.
“I often remind myself that our journey was incredible. One of my favorite memories of Raj is when I visited his family without him present. My sister-in-law requested that I attend her wedding. My mother-in-law called me. After the call, Raj warned me not to go, but I said, 'they called me, so I must go.' I traveled with our children to the wedding. For the first time in our marriage, we lived separately. He came down after 15 days to Rajasthan. The moment I saw him again, I became overwhelmed with joy. He said something that has a special place in my heart. Even though Raj passed on, I will cherish that moment of love forever. This February 18, I will hold our memories close to my heart and celebrate our Valentine's Day.”