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A decade and a half of Laughter and More

posted Feb 13, 2016, 1:20 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Feb 14, 2016, 3:52 AM ]

15 years ago in January I met papa. We took a physics undegrad class together. We had both missed a practical because we were away on a physics retreat.

I always thought papa was weird because he wore big glasses and had little socialization skills. I wasn't too different but, that never stopped the pot from merrily calling the kettle black without much thought. During the physics retreat I had to do a demonstration involving marbles and as clumsy as I am, I managed to scatter them all over the floor. Papa helped me gather my marbles and that was the auspicious beginning to our relationship.

So we had to do the practical, we missed together. From the beginning we had amazing chemistry. As shy as I was, talking to boys, I had no trouble talking to papa and he thoroughly enjoyed my cheerful chatter. No, I tell you, he really did. He tells me so to date. Anyway he gave me his phone number and email address and took mine.

That evening papa wasted no time in sending me a link to his poetry. He doesn't write any more but, I tell him he should because I have never read better poetry.

Thus began our email correspondence. Even though we went to the same college I was too shy to talk to him so we emailed each other. It was just like You’ve Got Mail. The thing was I was very new to emails and it would be another year before I had a computer at home. Papa on the other hand was a computer geek programming since the age of 7. So I used to go to a cyber-cafe to check for email from him. Papa always wondered why I always emailed at a particular time. But once he figured out my routine, he would wait at the computer for my email which arrived at 5:30 pm and responded promptly. So on some days we exchanged 2 or 3 emails. I paid Rs 10 for 30 minutes at the cyber-cafe and and that was what we managed at dial up internet speeds.

For 2 glorious years we saw each other so often in college and had a wonderful time. Then we both applied for grad school in the US and got in to 2 different universities in 2 different states.

With the perspective and confidence (possibly delusional confidence) that only young people are blessed with, were sure we could make long distance work. It would be a breeze. We were in love after all and love conquers all, right?

Well, to our credit, we did make it work. 6 long years of being separated by over a 1000 miles. Thank you AT&T for unlimited mobile to mobile talk time :) All the time that we were not working we were on the phone. We had blue tooth head sets and talked to each other while we cooked or cleaned the house and sometimes discussed a joke or character in a book even while we read the same book together in our respective apartments a 1000 miles apart. During the Ph. D qualifiers we discussed problems and worked on them together on the phone. Sometimes we talked in to the wee hours of the morning reminiscing our college days. My friends called me bionic woman because that hands-free was always attached to my ear blinking away. During those 6 years we met each other about 4 times a year and those were the only vacations we took.

We came back to India together to get engaged in our 3rd year of grad school and to get married in our 5th year. We graduated together in our 6th year.

Our 5th year was a worrisome one because we wanted to, finally, be able to be together. But getting postdoc positions for 2 theoretical physicists in the same place was not easy. Physicists jokingly call it the Two-Body-Problem.

Papa had started working on a software as a hobby, during his last two years of grad school and one night after a long discussion, inspired by the movie Frost-Nixon, he decided to quit physics and work on his software, so I could focus on getting a post doc somewhere and he would just follow. We were still young and the world was our oyster and yes we still had that delusional confidence.

Well, it turned out to be great for papa and his software was very successful. In the mean time I got a great post doc offer. So we moved together to the new university. Towards the end of my postdoc I had almost a craving to be a mom. I have never liked babies, and to be polite I had to make an effort to show some interest in the babies my friends had. But suddenly, I badly wanted one of my own. Papa and I always wanted kids someday but suddenly this seemed like the right time. I was finishing my postdoc so I could have the baby and then look for a new job.

We returned to Mumbai as we both wanted our child to grow up here and papa had enormous flexibility because he worked for himself. Well papa has helped me tremendously in bringing up our daughters. But his life choices also inspired me. I was disillusioned with physics around the time I quit and papa gave me the courage move on. Eventually I found my passion for writing and papa has always been super supportive. Since the babies have arrived our alone time has reduced but we enjoy a lot of quality family time filled with laughter. Papa has always brought laughter in to my life. He has taught me, never to be bogged down by problems but to find solutions.

15 years since he helped me gather my marbles, they are firmly in place, because I have always had him to share my ups and downs with. The marble story is probably his favourite one.

Happy Valentines Day papa.