VALENTINE’S DAY with Ainslie Paton


The Valentine’s Day Decision
Ainslie Paton

This is a true story.

It was Valentine’s Day 1988 when Hari decided he and Meera needed to make up their minds.  They’d been friends all the way through university.  And they’d been lovers for the past year.  Not that anyone knew that.  It was their secret.  Her family would be horrified.  They wanted Meera to marry a doctor or a lawyer, a professional man, not an orphan, an aspiring Bill Gates, who no one much had heard of, who didn’t have enough money to pay for dinner in a nice restaurant.  If they knew about those stolen afternoons together, if they knew Meera loved him…

Hari looked at his shoes.  If he thought about Meera’s parents he’d lose his nerve.

But if he thought too much about doing this he’d lose his lunch.

The problem was he just wasn’t sure about the whole proposal business.  Not only did the idea of going down on one knee make him feel like a fraud, he didn’t think Meera would like it either.  They weren’t go down on one knee, big declaration, look at us kind of people.  There was never going to be a three day wedding with hundreds of guests.

There was the idea of immigrating to Australia and building a different life.

He waited for Meera to meet him at Chowpatty beach. They’d stroll along, buy something to eat from one of the food stalls.  It wasn’t very romantic, not like Dillip and Urvi.  They were going to a movie, then dinner, and if Dillip got lucky he’d convince Urvi to go home with him.   And if he wasn’t too impatient, he’d convince Urvi to marry him before he made use of the clean sheets.  Dillip was a down on one knee kind of guy. Urvi was a you better get on your knees, boy, kind of woman.

Meera was full of smiles and apologies when she arrived.  Her boss was an idiot and the bus was late.  He took her hand and she stopped chattering.  When they held hands all the madness of the city fell away.

“How was your day?” she asked.  She stood close to him so their shoulders brushed.

“This is the best part of it.” Everything about being with Meera was the best part of everything about being Hari.  There was no point waiting. “I have a proposition for you.”

“So ask me.”

“It’s serious.”

“Then I’ll think carefully about it.”

He nodded and took a deep breath.  “I think we should get married.”

She blinked once, then turned her head and looked out at the ocean. She didn’t smile, and a not smiling Meera was a serious thing indeed. “That’s a big question,” she said.

He watched her face carefully.  Her lips weren’t smiling but her eyes were.  “Not so big for us, I don’t think.”

She pointed to a sea wall that was 100 metres away.  “Let’s walk there.  When we get there I’ll give you my answer.”

That sea wall might as well have been the moon.  Hari said nothing to Meera as they walked towards it.  They didn’t touch.  Anyone watching might have thought they were on a first date.  But Hari was busy trying to get his heart to stay inside his chest.  If Meera said no, he’d be lost, everything he’d dreamed about and planned would be for nothing if she wasn’t there holding his hand.

When they got to the wall, she turned to him and put her hands to his face.  “I agree with your proposition.”

“You think we should get married?”

“I do.”

So they did.

And every year since then no matter where they are on Valentine’s Day, Mumbai or Sydney, they go to the beach, pick a point and walk to it, thinking about that day on Chowpatty beach that was the official start of their life together.

And when they get there, they remember all over again how they made the best decision ever.



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