This week we’ve been overwhelmed with weddings and vows. For starters, we had Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singhs’ fairytale Lake Como wedding. It was the kind of extravagant, cinematic wedding we only thought could take place in the world of movies. Costumed by Sabyasachi, and modelled by arguably the two biggest stars in India — the ultimate power couple. Everyone we know stood by on Instagram, refreshing by the second for a sight of the first pictures. The photographs were just as sweet as we’d imagined, and filtered in just the right lighting.
A couple closer to home got engaged this week too, albeit in a quieter fashion. In contrast to the curated and perfectly planned photographs of the Grand Como Affair, Mira Sethi introduced us to her new fiancé in a rare, uncensored, and raw way. She let the curtain drop between celebrity and fan. Her curation of pictures brought us along on her journey of falling in love — from their first meeting to now, and along with it, she wrote a heartwarming love letter as her caption.
It was a silly, sweet, cheesy, authentic, and most importantly, an extremely personal ode to her new partner. In the new world of social media, we’re used to surprise engagements (Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson; Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber). The menus, designers, event planners and rings take up the limelight, and we often forget what really matters — weddings and wedding season are about love.
“In the spring of 2017, a tall, funny, curly-haired dude walked into my life. I’d known this curly-haired dude all my life — in the way you know your parents’ friends’ kids — but we’d never sought each other out. (Weirdly enough, Bilal and I overlapped at Oxford in 2008—he was doing his PhD, I was spending my junior year abroad. But we never looked each other up, never bumped into each other in that tiny cobbled town.)
Almost a decade later, we met in Lahore on a warm February evening. We vaguely agreed to meet for dinner sometime.
A few days later we were at Spice Bazaar, and it was suddenly cold again. Bilal asked what I’d been upto: he nodded across the table and asked gentle, probing questions. Lots of questions. In between licking mutton kunna gravy from my fingers, I found myself answering his questions with an openness and ease I hadn’t encountered in myself in a long time. Later, we sat in the garden of my house and played with Max. My brother joined us. The three of us talked. Bilal dug his hand inside Max’s mouth and pulled out a sharp branch. Max was all over him.
A few days later Bilal lost his mother to pneumonia (she’d had Parkinsons for a decade), and it was a wrenching, difficult time. Bilal and I would text. Talk about light stuff. He used the heart emoji unselfconsciously, as a friend might. The conversations veered from TV shows to politics to “plan for the day?” The few times we met before he left for DC, he talked openly about his regrets and hopes and dreams. Sitting across from him in Cosa Nostra, this time not very hungry because my body was clenched with affection and interest, I listened. He was warm and funny and brilliant. That night, I curled up next to him and we watched a show on Netflix.
The next year was a whirlwind. We travelled together to Lisbon, Brussels, Amsterdam, New York, Islamabad, Reno, San Francisco. We went to a festival in the desert and slept under the stars. We danced to really bad music. We biked across the desert at night, our cycles glowing with fairylights. Bilal biked ahead so I could follow him. He would slow his bike down every few minutes and ask, “Tum theek ho? Thand tou nahi lag rahi?”
“Theek houn!” I’d shout over the wind, pedalling furiously to keep up with him.
I love you, he said.
“Very happy to be here,” I said moronically, wiping snot off my frozen nose.
I watched him with his friends: always encouraging others to take center stage, to shine, to do whatever it is that expressed the most vivid and vital part of who they were. And I saw how he was changing me: a Mira more spontaneous, more adventurous, more open. Also vulnerable—and increasingly okay with the idea of vulnerability. This was new terrain for me.
I love the way you walk into a room with your head thrown back, every ventricle of your heart open to the goodness or mischief or complication on offer. Every day I learn from your sensitivity to sadness, to pain, to the scurrying heartbeats of dogs that hide under sofas when they hear fireworks going off. I remember walking on a downhill slope, in San Francisco, smiling sidelong at you every few seconds knowing something serious was creeping into my system; I remember randomly melting into your arms in a puddle of tears; I remember waking up at 5 am to watch the Champions Trophy with you; fighting with you and feeling the stark, dark emptiness of time moving without you in my life; following your lead in how to love generously, and precisely; shouting and being told to take it easy; withdrawing and being told to not take it so easy; having the simple inexpensive pleasure of wrapping my hand inside the vast, long-fingered warmth of yours; getting to know your Abba, and growing to love him, because so much of him is you and so much of you is him.
I ♥️ you. Here’s to many more bike rides in the desert, inshallah”