“I graduate in March. Do you want to be there too? "
With these words, Shreyank and I, started our relationship...distance relationship! We were on the roof of our hotel in Delhi, at the end of November 2017, while waiting for our breakfast, chai and paratha. We had just started our trip together in the North ofSouth India. In December I had to go back to Italy.
Google Photos reminds us that three years ago, in March 2018, Shreyank was really there at my graduation, coming to visit me in Italy, for the first time.
THE FEAR OF BEING CHANGED
We said goodbye at Mumbai's Airport s December 2017 and we met again 4 months later in Malpensa, in Milan. This time I was the late one, I remember perfectly what I was wearing and thought about how different I could look to him compared to that girl he met in India. Sweater, tights, winter shoes.
"Will he find me fattened?"
"Will he still smell the same?"
I immediately run to greet him and hug him. He reciprocated timidly (with time, I learned that love is cultural, read what I wrote about this).
If I tell you that nothing had changed since the last hug, I'm telling you a lie. Many things were different, and this is one of the greatest difficulties for a long-distance couple: to get to know each other again between the hugs left on hold.
Shreyank was silent for the first few days. As a chronic insecure, I was thinking he no longer felt the same for me, but I just had to give him time to realize what was really going on: he was onthe other side of the World.
In a long distance relationship, there will always be someone who will travel. It is important to always keep this in mind and give the other person time to adapt (always, even if it is a place you already know). We did not understand this immediately. It will be a bit like getting to know each other again.
"MEET MY PARENTS!"
We met my parents the day after he arrived in Italy. We took some italian "pasticcini", and Shreyank also bought some new clothes for the occasion. Everyone was there, even my older sister and her husband, all seated around the table, ready to get to know...
“Shereyank”, “Shrek”, “What did you say his name is?"
The dinner went well, to tell the truth I have no particular memories, if not the feeling that it was all normal. My family has so many flaws but it is welcoming and open (we are a mixed family of Brazil and Italy ourselves), and this is a great fortune and I must not take it for granted. My mom expressed no particular concerns about the culture and religion of Shreyank, she worried instead of asking me very practical things like:
"What's his job?"
During the evening, I tried to translate as much as possible and my family tried to communicate with Shreyank using Google Translate, my parents don't know English. I had so much fun seeing them together. I also have a vague memory of Shreyank showing my brother-in-law and my mom's partner some scenes from a cricket match… they didn't seem very interested!
Shreyank immediately felt at ease in my family and was surprised by their welcome and openness in meeting him. (I swear he said so!)
Now that Shreyank met my parents, I could finally ask him:
"When will I meet your parents?"
This point, however, deserves another story! Indeed, a whole book!
“I AM AN INDIAN TOURIST”: BUT WATCH OUT THE REQUIREMENTS!
Shreyank had never been abroad and being in Italy meant a lot to him.
Together we visited Milan, Bergamo, Como and even Venice… but for most of the days Shreyank was alone. I worked. He used to go for walks in the town and now if you ask him what is the most beautiful place on earth he answers:
He went downtown, on the canal, took the train (Personal Note: Mumbai Railways> Trenord), and he even went to buy me some flowers.
Everything seemed beautiful, clean and empty. For the first time in his life he also saw some snow (but very little), and I am thrilled to look at his photos surprised knowing that we now live in Canada, where it snows quite a lot.
Shreyank was an Indian Tourist in Italy. He had to request a Schengen Tourist Visa. To obtain a tourist visa (two weeks in his case), an indian must work with a contract, have certain amount of money and some other supporting document. There is no guarantee that an indian will get a tourist visa that easily.
We can define ourselves lucky and privileged but we know that for many binational couples in a distance relationship, it is not like this: money and passports make the difference. I will never stop saying it: a binational couple (at a distance) is made first of all by two citizens of different countries, and this will be the biggest problem.
MY GRADUATION: BEING THERE IN THE IMPORTANT MOMENTS
On March 13, 2018 I graduated in master's degree with a thesis on Mumbai. Shreyank helped me with the final layout, printing and all the final preparations, shocked by my little knowledge of MS Word. I repeated my speech to him and he understood absolutely nothing of what I was saying but he filled me with compliments.
He reassured me and supported me even though he didn't quite understand what was happening. Shreyank was very impressed by the importance of graduation in Italy, and how this event is a celebration with friends and family. Of the the italian culture, he appreciates the importance that is given to the family, just like in India.
The dissertation went well, I was very happy. I'll tell you the truth: I invited Shreyank to my graduation to "test him". In a long-distance relationship it takes a lot of courage and sacrifice (also financial), and I did not want to start an "impossible" long-distance relationship: I feel a little guilty to say it, but it is right to tell the truth. But Shreyank didn't hold back, and believe me, as I told you before, it's not easy for an Indian to come to Europe.
Having him with me at graduation was great but in a long-distance relationship you have to take into account that there will be important moments of your life, where, however, the other person cannot be present. This will make you feel very lonely. You need to be able to find alternative ways to be present.
WE ARE A "NORMAL" COUPLE...BUT WE ARE DIFFERENT
For 15 days, Shreyank and I were together, like a "normal" couple. Indeed, we have also lived together. We went to the restaurant several times, we watched TV together, we cooked and we also went to the Ennio Morricone concert… and we fell asleep.
We started to show new sides of our character. I'm not who I am in India in Italy,and Shreyank noticed this right away. I have a different, faster pace, and I have full awareness of what is happening around me. For example, I found that Shreyank moved with a typically Indian slowness and it made me nervous. (I seem a bit rude from this story but I want to make you understand that cultural differences go beyond food and language).
Looking back, maybe I wanted to do too many things and didn't really enjoy our time together. I tried to regain everything we have lost by being in opposite parts of the world, but it is not a good strategy to condense whole months into a few days.
The environment and lifestyle change influence us; in fact Shreyank and I are not the same in Mumbai and / or in Milan, or even in Canada. We are very different, and we didn't catch this immediately either! I really leave it to you as an advice and / or a reminder: the side dish makes the difference :)
GOODBYES: "SEE YOU SOON, MY LOVE!" BUT WHEN?
As you can imagine, the two weeks have flown by.Shreyank had a flight to Mumbai in the evening. We dropped by to say hello to my parents and seeing my mom hug Shreyank made my heart pound.
Before leaving, Shreyank wanted to touch my parents' feet.
Wait, that's not fetish!
In India, the youngest touch the feet of the people they respect, and in return they receive their blessings.
"Ehm, sorry, Shreyank asks if he can touch your feet!"
(they started laughing)
"Well, if he is happy!"
Judging from the faces of my parents, they were quite proud to pass for grown-up and wise people. They appreciated and were surprised by that gesture. Even in Brazilian culture, we ask blessing of our parents, "bença mãe“.
We head to the Airport.
There is a song by Cesare Cremonini on the radio, Nobody wants to be Robin. We listen to it in silence, it has become one of our favorite songs. We still weren't sure when we would meet again, and this unknown of "see you but I don't know when" is not easy to manage. I had recently started an internship and would have waited for June for a possible contract: let's say we looked to the summer with hope.
My advice is to try to have a date to look at, so that you can circle it on the calendar, and be able to start the countdown to see each other again. Planning and talking about the future is the basis for a long-distance relationship. Too much uncertainty will only hurt both of you.
We said bye.
I went back to my car.
The seat next to me is empty.
How far have we gone.
This is thekey element in a long-distance and / or intercultural couple! (and that is not taken for granted even for people who live in the same city!)
Looking back at those photos makes me feel so much tenderness. Shreyank is a genuine person, and his simplicity in looking at life is what strikes me most about him. Surely it is a character trait but I also see a lot of South India in his eyes.
In my opinion, the added value in an intercultural couple lies precisely in this: always question how the culture of belonging has taught us to live.
Thanks for reading until here.
Waiting for your comments.
Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What were your fears? Do you have any advice to give, I will certainly talk more about this topic.
Raccontare questa storia dopo anni ti ha permesso di darci una visione nuova, più matura. Non ho più la sensazione che si tratti di un diario di bordo o una pagina di diario dove scrivi quello che succede o quello che provi, è questo e molto di più! Si cambia, ci si evolve e con questo sguardo sul passato adesso analizzi le vostre emozioni, capisci quello che vi stava succedendo e i tuoi consigli sono sempre più giusti. Che questa saggezza ti aiuti sempre!
Grazie mille Eleonora, è proprio quello che ho cercato di fare. Ho voluto ricordare a me stessa perché ho aperto questo blog: non è un diario ma una finestra su alcune situazioni della mia vita che mi hanno fatta sentire isolata, non compresa, e voglio condividerle con gli altri, perché si possano sentire meno soli. Grazie di cuore!
E’ una storia meravigliosa..Grazie per averla condivisa!
Ciao Valeria, grazie mille a te per averla letta <3
Loved reading this Yasmin! It’s cute and informative. And you guys are so cute together! Stay blessed!
Thank you so much, Apurva! Stay blessed <3
Yassssssssssss this brings happy tears in my eyes!! So adorable!!
Thank you so much Mithil, we are very happy with your support!