I sipped my disposable cup of coffee while I waited, half my attention on the human drama around me, and the other half on the announcements I could intermittently hear. The guy next to me was fast asleep, the woman across from me was frowning at her mobile, and close by a little girl ran amok as her anxious mother tried to keep an eye on her.
“Flight number 212 to…”
I rushed to the gate as soon as I heard the flight number, excited to get my trip started. Anirudh would never see this coming, I thought to myself as I boarded the aerobridge to the airplane. I was eager, but also a bit nervous.
Anirudh and I met about a year ago at a camp near Tso Moriri Lake in Ladakh. I still remember the moment I first saw him. I had just finished successfully pitching my tent, when I looked up and noticed a guy struggling with his. I walked over and offered to help. He gave me the biggest, brightest smile I have ever seen and made a sweeping gesture, saying, “All yours, go for it.”
That night, after dinner, we went for a walk by the lake. Both our tents remained empty as we spent the night talking under the stars. His family owned a chain of hotels in Kerala, which he managed. I am from Mumbai, a photographer and adventure sports enthusiast. We had nothing in common except our love of travel, and yet, we never ran out of conversation. We continued to stay in touch after the trip and not long after, our friendship blossomed into a relationship. The only problem was the distance.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard flight 212 to…”
The grin returned to my face. I had never been this impatient to get anywhere, not even when I have visited Anirudh in the past. Flying to each other’s city to meet had become a routine. When we initially got together, even though we chatted often enough, our work schedules, family, and especially the distance began to take a toll. We fought about silly things, like who called whom more, or who was more adjusting about their schedule. There were times when I was sure these fights would end our relationship.
Then Anirudh suggested meeting at least twice a month and planning a trip somewhere during holidays. I loved the idea and loved him for coming up with it but I was worried about the strain this would put on my wallet. Still, I decided to give it a shot.
On my very first flight to Cochin, the man sitting next to me kept bragging about how his air travel had become completely free thanks to JPMiles. At first, I ignored him. So many people made such tall claims, they couldn’t possibly be true. But by the time we landed in Cochin, this man had me convinced.
Upon further research, I realized that the JPMiles were in fact super easy to collect. I could earn them not just on air tickets but also when I shopped, dined, subscribed for magazines, even when I talked on the phone. I felt like the universe was coming together to make my relationship work. I enrolled and made Anirudh enrol too.
Things were great. We explored so many places together. In Kerala, we cruised the breathtaking backwaters of Kerala, walked along Kappad Beach where Vasco Da Gama landed on 27th May 1498, and soaked in the forest at the wonderful Thekkady Wildlife Sanctuary. In Maharashtra, we explored the majestic Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad, went paragliding in Lonavala, and stayed in secluded resorts by the sea.
Life was perfect until that fateful day in Munnar, Kerala. Anirudh proposed marriage. I wasn’t ready and asked for more time. This wasn’t expected or welcomed. We had a huge fight, stopped meeting, and our conversations became awkward as we both tried to skirt the topic of marriage.
I continued to earn JPMiles, even though I wasn’t flying frequently anymore, on activities like shopping, dining out, and credit card spends. One day, I checked my account and realized I had collected enough JPMiles for two free tickets to any destination in India. I knew exactly where I wanted to go.
“Flight attendants, prepare for landing please…”
Finally, almost there, I thought to myself as I squeezed Anirudh’s hand who was still fast asleep. Two days ago, I had surprised Anirudh in Cochin with two tickets to Leh, which were free thanks to my JP miles. The fight forgotten in an instant, he began preparing for the trip.
At Leh airport, as we walked hand in hand towards the conveyor belt, I secretly glanced at Anirudh. He had no idea that I was going to ask him to marry me once we got to Tso Moriri. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure about his reaction, but also excited: I was sure we were going to be happy, whether we got married now or later. Just think of all the JPMiles we could collect together, and all the trips we would make!
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