What is heaven on earth?
I received the invitation to Diana’s wedding in Cyprus in mid-September. The period witnessed the dismantlement of my venture and my sacked pocket from Mexico. I was hesitant to go to a remote land.
Diana and I met in a ash-grey London evening a year and half ago as I nestled in the Canada Square underground cafe Prets. Prior to my temporary move-in to Canary Wharf, my flirt with the financial field was near an end. After I settled, every weekend or night, if not working or dancing in Shoreditch, I carried a book to Prets and read. Then, I would type the vanity I learned to some 2-cents blogging. One day as I hided behind my laptop, I saw this red-bloused dirty-blonde woman reading law books of sizable volume.
I looked up to her out of curiosity. She casted a peep on me swiftly and looked down to her books. The moment froze for a few seconds. Sometimes when you feel like you want to talk to someone, maybe you should. I did not have the gut to, so she said,
“What are you writing about?”
What am I writing about?
I arrived in Cyprus at 23:30 from Moscow after a 10-hour flight from New York and an 8-hour lay-over in Moscow. I did not know in what will had I decided to take the odyssey. For days the flight ticket continued to climb. I had been sure that I would not go as I needed to pay my rent. One day, I looked at all the stresses peaking on my shoulder, I suddenly visualised my aged self, completely empty of the mad and unthinkable happiness. When would I ever get this chance again in life? I bought the ticket in sweats and rushed to toast for Diana.
As I sat down with other guests in the pre-wedding tradition to witness how bride prepared for the ceremony, the autumn weather gilded in briskly tinted gold in this idle Sunday afternoon in Ayia Napa.
Diana sat on the top of stage, dressing in pure white. She appropriately wore a light yet deliberate make-up; her hair freshly straightened. The air infused this golden smell of fall ripeness, foretelling an afternoon of warm account.
The band of entertainers started to chant some old folklores. The tone sounded exotic as the vowels had been prolonged. Locals smiled in sweet courtesy. London visitors did not understand the stories, but we remained well entertained. Soon, her family came to the stage and greeted her one by one. Female family members circled Diana with a red ribbon in the direction of a cross around her torso. Diana’s mother murmured something at her ear. Diana began to have tears in the eyes.
After the males greeted, guests on the stage started to break porcelain dishes on the ground. In the shattering of plates, the bride’s joy was protected and nothing would break again.
Music ended, Diana led a round of dance. The sisters and inner circle of female friends rested their hands on each other’s waist and sang a song together. I went back to the house and began mingling with other enchanted guests.
“My name is Zhu. I flew from New York yesterday. ”
“Wow. Long commute. Chad and I flew from Barbados yesterday!”
As we hugged each other and took photos, the feast ended. I walked out of the room, I wanted to remember this painted moment in this remote land, Ayia Napa, an once war-torn piece everybody wanted. This is what I write.
Shamit was waiting for his bride, like the first time. The ocean waved to sing for him, and the sky interchanged into stands of marshmallow strokes.
10 seconds ago, I greeted him for the first time, “Hi Shamit! I just want to say congrats. My name is Zhu. I am a friend of Diana.”
“Oh you are Zhu! I heard about you a lot!” Shamit said in a perfect London tune and excused himself from the crowd to say hi to me, making me feel like i was the most important guest in the world.
The music of Sam Smith echoed the mumbles from the sea. Suddenly the crowd started cheering and clapping. Shamit’s heart might have been pumping fast. He turned his back and saw his white-covered bride by the pink ocean side.
I remembered Diana told me how Shamit closed his laptop one day while working with her together. He said, “Pack your stuff, we are leaving London tonight for three days?”
“What do you mean?”
“I just bought two tickets. We are going to Malta.”
Diana said she could not believe it. I could not believe it either. Any women would melt in front of such romantic spontaneity. In Malta, he asked her if she had a love of life. She said no. He pulled the chair of her towards him, and kissed her. He said, “Now you do.”
In the soft ocean lovesong, he bent down his head, and kissed her, just like that first time.
The priest began to rule the words, “Now, Ms. Diana and Mr. Shamit, with God’s will, are you willing to spend your life with this person next to you, regardless of death and poverty?”
“Yes I do.”
Diana met Shamit when she was in her early 20s. They had stayed company for a decade. In the various talk I had with Diana, I saw two things: she is really into her profession as a human rights lawyer and she has this unyielded love to Shamit.
Now guests were cheering for the fruits they had nourished together, but the ride had not been the easiest. Diana had long been regarded as the evil “western woman” from her boyfriend’s family. They did not grant her recognition nor blessing for a decade. Throughout the period, Shamit played the tough role as an obedient son and a loving boyfriend. As a man, it was one of the hardest characters one could attempt. Years of cold war and curses finally melted in front of persistence.
I came to understand why I flew from New York some others from Barbados and beat all odds. We came here to share a rare-find good moment and to be blessed by the odd-beating emotions and karma.
Advancing human rights is a battle, and looking for love is a battle. Diana has proved both of her track records.
The after-party started and everyone was drenched in the blend of international DJ groove and traditional Greek songs. Dancing, chatting, snacking, all went up in the hot air. The firework burned in sky, brilliant as a thousand of stars. I saw Diana’s glowing face, relaxing and just happy, very different from the usual tense manner of a lawyer. I knew she had lost a family member when she was a girl, but now she had found another family. Surrounded by loved ones and friends, she hugged Shamit and said “I love you”.
The fading colours in the sky gradually subdued to a night of calmness and feast. I said goodbye to my newly acquainted young friends after 4 hours of straight clubbing together at the afterparty. The next morning I rose at 5:30am to catch the flight. As our 8-seat car drove into the darkness with the bit colour shining on my shoulder from the naissant Sun. I remembered a conversation Diana and I had about love. “What is love?” I asked. “Find someone that cares about you and makes you home. This is love.” She said.
What is heaven on earth?
Heaven is on earth with the loved ones.
To Diana & Shamit to their well-deserved knot-tying moment.
*Memoir based on 95% real stories and 5% twisted dialogue as I could not recount every detail.