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By Devesh Jhunjhunwala (2Y 2021)

How it started

People usually don’t get into a long-distance relationship knowing it’s going to be long-distance a mere one week into the relationship. But we took the plunge.

2011 was the year when I moved to the U.S. for my bachelor’s degree. The first winter break back in town, I met this girl who seemed to get me for who I am (cheesy, I know, but true.) As an introvert, I used to talk very little, but she was least bothered by that, and was one of the few people able to bring me out of my shell. So, we hit it off. December 31st, 2011 — that’s when it all started.

About our wedding

Looking back, if anyone asked me for advice on long-distance between India and the U.S., I’d say, ‘Don’t be an idiot’. But fast-forward nine years, many ups and downs, and a not-so-big-fat Indian wedding later, our gamble paid off. We were able to stick it out and we couldn’t be happier right now.

Our wedding was a much-awaited affair. Originally scheduled for June 27th, 2020, it got pushed to December 9th, 2020 thanks to Covid. With both us having really big families, it was all set to be a big fat Indian wedding. And though it ended up being a more intimate affair of about 100 people due to Covid, the fun and enthusiasm was no less. We have a close group of common friends, and after nine years of long distance, our friends were probably more excited for our wedding than we were. The worst part was not being able to have any of my Kellogg friends be a part of it!

Navigating the long distance

Our original plan was to get married before coming to Kellogg, but that didn’t happen (for reasons out of the scope of this blog). So, for the first two quarters of Kellogg, before Covid hit, we continued our long distance. Having seen all the Married-But-Available memes had both of us very apprehensive, but it was surprisingly not as bad. It definitely took a toll because pursuing an MBA demands an extraordinary amount of time, especially in the first quarter. But being in opposite time zones actually helped because I could be busy all day without bothering her, and she could work all day without bothering me. We had to be disciplined about taking out a few minutes every morning and night to just hear each other’s voice. Sometimes, it would be a 30- minute conversation about the crazy things I did on KWest, sometimes it would be a 30- second conversation to just say good morning/good night because we were too busy to talk. But it kept us going. The seven year long-distance prior to that also made us somewhat thick-skinned, which helped.

Life together at Kellogg

But we’ve finally made it to Evanston together! We moved in on January 17th, and I must say that quarantining with my bae is infinitely more fun than quarantining alone. Stuti, my wife, settled into the Evanston life quicker than both of us had expected. We are both very entrepreneurial, and while I’m about to join a startup post-Kellogg, Stuti has already been running her startup, Token of Love, for the last seven years. She has now launched it here in the U.S., as well, and is marketing her products on IG and Etsy.

I’ve been asked a bunch of times whether I would have preferred to marry before the start of Kellogg or after graduation. To be honest, it’s a very difficult question to answer. Having her here with me right now has put a whole different twist on the Kellogg experience. Especially given Covid times with us stuck at home, attending virtual classes with her and getting involved in Kellogg programming like Small-Group Dinners has been a lot of fun. We are looking forward to getting even more involved as the campus opens up a little to in-person activities, and events in the spring quarter (hint: Bollywood Bash!!). But I often wonder how my first quarter would have been if Stuti had been around. To be fully involved in the community, combined with recruiting, demands a huge time commitment. It was challenging to keep up with everything as it was, and it definitely would have been much more challenging to sustain a similar level of involvement with her here as compared to long-distance.

Joys and challenges

Long distance is never easy. It wasn’t easy in 2012 and it wasn’t easy in 2020. It isn’t easy when you’re half-way across the world, and it isn’t easy when you’re a 20- minute drive away (because ironically, COVID brought both of back to the same city — my hometown — for most of 2020, but it still kept us apart because of the lockdown and social distancing). We’ve lived through the era of BlackBerry Messenger, Viber, Skype calls and eventually, WhatsApp. Long-distance tech? We’ve seen it all.

If I had to rank the two most important things which kept our long-distance alive through the years, it would be trust and a good conflict resolution strategy. Because we trust each other, we always share everything with each other, and that reduces the potential of doubts or misgivings. That’s not to say that it was a golden relationship. We made mistakes and we had our fair share of fights. But we don’t let arguments continue. We let it go for the moment and bring it up the next day, which gives us the chance to think about the situation and respond to it rather than reacting with emotion. This has always worked to diffuse situations before they get out of hand, and I’m glad we both have adapted to this strategy well.

But the entire long-distance experience did give us an opportunity to build a repertoire of crazy stories to tell our kids. Let me share one of them with you. So, vacationing with your girlfriend is typically a big no-no in most Indian families. But there was a time in undergrad when I flew to India for my spring break and spent the week with my girlfriend in a different city from our hometown. Our parents had no idea we were together. In fact, my parents had no idea I was in India! (It’s still a secret btw, so please don’t tell.) On second thought, I don’t know if I want to share this with my kids.