Finally when it arrived, I did not even realise that the day was 8th of November. It was an e-card from one of my friends that alerted me, even though for some reason I was under the impression that the day was still 7th of November. I called my wife and asked her, “Do you remember the significance of tomorrow? It is our 15th anniversary”. She was surprised too, but then she corrected me and said that it was the same day!
Well, not so much of a romantic anniversary, right? We had a good laugh about it. But it made me thinking. Why did we forget the significance of the most important day of our life together? Then I realised that it is nothing but a positive sign in the married life. At least neither of us needed symbols and occasions like anniversary to reinforce our relationship. Also, we both have taken our marriage for granted and so intimately a part of our life that we have lost track of the vey status.
As they say, when we have eyes, we don’t realise their significance. One day if we are not able to open our eyes for some reason then we realise how tough the life is without them. By and large, the same goes for marriage too.
I remember reading an anecdote in Fali S Nariman’s autobiography, where he quoted a judge who in his speech on the occasion of his 50th marriage anniversary said; “Well, like in all marriages the first 49 years were the toughest”.
Well, not first 14 years, but definitely first few years were the toughest in our marriage too where we (as we both confessed later) had not expected the marriage to last for long!
When I was growing up I too had many idealistic plans about my marriage. I wanted to contribute to national integration by marrying outside my religion and outside my state. But, even best plans are only plans and often remain as plans, having overtaken by the hard facts of life!
It was in 1995. I was on a short leave, but staying back for taking exams. One day, when I came back after the day’s exam, a message was waiting for me- that my uncle had expired. He was the only brother of my mother and a person whom I had immense respect for. A writer, director and lead actor in dramas, a very good volleyball player and a known social worker- my uncle was one of the most respected individuals in our locality.
For me the decision was a no brainer. I immediately extended my leave and left for home, giving up rest of the exams. Three days of train journey, delayed further by the diversion due to floods in many parts of South India, brought me home on the fourth day of his death. When I reached the place it was already 1.30 in the night and I decided to go to my home for the night, rather than going straight to my uncle’s house.
Only my Father was at home, as Mother and Sister were staying at uncle’s place, taking part in the 11 days’ rituals. I went to sleep at once but not before noticing a letter addressed to me, in my father’s handwriting, waiting to be posted.
Next morning, I got up and was getting ready to join others at Uncle’s place. Meanwhile, I again saw the letter and just out of curiosity decided to read it. When I started reading it, I was shocked! The letter was written on 13th of June, i.e., one day prior to Uncle’s death. Before it could be posted, the news of his death reached home and then it was never posted.
The letter was about a meeting that my Father had with Uncle. Uncle, who was confined to bed after undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, had sent message to Father for this meeting. When Father met him, Uncle told him that he was feeling better as the treatment was progressing but never knew how it will all end and therefore, when things were still looking better he would like to complete the last major duty of his life, being the marriage of his twin daughters. He continued and asked Father’s opinion about considering marriage between me and one of the daughters. He said if that was OK with us then he will have to look for only one more boy for the other daughter.
My Father was taken by surprise. It was not abnormal; rather it was the custom, in our community which used to follow the matriarchal system, for children of a brother and sister to marry each other. One’s uncle’s daughter was considered as the first choice for wife, and was known as ‘Murappennu’, something that can be translated as ‘customary girl’! However, there was no talk about any such proposal or even any consideration from any side and hence the surprise (Later I was told that the proposal got initiated on the suggestion from a friend of my Uncle, who was also my teacher in primary school. I must have been a nice kid in his classes?!)
Father replied to Uncle that he had no problem with the proposal but could not say anything until he sought my opinion. He promised to write a letter to me the same day and to ascertain my opinion at the earliest (those were still the days before the telecommunication revolution when telephone was still a luxury). That was the letter in question that I was reading!
Well, for me it came like a last wish of my Uncle and that put me into thinking. Of course, I couldn’t find any negatives about the proposal except that it went against my own plans about my marriage. Then, I never was a man stuck to his plans. Therefore, I decided to fulfil that wish.
It took another 18 months for the wish to be fulfilled. In fact, the proposal was finalised only just 4 months before that and only then I came to know that I will be marrying the elder of the twins. To cut the story short, we got married on 8th of November.
For someone whom I have known since her birth, surprise of surprises, I soon realised that I hardly knew her. The marriage has changed the way we looked at each other completely! Soon my leave got over and had to go back to Chandigarh, leaving her back at home. It was only in next March that she could join me in Chandigarh, as it was not easy for a junior solider to find a house and start a home.
Within 3 months of joining me, she had to rush back home as she was asked to join her new job, in the revenue department of Kerala. Even those 3 months were really difficult. Problems of finance, differing interests and expectations made the life a pain. I was used to the life alone, having left home at the age of 17. I still believed that one can’t be alive without reading a book during all the free time that one can afford. To add to that, soon I joined evening classes for my LLB and it was a rush against time, managing office and classes together, leaving not much time for being a doting husband! Looking back, now I can imagine how frustrating it must have been for her in those early days of marriage, that too in a new place without any friends around.
Thereafter, it was generally away from each other. It was only two times during these years that we lived together, for one year or more continuously. Other than that, it was never more than one month at a time. Now, for the last two years I have arranged my career in such a way that I am at home with her and kids, for a week, every month.
However, our relationship has undergone tremendous change. We both have gained certain maturity in our expectations and understand the realities of life far better. We have realised the need to give up egos in a marriage and also the need to give space to each other to pursue their own respective interests. She has taken over the complete control of my domestic affairs- taking care of our kids and my aged parents- something that she enjoys, completely freeing me from any concerns on that front.
May be, the very fact that we have been away and were able to pursue our respective interests has also contributed to this improvement. In fact, one experiment that we tried out when she took leave for a year and joined me in Bangalore, I have seen the uneasiness in her life. I could see how she missed her office and job and how she felt like a fish out of water having to sit idle at home. That was the reason why I agreed to their going back and settling down in Kerala for good.
When we decided to marry, it was not for love. It was purely based on practical considerations. With all the conflicts, it was about hanging in there with the determination to make it work. However, the sharing of life, together and away, in a give and take spirit succeeded in generating the love. Today, I am sure we are as much in love as any other couple (to be fair to others, maybe we have the advantage of not having enough time together so as to get bored of each other!).
15 Years is reasonably a long time in life. Kids are growing up, with son at 12 years and daughter at 6 years of age. We are a complete family now. For us, it is not a relationship anymore. We are just one and time stands still. The anniversaries have lost their significance!