My parents complete 52 years of marriage today! As a child it always used to be something difficult for me to relate to- this anniversary thing. To me they have always been my parents – people I have known as a couple. So, it was rather difficult to imagine that there may have been a time when they were not together
My mother is my father’s cousin – in southern India, it is a custom for men to marry their maternal uncle’s daughter. My father says he always knew she was his intended bride though ( or maybe because of which) he never had the confidence to speak to her. “She was very haughty ” he reminisces! I can well imagine- she would have frozen him with a glance had she felt that he had crossed boundaries that he should not have!
My father had just completed his engineering from what used to be the College of Engineering – Guindy when my maternal grandfather visited them from Trichy with the formal proposal of marriage. Appa, of course felt that it was too soon. He wanted to do his post graduation. But then his was the last opinion taken on this matter. Both sets of parents fixed on a date and they were married.
The initial days of marriage according to my mother were ones when she practiced extreme levels of diplomacy. After a few months of working at the PWD department, my father joined his post graduation. He also had a teaching assistant ship in the same college- which left him with very little time for his wife. As the first daughter in law of the family, my mother had no one to mentor her into her new role.
I can just imagine how difficult life must have been for her. My paternal grandmother is one of the most “diplomatic” women I know of. A mother of four sons and wife of a man with a very hot temper, she always managed to get her way without ever appearing to be confrontational! I have never seen her angry but I am told that her moves were “lethal”
The newly weds spent their first few years of marriage negotiating social relationships. Let me explain this – if my father happened to buy a gift for my mother he had to buy a similar one for his youngest sister too. If they went for a movie, ( usually a night show) Amma was asked by my grand mother to complete all the kitchen work before she left often having to miss the first few scenes. There were days when Appa used to try to tip toe into the house through the back yard just so he could spend some quality time alone with his wife. Not to say that it went un noticed because my paternal grand father –not known to mince his words about anything one day made a mention of how people living in the house entered it now like thieves!
Finally, Appa did the best thing he could have. He took a posting in the Indian railways and whisked his wife away to far away Bilaspur!
They obviously enjoyed life there –watching movies every weekend – movies which they did not understand much because they were in Hindi. They mastered the language and made friends with their neighbors. Mr and Mrs Arya were their next door neighbours and like them newly weds escaping from in laws. Then there were Gauri Mami and Murthy Mama – a Tamil couple with their three daughters who was the mother figure in their lives.
Bialspur was the place where they spent over five years- probably a place where they have their happiest memories if the photographs are anything to go by! Appa taking Amma doubles on the cycle. It is also the place where their marriage vows were put to test. Amma had an ectopic pregnancy and would have died of haemorrhage had Appa not rushed her to hospital. This is a story I never tire of hearing. The doctor at Bilaspur railway hospital was not confident about dealing with the case and referred her to Kharagpur. A super fast express that usually does not stop at Bilaspur was made to stop so that Amma’s stretcher could be rolled in. A bottle with the IV fluid was attached to the upper berth and the needle into her arm while Appa sat next to her holding her hand. As the train reached Khargapur at dawn, Dr. Brij Mohan , the General Surgeon from the hospital was personally waiting there with this team and the ambulance. Needless to say she survived and the doctor at the Bilaspur hospital was blasted by Dr. Brij Mohan for allowing a patient in such a critical condition to travel. My parents remember with gratitude this man and also Appa’s Chief Engineer Mr. Hazra who made all the arrangements and also ensured that Appa’s salary was paid in advance to meet the expenses.
Bialspur was followed by Kancharapara and then Kolkata. They had became parents during those years. Appa was bang in the middle of managing the 1974 railway strike when my sister was on her journey into the world. Amma was pregnant but kept her cool despite all the news of her husband being “gheraoed” by the railway unions and not arriving home sometimes for days!
They were never a couple who were into “cootchie cooing”! I have rarely seen them even hold hands ( besides those Bilaspur snaps). But what we were never in doubt of was their love for each other. My mother is an extremely short tempered person. She often loses her cool with my father’s absent minded and erratic behavior and gives him a sound yelling. In fact it used to be joke among his subordinates about who was their boss’s “real boss”! Jokes notwithstanding, I must say that despite his strong leadership qualities at the work place she is the one with wisdom. Her infinite patience on certain issues is a perfect foil to his impatience on the same issues. An extremely strict parent she was the opposite of our indulgent father- a balance that kept us both grounded to the realities of life.
Between the two of them they have demonstrated to us what married life is all about. My mother could stretch a rupee to its maximum and with that thrift came our access to the best educational institutions and the great future that they have ensured.
I am touched when I see them in their twilight years. My father who used to spend almost three fourths of his days at work during his hey days today spends most of it at home with his wife. He runs all errands and has even developed an interest in things that until now were not his forte- he watches Tamil sit coms with his wife. A very self sufficient couple they live about twelve hours away from their daughters visiting us when required. They gave us the wings which helped us fly high and the values which ensured that the nest was never really abandoned.
When I decided to get married, my only wish was that my marriage should be like theirs. But then as they say, you cannot live another couple’s life. My married life has been similar – yet different. The man I have married embodies some of the qualities that I have observed in my father as a husband. I see similar traits in my brother- in –law too.
I cannot ever imagine a time when they may not be together.. A true partnership with absolutely no wielding of power by either of them- they were far ahead of their times as a couple.
( I have included here the video of a song which I always imagine them singing during their Bilaspur years.. ...! )