A much loved and venerated couple recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Friends and family gathered in Delhi to honor our beloved P uncle and G “massi” (literally “maa si” – “like mother”, a maternal aunt) and while very much wanting to be there, we missed the fun. I was later informed that when queried by a guest about the type of diamond he would present his wife on this occasion, uncle simply stated, “How does one gift a diamond to a diamond?” A great nuanced response, not just because of its brevity!
The story of the couple’s first encounter in the mid-1950s has been repeated multiple times at our family gatherings and is a cause of great mirth. It goes something like this. One evening, after her badminton game our young and stunningly beautiful aunt rode in to the courtyard of the house on her bicycle. P uncle was sitting there with her brother-in-law and others. G massi had brought news of her elder sister, who had just delivered a baby girl and she excitedly proclaimed, “…”. Discretion is the better part of valor and for reasons of propriety I will disclose no more, keeping the details within familial boundaries. Suffice to say, this was the moment when the die was cast and P uncle lost his heart to G!
However, what I want to highlight is that this couple is but one example of several others in our family and social circles, whose marital status is getting past the five decades’ milestone. Does this evidence willingness and commitment on the part of an earlier generation to share, quite literally their entire life with another person? What considerations encouraged this behavior? Economic necessity, societal norms, cultural persuasions, a willingness to adapt and accommodate or, any number of other factors? This pattern appears not to be the norm today as we see a higher incidence of separations and divorces; I often wonder what is causing this shift?
I courted my wife for 4 + years before we got married 37 years ago. Our daughter often jokes that she can’t believe “mum still decided to get married to you after having known you for 4 years!” We still have “.. miles to go before I(we) sleep ..” (in the (slightly altered) words of Robert Frost) to get to our next “landmark” anniversary. Instead, we view each day of loving companionship as precious and a milestone in our journey together. She remains my “Florence Nightingale” having nursed me back to health after several heart attacks and helping me recuperate from the serious injuries suffered in several accidents that I have survived over the years. All I can say is that it is liberating to have a companion with whom there are no secrets and one can share everything. I am convinced she even knows what I am thinking!
A snippet. My parents celebrated their 25th “silver” wedding anniversary in 1977. At the time I was a young trainee with an English bank in Calcutta (now Kolkata). My stipend did not afford me the luxury of buying a suitable gift in silver, so I settled for six glass-bottom white-metal beer tankards. My father was visiting Calcutta on business and I invited him out for dinner. As we concluded our meal and he was leaving, I surprised him by producing the package containing the tankards. He was touched. I then proceeded apologetically to request a small loan to tide me over for the next month, as the gift had upset my budget. He smiled and said he understood and graciously accepted my loving gift that evening. However, the beer mugs remained a center of attraction at many of my own anniversary celebrations for many years. You see, my dad never drank beer. I, on the other hand, loved the stuff.
“Ham-safar chaahiye hujoom nahin,
Ik musaafir bhi qaafilaa hai mujhe”
[A fellow-traveler (partner) is needed not a crowd
A single traveler serves as a caravan for me] – Ahmed Faraz
Finally, here is a favorite song of mine from the hit Bollywood movie Jaagte Raho from 1956 – “Life is but a dream, where is the falsehood and what is the truth in this life? All is true.”