Till death do us part

Marriages, it is said, are made in heaven.  This may be so but the lead-up to the actual event on this planet can in itself be an interesting phenomenon.

It was in 1974 that we the budding engineers at Delhi College of Engineering conceived the idea of organizing an All-India multicultural festival – “EngiFest.”  A committee of students and a couple of lecturers proceeded to take this venture forward.  However, it soon became apparent that the organizing team was floundering.  A fortnight or so before the official launch, five or six of us were invited by the Principal of the institution to salvage the seemingly hopeless situation.  Our “clique” came together and worked non-stop, closely supervising each detail.  My room mate and confidante NM, one other friend and I took on the responsibility of inviting the Chief Guest and other dignitaries, receiving and accommodating the participating teams, making catering arrangements and finalizing the programming for the three days of EngiFest.

Volunteers had been assigned to receive incoming guests at the bus and train stations, but we figured the first-ever All-Girls college team absolutely had to be welcomed by us, personally!  So, the three of us stood on the grimy New Delhi railway station at daybreak on a cold February day, excitedly waiting as the train from Jullundur chugged in.  I must confess it was not just the cold morning that was giving us goosebumps.

The girls’ stern-looking Teacher was the first to step out of the train and very self-consciously we stammered out our introductions.  As the girls started to emerge we hollered for coolies to come and help with their luggage.  It was then that I spotted a tall lass in light blue jeans and a beige polo-neck sweater step down from the coach on to the platform.  I elbowed my roommate and stuttered something about being besotted by “that one”!  He just grinned and said, “Paagal hai” (You are mad)!  The journey from the station to the college hostel remains a haze.  I remember all of us struggling up the three floors with the girls’ luggage pieces in acts of chivalry that literally broke our collective backs.  The giggling girls saw through our macho act; this further heightened our discomfiture.  Following preliminary self-conscious introductions, I looked for any excuse to stay close to “my girl” R.  Later, over a game of ping-pong (table tennis) I got the sense that she too was interested.

Assisted by her close friend GG and my roommate NM, over the next three days R and I tried to spend as much time together as we possibly could while nonchalantly trying to avoid drawing undue attention to ourselves.  Only too soon the festival concluded and I accompanied the girls’ team back to the railway station.  R and I tried to find a quiet moment to ourselves but her teacher thwarted any moves.  Just as the train slowly started to pull out R shyly thrust a folded note in my hand, softly adding, “Call me”.  Nonplussed, I could think of nothing better than whipping out my handkerchief, which I handed over as a memento for “our time together”.  She stood in the open doorway of the carriage and we kept waving until the train faded away, before I unfolded her note.  It had her telephone number and address; I almost swooned!

She called me the very next day after getting back home.  Neither of us wanted that call – our very first – to end, despite the infuriating guys who deliberately hung around the hostel telephone I was using, to eavesdrop.  In the 1970s, telephones were a luxury and calls, specially “long-distance” were very expensive.  R was worried that when the ‘phone bills showed up she would be hard pressed to explain to her folks who she was calling so frequently.  On the other hand I could only beg, borrow or save so much to be able to call her once every ten days.  In the absence of internet, mobile phones and social media platforms we wrote a letter every single day to each other for the next four years while maintaining our long-distance relationship.  Finally, forty years ago, we got married on February 28, 1979!

All around us we witness countless stories of love and lasting relationships and I do not profess this account to be unique.  In fact, our son and his high school sweetheart maintained a long-distance relationship for thirteen years before getting married five years ago!  Every couple has their own recipe for success.

My wife has shown me that any relationship is only as good as what one makes of it.  Not taking your partner for granted. Putting into the relationship more than what you expect to get out of it.  Giving each other space.  An embrace, if too tight or long, tends to suffocate.

In his bestseller The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran says it best on Marriage:

“… Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

R remains my pillar and has supported, nurtured and lovingly cared for me through illnesses and good health.  She is an amazing role model as a loving mother, grandmother and a caring friend.

I conclude this laudation to R with a song from the 1976 movie “Kabhi Kabhi” (Sometimes), penned by Sahir Ludhianvi as it has remained my “theme song” for her through these past four decades:

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayaal aataa hai … Sometimes the thought arises in my heart …
… Ke jaise tujhko banaayaa gayaa hai mere liye … that you were made (just) for me
… Tu abse pehle sitaaron mein bas rahi thi kahin … perhaps you existed somewhere in the stars up until now
… Tujhe zameen pai bulaayaa gayaa hai mere liye … … you were invited to this earth for me

6 Replies to “Till death do us part”

  1. I love this post and love the example that you and mum continue to set for us. This is a good reminder of what a marriage should be, and also a sweet reminder of the excitement of the early days and how to keep that spark. Happy anniversary! Love you


  2. I feel so many emotions reading this post. Little envy – I wish I too had found someone like that .. from a train from Punjab ! This reminded me of Dharmendera Sharmila Tagore film, probably Chupke Chupke – where she comes to mountains on a botany tour and dharmendra receives them! These were one of the common themes then.

    I also feel a sense of loss in the present times. You two wrote a letter every day! For four years! How much you would have loved each other. These days, often we don’t have time for even a 5-minute call every day 😦 . How did you have so much patience! Love these days is almost like instant noodles. They want it here and now. And then how did you have faith and trust that four years later, you too shall still be there for each other and not find someone else?

    This is very inspiring.


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