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Golden Years Marriage Matters

By V.V. Sundaram Email By V.V. Sundaram
January 2014
Golden Years Marriage Matters

All the three seniors’ Yahoo groups that I am a member of advice their members to bask in pleasant memories of the past. Good advice too; better than brooding over one’s sugar-, cholesterol- or BP-levels, or the cataract that is fast eroding one’s vision.

And that’s precisely how I celebrated our 40th marriage anniversary…

Bangladesh had just been liberated and had emerged a new nation. The ravages of war had just begun to take their toll, with dead bodies strewn all over, and diseases of every kind assuming epidemic proportions. The UN Relief Operations pitched in for assistance—rehabilitation, resettlement, food, clothing.... From Delhi, the World Health Organization deputed me to help establish an office in Dhaka for international medical experts to address public health issues. On my way there, I stopped over in Calcutta (Kolkata) for a day to meet friends from my old village.

Kunju took me around the city. Pointing to a building he said, “Over there, Sundaram, works a relative of yours, but I don’t know his name.” That aroused my curiosity. “Doesn’t matter, let’s go there.” It turned out to be Pammechan, a distant relative. He was as much delighted as I was about our meeting. He said he would meet me in my hotel in the evening and take over from Kunju.

On arrival at the hotel Pammechan asked me: “Wouldn’t you like to call on Murthy Anna? He stays right next door.” Personally I was not keen. As a lad I had seen Murthy Anna in person just once or twice when he visited my village to pay obeisance to my grandfather (one of his elder cousins). But I couldn’t say no, because after all he was the eldest of 11 brothers, and head of Pammechan’s family. So I said yes. To this day I cherish that decision, for there I met his daughter who was ‘next in line’ for marriage—second of the seven. 

In beauty she might not stake claim to a heroine (as I would not, to a hero), but she struck me as a person with an amiable disposition and carried a charm that I could not resist. “This is my girl,” I swore to myself. 

Now, a strategy to liaise with her. I didn’t even know her name. Pammechan mentioned the names of all the seven in one breath. All that registered in my mind was that she worked in a bank. At the hotel I burnt the midnight oil to hit upon a plan. I had with me more Indian currency than I was allowed to carry to Bangladesh. Early next morning before boarding my flight I knocked at the house. She opened the door and was ill at ease to see me, literally dipped in oil for her weekly oil-bath. She blushed and tried to rush to the kitchen to call her mother or one of the sisters. But before that I handed her the excess cash and requested her to send a bank draft to my bank. And I left my Dhaka address for her to confirm the action taken.

It was a fifty-fifty chance that I took. She could just drop a line confirming the deposit, with or without leaving her address. I received a one-line reply confirming deposit, fortunately with her address. That gave me the springboard. I posted her a thank-you reply, with a brief intro about me, my plus and minus points (heavily loaded on the former, and mentioning the latter in passing, just to give a semblance of being unbiased) and wondering if we could stay in touch.

01_14_GoldenYearsAmma&appa2.jpg

On receipt of this letter, she asked her father: “Appa, today shall we leave for the office together?” On the way she showed him my letter. “Sounds a perfect gentleman,” he judged, reading it. He had no clue how much I had labored to get it to that shape. He gave her the go ahead to respond to it. Over a period of time we got to know of each other better and decided to take the plunge.

“No doubt it eliminates the need for a family background check, but horoscope match is a must,” came the diktat from my father, a stickler for procedure. My prospective father-in-law verified with his Kolkata astrologer, and my father with ours. The unanimous verdict: “uttama poruttam”—an ideal match! Yes, that was God’s way to chart the course to bring us together, and I have nothing but gratitude.

Four decades later, I find her a person for all seasons— a loving wife, a caring mother, a responsible daughter-in-law. At home, much to my discomfiture, she can fix a leaking tap, try her hand in carpentry or resurrect domestic appliances. She combines the qualities of modernity with tradition. Every day she is in communion with God in the puja room for forty-five minutes to an hour. Thereafter it is chant-cum-cooking.

Modernity? Well, I initiated my wife to English movies (barring probably The Sound of Music that she had watched before marriage). Now she corrects me. “I say, this is Gene Hackman of Absolute Power, and not Anthony Hopkins of The Silence of the Lambs.” Also, I taught her all that I knew about computer (the basics), and now she rescues me when I am stuck.

Has it been a smooth-sail all along? No, not at all. It is very much a marriage of mortals, and hence not without the accompanying quota of grunts to mild outbursts, but never a volcanic eruption. During our morning walk, the conversation takes off on a cordial note but sometimes before we cover three hundred yards it warms up into arguments, with an abrupt dip in volume when we realize others are watching. Thankfully we have an understanding. We will not step back into the house without burying the hatchet first,be it right at the doorstep. Again, we carry no domestic discord for the morrow. We forget and forgive before we hit the bed. This has been the essence of our married life.

Also, over the years the oft-repeated pointing fingers, ‘your people,’ ‘my people,’ have mellowed by mutual consent. Now it is ‘our people,’ complaint or compliment.

Our married life has not been without some embarrassing moments. We had sold our Delhi house to settle down in South. The movers had loaded the goods. We called our elder son in the U.S. to convey that we were heading for the airport. “Have you cleaned up everything from the first floor attic?” he asked. “Yes, of course, but why?” “No, nothing, just that years ago when I was stacking my IIT study material in the attic, I stumbled upon a well-preserved bunch of letters between you and Amma in a file wrapped in a lungi.”

Forty years on, I am still looking for a breakthrough in winning an argument with her. Doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, her pronouncements have been more marked than my impulsive utterances.

A regret, and a sincere one at that. We have only one life to live, to love, or be loved. Fortunately, we are making the most of it.


The writer, an incurable optimist, hopes that his debut mainstream novel in 100,000 words, will still see the light of the day, rejection slips regardless. Source: India Currents.



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