Learn­ing to be prop­erly mar­ried

Mint ST - - BOOKS -

An ex­clu­sive ex­cerpt from a Lounge columnist’s new book of per­sonal es­says that ad­dresses the tragedies and come­dies of con­ju­gal life

we can’t meet and talk.”

And we would meet. Or text. Or e-mail. Or chat on­line. Dur­ing one of the breakups, I turned up at his home in a vil­lage in east Ut­tar Pradesh with my news tele­vi­sion crew. His mother hosted us and ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers took us around, help­ing us get in­ter­views and shots for a re­port on the up­com­ing elec­tions. He and I sat up late ad­mir­ing the moon from the in­ner court­yard till Ammi got out of her bed to ask us to go to our rooms and sleep.

We changed cities to get over each other. I went to Bhi­lai on a sab­bat­i­cal from my TV job to teach a me­dia course. He went to Ban­ga­lore to work for an IT startup. He got an H-1B visa and ac­cepted a job in Chicago.

True to form, he turned up in Bhi­lai to visit me when I was there. He was trav­el­ling from Morbi in Gu­jarat to Delhi and told me that he was com­ing to visit me be­cause Ch­hat­tis­garh was on the way. My stu­dents and col­leagues gave him a hero’s wel­come even though they had never heard of him be­fore. He bought me a silk sa­ree from Ban­ga­lore. I helped him shop for Levi’s jeans and new shirts be­fore he left for USA. He turned up at my documentary shoot again when I was in Lon­don a few weeks later, car­ry­ing heavy equip­ment and nurs­ing my bro­ken heart. He helped us carry our tri­pod and light kit all over the city. My col­leagues loved him, of course.

I learnt some­thing from the break-ups. Be­cause they seemed so fi­nal to me, and be­cause each time I would de­cide to end the love af­fair with more firm­ness and de­ter­mi­na­tion, I got to ex­pe­ri­ence how I re­ally felt with and with­out him. I got to taste misery on both sides of the border of love.

I found out that he ex­pressed love dif­fer­ently and he ex­pe­ri­enced the loss of love dif­fer­ently too. I did not know that this would re­main a con­stant in our lives. I still ex­pect that one day we will align on these pa­ram­e­ters.

Aren’t we all a lit­tle crazy? I know you are shak­ing your head and say­ing, “Yes, but not as much as you.”

Try­ing to make love work is a crazy idea. It is a use­less as well as an es­sen­tial pur­suit. Mean­while, the rest of our life is al­ways there to dis­tract us when the dif­fi­culty level of love seems to over­whelm us. This works the other way round also. We thank our stars for the pock­ets of love and calm we can re­treat to when the com­plex­ity of life ex­hausts us.

“Will you marry me?” We kept propos­ing to each other un­ex­pect­edly for years af­ter we were fi­nally mar­ried. And had chil­dren. And had been “ac­cepted” by all the lay­ers of aunts and un­cles who had been left out of the de­ci­sion mak­ing process when we had of­fi­cially got mar­ried.

Pop­ping the ques­tion ev­ery now and then is cute, but as ev­ery­one knows, it is best to time it when the an­swer is likely to be close to the one we are hop­ing for. In our case, ask­ing each other once again if “you will marry me” is a way of re­it­er­at­ing that all said and done, “I still want to marry you.”

Some­times it’s a way to ask if we are fi­nally ready to be mar­ried-mar­ried. Like se­ri­ously mar­ried. Like proper hus­band and wife. As if, if we lie low when it gets stormy and stay pa­tient, there is re­ally an ideal that ex­ists for us to ar­rive at.

Ir­re­spec­tive of dreamy as­pi­ra­tions, it is of­ten an ef­fec­tive strat­egy to lie low and stay pa­tient in life. It’s a great place to get rest. Make res­o­lu­tions. Meet oth­ers and re­dis­cover the first flush of new love. Make friends with one’s own self all over again.

Six­teen years later, we con­tinue to mis­un­der­stand each other in rather silly ways. Some­times I say some­thing ro­man­tic and still get very un­ex­pected re­sults in re­sponse. “I’m not re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing care of the psy­cho­log­i­cal vac­uum in your head,” he said to me the other day and I was like, “Hey, hello, I was just try­ing to flirt with you.”

At other times, he will try a clever trick hop­ing to charm me but I will jump out of my skin and de­liver a lec­ture re­count­ing my un­healed trau­mas and other child­hood anec­dotes.

Like most other in­sti­tu­tions, the tem­plate of mar­riage is dan­ger­ously out­dated. Men, women and chil­dren want to be fuller, more flex­i­ble ver­sions of them­selves. We want to claim per­sonal au­ton­omy. We want our needs to be re­spected. Our per­sonal growth will not be post­poned in­ter­minably. It has pushed its way through the hier­ar­chy of ur­gen­cies.

Then there’s al­ways travel. When we don’t know how to find peace with each other, or peace from oth­ers, we leave home to travel. It al­ways helps to disen­tan­gle and re­set our bound­aries.

We spend our lives look­ing to find our way back to the homes we are flee­ing from. Once there was safety in break­ing away. When we are stronger, we need clo­sure. Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

The great jour­ney of life is to trace the route that takes us back to where we had started from.

Ex­cerpted with per­mis­sion from Si­mon & Schus­ter In­dia. Im­mor­tal For A Mo­ment: Small An­swers To Big Ques­tions About Life, Love And Let­ting Go will be re­leased on 11 De­cem­ber.

‘The Ring’, by Roy Licht­en­stein, an icon in the field of pop art.

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