Al­ways & for­ever

Af­ter 60 years of wed­ded bliss, Sani­babu and Akkamah pledged their love for each other again. Their family threw them an elab­o­rate wed­ding and joined in the cel­e­bra­tions.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By S. INDRAMALAR life­[email protected]­tar.com.my

THEIRS was an ar­ranged mar­riage. Sani­babu Ap­panna was 23, and Akkamah Bab­ully Su­man Chal­lam, just 13, when they tied the knot – or rather, when he tied the thali – sig­ni­fy­ing their life­long com­mit­ment to one an­other 60 years ago.

To mark their di­a­mond an­niver­sary this year, the cou­ple’s family sur­prised them with a vow re­newal cer­e­mony that saw them dressed in wed­ding fin­ery once again – a brand new silk sa­ree and dhoti for the cou­ple and full bridal makeup and henna for her. They were happy to per­form their mar­riage rites in front of a priest, about 300 family mem­bers and close friends.

“It was a won­der­ful sur­prise,” shares Akkammah, 73, smil­ing broadly as she ex­cit­edly re­counts her “sec­ond wed­ding” just a month ago. “They (my son and his family) planned ev­ery­thing and kept it from us un­til about two weeks be­fore the cer­e­mony. I was very happy to do it. I was very pleased. We have been mar­ried for 60 years and I was happy to cel­e­brate with my family all around me in such a spe­cial way.”

The cer­e­mony was held on Sept 15, the date they got mar­ried all those years ago in Sim­pang Renggam, Jo­hor. On the morn­ing of their wed­ding, Akkamah woke up at 4am to have her hair and makeup done.

The prepa­ra­tions weren’t so elab­o­rate for Sani­babu.

“I woke up af­ter her. I watched some TV and had my break­fast be­fore get­ting ready. And then I waited for her and the oth­ers to get ready,” he says, a smile on his lips.

This time round, their wed­ding took place at a tem­ple in Ka­jang, Se­lan­gor, where they now live, and in­cluded the cou­ple’s six chil­dren in the rites and rit­u­als.

“I was 13 when I got mar­ried. You know, at the time, this was the norm. Af­ter our wed­ding, I went back to live with my par­ents un­til a cou­ple of years later, when I was a bit older. In those days, wed­ding cer­e­monies were very fes­tive and would last for days. Ours lasted three days and was a dou­ble cer­e­mony as we got mar­ried along­side an­other cou­ple,” shares Akkamah.

The idea for the vow re­newal cer­e­mony was their son’s. Ku­maran Sani­babu, 51, had been plan­ning this for years as he truly wanted to cel­e­brate his par­ents’ life to­gether as well as pay homage and ex­press his grat­i­tude to his par­ents who, he says, have been the back­bone of their family de­spite their hard life.

“I am who I am to­day be­cause of my par­ents who have stood by me through the many dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions I’ve been through in my life. I wanted to do this for them to thank them for all that they have done for me and my sib­lings, and our fam­i­lies.

“Not many peo­ple have the chance to wit­ness their par­ents get­ting mar­ried and I will trea­sure this for­ever,” says Ku­maran.

A good life

Sani­babu and Akkammah grew up in a rub­ber plan­ta­tion in Jo­hor and were both rub­ber tap­pers. Their life, though hard, was un­com­pli­cated.

“I started work­ing when I was 12 but he started work much ear­lier, af­ter his fa­ther died when he was just nine years old,” she says glanc­ing at her hus­band seated next to her.

“He is the old­est of three boys and when his fa­ther died, his mother was ex­pect­ing his youngest brother. So he had to work. I didn’t know him be­fore we got mar­ried. But I ad­mired him be­cause even at such a young age, he was very re­spon­si­ble and took care of his family very well.

“I fell in love with him af­ter the birth of our first child,” shares Akkamah, the chatty one of the two.

Their mar­ried life, she shares, has been joy­ful. Sani­babu, she says, may be a man of few words but he dotes on her and their family.

“You will never find a good man like him,” she says. “He is a very un­der­stand­ing man. He lis­tens to what I have to say and I listen to what he has to say. That’s how it’s been for the past 60 years.

“We have mis­un­der­stand­ings, of course, but we never fight, def­i­nitely not to the ex­tent that we storm off or threaten to leave each other. We ar­gue and the very next minute, we talk again like nor­mal,” she says.

“But usu­ally, it’s me who makes the first move to talk again.”

Sani­babu smiles, look­ing ador­ingly at his wife as he lis­tens to her re­call sto­ries from their life to­gether, nod­ding at cer­tain points and fill­ing in de­tails when she looks to him for clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

These days, Akkamah has an added “duty” – mak­ing sure that her hus­band, who was di­ag­nosed with di­a­betes two decades ago, takes his in­sulin ac­cord­ing to the dosage that has been pre­scribed for him.

“Some­times he takes too much be­cause he thinks it will cure the dis­ease.

“And what that hap­pens, he goes into shock and I need to give him some sweets or a drink to raise his sugar level,” Akkamah grum­bles as her hus­band shifts in his seat and looks sheep­ishly away.

“I am very happy to have such a good wife. She takes care of ev­ery­thing. Yes, I’m very happy,” pipes in Sani­babu, 83, as he set­tles on the sofa.

“She’s the friendly and talk­a­tive

one,” says the cou­ple’s grand­son, Darvisan Rao Ku­maran. “All our friends know my grandma be­cause when­ever they come over or call, she will strike up a con­ver­sa­tion with them.”

Darvisan, 27, and his sib­lings Arivin Rao, 25, and Lossheni, 21, were raised by their grand­par­ents while both their par­ents were work­ing.

Akkamah still in­sists on cook­ing the family meals and even clean­ing the house de­spite protests from her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

“I am still OK. My mother-in-law did the same for me when I was liv­ing with her,” she shares.

Be­cause she was very young when she moved in with her hus­band, Akkamah says that her mother-in-law nur­tured her “like her own daugh­ter”.

“I say ‘mother-in-law’ but she was like my own mother. She was very car­ing and she never ex­pected me to do any house chores or cook for the family. She knew that I had to leave for work be­fore the crack of dawn, so she did all the house­work her­self. And when I had chil­dren, she cared for them while we were out tap­ping rub­ber,” says Akkamah.

Her eyes well up as she speaks fondly about her mother-in-law.

“The only dark spot in our mar­riage was the day she died. She had ter­ri­ble pain in her back and I urged her to go to the hos­pi­tal. She put it off, say­ing she had to care for the chil­dren. It took a lot of con­vinc­ing be­fore she agreed. We bor­rowed a car from the plan­ta­tion man­ager and took her. Un­for­tu­nately, she never made it to the hos­pi­tal. I don’t know what was wrong, till to­day.”

A legacy of love

The cou­ple moved to Ka­jang 27 years ago to live with Ku­maran and his wife, Sri Devi, af­ter Darvisan was born.

Like her mother-in-law, Akkamah took charge of the house­work and looked af­ter her grand­chil­dren while Ku­maran and Sri Devi were at work.

“My grandma still does all the clean­ing and cook­ing even though we tell her to re­lax. And my grandpa still rides around Ka­jang town on his mo­tor­bike to pay all our house­hold bills,” shares Darvisan.

For Akkamah and Sani­babu, there isn’t any “se­cret” to their happy mar­riage, other than be­ing con­sid­er­ate and kind to each other.

They didn’t earn a lot as rub­ber tap­pers – RM1.50 a day – but they had enough.

“Things were not so ex­pen­sive those days. Even though we didn’t have much, he never said “no” when­ever I asked him to buy some­thing for me, no mat­ter how friv­o­lous.

“We have been lucky. Our chil­dren have all made some­thing of their lives and their chil­dren are all do­ing well. We even have two great-grand­chil­dren. What more

can we ask for,” says Akkamah.

Family has been cen­tral in their lives and so it was es­pe­cially mean­ing­ful to have their en­tire family come to­gether for their happy oc­ca­sion.

“The at­mos­phere was re­ally fes­tive,” shares Arivin. “Our house was full of our rel­a­tives the day be­fore the wed­ding. My aun­ties and mum were all in the kitchen pre­par­ing some of the food that we served at the wed­ding and our cousins and un­cles were all there too. It was won­der­ful.”

Adds Lossheni: “We are lucky to have grown up un­der the care of our grandma and grandpa. That’s why this wed­ding cer­e­mony was so spe­cial to all of us.”

Arivin, a pro­fes­sional wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, cap­tured the wed­ding cer­e­mony on film and when he posted the photos on his so­cial me­dia plat­forms, they re­ceived a lot of at­ten­tion and thou­sands of likes and shares from ne­ti­zens who were heart­ened by the im­ages of the se­nior cou­ple.

“My grandma is very sport­ing. Many of the poses for the photos were her idea. Both she and my grandpa will­ingly posed for the photos. They re­ally en­joyed the whole day,” says Arivin.

Photo: icre­ation Stu­dio

— Photos: icre­ation Stu­dio

For Akkamah and Sani­babu, get­ting the chance to cel­e­brate their mar­riage with their family was in­de­scrib­able.

In an ar­ranged mar­riage like theirs, love came slowly but surely.

— LOW BOON Tat/thes­tar

Akkamah and Sani­babu are happy to spend their days with family.

The happy cou­ple with their six chil­dren.

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