By Tallulah D’Silva:
I was recently invited to raise the toast at my dear cousin’s wedding. Ashwin has been one of my best and sweetest cousins. And he had asked me a year in advance to mark the date as rumours were rife of my supposedly busy schedules! Closer to the big day, there were frantic calls to make sure I had the details of time and exact day penned in my diary lest I arrive late or miss the wedding entirely! When some of my friends ask me how I manage kids, work, home, writing, community work and my passion for nature, I love to quote noted biologist and conservationist George Schaller often, who once said that if you want something done, always ask a busy person!
I liked the theme of the nuptials that the couple had chosen- ‘Love and trust are the foundations of a successful marriage’. But I mulled, as I tried to list points and asked some of my young relatives and friends, whether love was really a pre-requisite to marriage. And therefore, if one falls in love and marries, is their marriage better than an arranged one?
A lot of young couples often look down on arranged marriages thinking them to be inferior or no good. But a glance at the statistics reveals that more number of divorces were apparently solemnized on love! Why is this happening?
If we look at the notions or gestures of love today, you will agree with me that it has somehow taken on a dramatized tone. And we are surrounded by this very visual drama of love- kissing of toes, bending of knees, overtly public displays of ‘koochie-cooing’, indeed a lot of ‘show’. And because of this, the drama extends into married life and no sooner tough times arise, there is more drama in a bid to throw it all away instead of assessing and repairing.
Breaking of furniture, banging of doors, walking out in a flourish, the works! Just like falling in love gives us references to base our actions of love on, when times are rough in marriage, we use references from our experiences and these are a reflection of our own parents’ marriages or those of our relatives and friends. At this point, I looked back at Ashwin’s parents and wondered if their successful marriage could be used as a reference to reflect and learn and cite as one, Ashwin and his new bride Venessa, could bring to memory whenever they encountered a rough patch in their marriage.
Albert, Ashwin’s dad, has been my most favourite maternal uncle. A great mentor, friend and father figure, he has been like an anchor to my growing up years and remains one even today as I sail through my middle ages. He married this sweet and cheerful lady, Irene, on my 7th birthday and from what I recall, they publicly shared only a few gestures of their love that I can remember (not that their marriage was bereft of the sweet nothings of love). He held his wife’s hand on the day of his engagement and kissed her on the day of their marriage. That was it. No drama or show of love other than that. But there were more visible gestures, far greater than the ‘acts of love’ we are otherwise exposed to. And I reminisced these as I listed the greater tenets of a successful marriage.
Companionship: When I was in school and lived in Panjim with my parents, Albert and Irene would visit us often. Since my parents were at work, they would pick me up from school on a cycle! And once home, I would love to tell them some of the silliest and embarrassing jokes. They would both listen patiently to my banter, laugh and allow me to be in my elements and carry on. I noticed then that they shared this camaraderie between them. They were like companions, comfortable in each other’s company, there was a certain ease with each other. And we normally notice this trait in couples that have grown old with age. Not those who have been recently married!
Dignity: I used to spend a lot of weekends during my high school days at their old house in Colva. One day while I was playing hide and seek with my cousins, I was in the backyard and stumbled on them in lively repartee washing a pile of clothes on the wash stone in the kitchen yard. My uncle seemed to have no inhibitions to do the ordinary chores around the house. I have seen couples that usually distribute chores and housework but this was so pleasant to see. He would also potter around the ancestral house helping out my grandmother and his siblings with housekeeping chores.
Respect: Albert and Irene were State Government employees, working in different departments. I used to visit them often in their offices and later for a cup of tea together at a local cafe. They would share their individual experiences and mundane tasks of the day, acknowledging each one’s ability to dispose of their duties efficiently. Never condescending nor belittling. The mutual respect they had for each other was apparent in the way they dealt with each other both at work and home.
Empathy: If anybody needed help with anything, Albert would be at the doorstep, always willing to help, with Irene by his side. There was this particular time when I had hurt myself while fabricating a metal gate for one of my first projects. My eyes had swollen up from fine metal dust since I had not used protective gear whilst welding the joints. I could have gone alone to the doctor or requested my fiancé or Papa and Mama who gave me a good dressing down for my carelessness. When I called my uncle, he was home in a jiffy to rush me to the ophthalmologist. His concern and sympathy were palpable from his concern for members of the family, neighbours, friends and sometimes even strangers.
Trust: There were very difficult times when they had to carry on certain tasks independently. There was this particular time when my grandmother was very ill and my uncle had to travel and be away from home quite a bit and Irene had to hold fort and take care of the responsibilities of the children and her own mother. And in these times, there were extended periods where no communication was possible but they fulfilled their duties with no hindrance and no space for doubts and misunderstandings.
And these tenets formed the fertile ground on which they nurtured their children, two sweet and loving boys. They didn’t have to tell them what to do but made a good example of their marriage or relationship. In today’s world, it is far more important to raise good boys than raising girls to be independent with the sky as the limit. What use is it if we are raising girls to be free and enterprising, and then find that their partners are intolerant to all of that? I am confident that (my cousin Ashwin and) our youth today are aware of this and march forward with confidence that love and marriage will work on a strong foundation of companionship, respect, dignity, empathy and trust. No drama, no pretense. Just the bare truth and simplicity of love.
Dedicated to Albert and Irene, Salazar and Bela, Anthony and Maria, Ralph and Doris.