During the Sixth Vow, the Groom asks his bride, ‘Now that you have taken six steps with me, you have filled my heart with immense happiness. Will you fill my heart with happiness like this forever?’ The Bride promises, ‘I will always be by your side’.
Fifteen years on I have realised that these seven Hindu vows are terribly similar. Of course, I will absolutely promise to fill my husband’s heart with happiness when I am in the midst of all the pomp and gala that an Indian wedding brings. The “forever” part must have escaped my ears in all that din and noise. A decade and more on, I could not have done too badly to get this far but for as long as this journey continues I definitely want to do better.
I never want to take the love and happiness I have for granted and yet “forever” means that we need to be there for each other for a long time. And is that not what happiness is – the ability to expect things from a partner because we are in each other’s lives till kingdom come? Many years ago a married friend said of his marriage as it was ending, “I always thought my marriage would resemble my parents’, you get married, and then you die!” He meant that he always expected the marriage to last forever, he just did not know that you have to “work” at it till death, or in his case divorce did them part. It came as a shock to him that after years of dating his then wife, once they were married, it fell apart very quickly. It was a lesson and memory that stayed with me, and one I will never forget.
In the early years of heartache and heartbreak I always felt that it was important to establish the expectations one had from the boyfriends. Funnily enough, growing up in Delhi, if the boyfriend did not make sure I got home safely, he was just not good enough! Sexist as it may have been, it was important to me. I have never stopped reminding my husband that on our first meeting at a friends’ home, he did not offer to follow my car home after a late dinner. In an unsafe city, it felt like it was the norm. I have been offered several excuses for the act since! Years later, my husband and I still let each other know we have reached our destinations intact. All it takes is a phone call or a message and it makes us happy to know we understand that about each other. Ask any man in a relationship and he will tell you that If you just let him know what you want, as opposed to making him guess, he will be much happier. The XY chromosome is just happier with established fact than overthinking what could be.
What changes as a relationship grows is that romantic walks, hand in hand, with shoulders brushing and hearts thumping cease to exist. Walks in lockdown are about steps, fitness, keeping up and a little competition. They won’t end in a stolen kiss but a rush to the loo to wash your hands and getting on with the rest of your day. In our heads, we know that we spent time together, even if we discussed children, bills and to do lists in the time that we walked side by side. We decided recently that we needed to walk 15000 steps a day, 6000 of those should be together. Its all part of the romance!
After we have spent a significant amount to time together and for a lot of our parents that’s closing in on the golden 50 years or more, the space we have been giving each other to keep our relationships happy and healthy starts to close in. I have noticed that the same company that was annoying when overdone is now valued much more. Pre-Covid my septuagenarian parents had started going to the movies together again, something they had not done in a long time. My mother circles and shares a newspaper article with my father who is 2 metres away because she knows he may have missed it. They walk together every evening because it is now routine, they are possibly still arguing about something mundane as they burn the miles. Neither is walking ahead of the other, they are finally in step. The happy news of the day is that their backs are in similar shape too, so all is in sync with a swanky new harder mattress now on which they will lie gleefully side by side. Happiness as a marriage ages is in enjoying these small pleasures to the absolute max, because they are finally content. There is nowhere else they would rather be- they have found “forever”.
Credit: The Railway Woman