Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, … And stand together and yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow (‘On Marriage’, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, 1923)
What better way to describe the bond of marriage than through Gibran’s eloquent verses! Being married for over two years, any piece of writing on marriage that seems enlightening catches my attention instantly. Though, nothing substantial really comes out (every marital equation being different and unique) but why miss it when someone else is ranting, expressing, singing or explaining meticulously. Also, any similarity or dissimilarity may bring a cheer or a jeer on my face.
Currently, everyone in the world, irrespective of place, gender, nationality and creed, is struggling to thrive in the pandemic marred times. There is a constant push to remain afloat because “survival of the fittest” has emerged as the bitter truth rearing its head in every nook of the Earth. While headlines emerge as a frightful alarm on screens daily, what remains unreported is all that transpires in a typical household enduring the banters exchanged between spouses.
Being an assistant professor of English literature, I had often received unsolicited advice to marry someone who belonged to my profession. Well, my husband is a judicial officer, and I am glad that we have different fortes. Had it been otherwise, an unwanted competitive spirit might have taken deep hold. Why? Because that’s how marriage is, a never-ending tug of war where no one wins or loses but the game remains on for fun and adventure. In our case, the constant pulling is metaphorical at many levels. There’s a constant attempt by one to pull the other out of a deep trap called procrastination. Often the ‘art’ of procrastination is associated with husbands, but my spouse and I believe in parity in all fields. However, this phase came to a halt when this virus attacked humankind in an unprecedented manner beyond the reaches of all imagination and our country entered the seemingly endless period of lockdown. This is when people, locked into their homes all of a sudden, started digging deep into their inner selves only to come out alive with a slew of Instagram-worthy talents. That’s when some crisp and tangy flavours got accentuated in my marital life too.
When Gibran talks about ‘spaces’ in nuptial life in his work called ‘On Marriage’, one cannot agree more. There are times when we silently crib about being in dire need of a space. Partners often fear being outspoken in delineating such desire or else they get labelled as selfish, narcissist or indifferent. However, in most of the cases, the picture is coloured differently where space is not seen as a necessity. Being partners with different and demanding jobs respectively, it was difficult to erase these ‘spaces’ often standing wide and impermeable between us. However, with the advent of lockdown, we saw new horizons shining bright in variety of hues. During the pre-covid times, life was more work and less play, literally and at times metaphorically. During the pre-pandemic times, our jobs used to scoop out most of the zeal and left us all parched by the end of the day. Breakfast was done in a helter-skelter way; lunch was at workplace, but dinner time offered some respite from the daily grill.
One major reason is that my husband cooks some of the best meals in the world. We ate out frequently, as Gurgaon, the millennium city at the edge of New Delhi, was always briming with new and exotic options. However, the lockdown period unleashed the timid master chef hiding in my husband in all its glory. I am not exaggerating when I write this but after eating “pati ke haath ka khaana’ (food cooked by husband’s hand), I have become averse to the idea of eating out altogether. He creates magic in those woks and pans while I, standing beside him with a smile, just soak in the thrill and awe swaying in our kitchen. The food he prepares is not just a pretentious Instagram post but a key to my happiness and that, dear readers, is a rarity in an age where moments are only captured in pictures or videos. In my home, he captures them in the form of food cooked with love for the loved while I encapsulate them in hand-written letters. This brings me to other examples of how marriage of two different people with disparate interests leads to a household reverberating with diversification.
During our stay at home and work from home spree, we explored a bundle of things about each other which were otherwise not much thought (read, fought) over. They say that marriage is a union of two minds. Easier said than done, I would comment. The list of uncommon interests my husband and I have is a long one. While I am into reading, movies, Instagram and treating shopping as a pacifier, he is not even on social media. Watching romantic movies is a big no, since his profession includes grappling with myriads of clashes, marital disputes being one of them. From misplaced towels, spectacles and other such basic articles to painstakingly agreeing upon one OTT (over the top media service) pick for movie night, the reasons behind every day tussles are umpteen. He is traditional while I run away from family functions imploring me to unveil the true bahu (bride) apparently hidden somewhere in a deep corner inside me. Luckily, he helps me sail through such familial gatherings without any serious damage. He has a mentally exhausting job and to remedy all that fatigue, he talks to me, about our past trips, the movies we both loved, our first meeting, the issues troubling him, etc. I learn how to be a good householder from him, while he, as he puts it, soaks in all the positivity and encouragement my outlook emanates. That’s how our relationship becomes more than that of just marriage, it is a bond of companionship which cherishes being each other’s confidante and being practical and real.
Is it always “sugar and spice and everything nice”? Absolutely not. For days, it is but for the other days, we unleash our cynical sides. Because what is marital life really without a dash of skepticism and sarcasm. Besides being sugary and spice, it turns sour too. In other words, it keeps the palate guessing the mood of the day. It’s an unrepeatable blend of a variety of ingredients only the partners know because it’s their adored secret.
My marriage was an arranged one where the match is approached in probably stone cut objectivities. Days passed and new-found treasures of joys and revelations came to the fore. The pre-marital jitters, unsought opinions about marriage and the consequent chaos were soon left behind to make way for what was new and exciting. Marriage is a box full of surprises popping loudly to see the light of the day. What is important is to find the right time to unlock it and see the magical rollercoaster zip into focus lest the popping fades away. It is definitely not less than a rollercoaster because it will never fail to amaze you or give you the thrill, pun intended, in unimaginable ways. It’s chaotic when the Venn diagrams of each other’s interests find no overlap. It’s a boon when you are understood without uttering anything. It’s messy when one is a sloth while the other is a germophobe. It becomes a godsend when you come home to an appetizing food after a long day at work. It’s a blessing when half of the problem is solved just by sharing and being listened to. It’s therapeutic when your rants and mood swings are endured without any judgement or prejudice. In a nutshell, marriage cannot be put in a definition carrying a fixed set of words. The word ‘fixed’ is amiss in relation to marriage unless addressing the ‘roka’(obstacles), of course. Marriage is ever evolving and in progression with every day adding a new chapter to all that is tangled and sorted in the course of this voyage. It will always be witnessed as brimming with vicissitudes and symmetrical beams of bliss along with few asymmetrical ones.
The fun lies in its unpredictability and at times may feel like a stormy sea. But remember what Master Oogway once told Po, let the waves settle down because only then will the sunshine illuminate the bottom to make the solutions clear.
Alpana is working as an assistant professor at a government college of Gurugram. Besides reading books and clicking pictures, she can also be spotted tickling her infant or recommending movies to her husband which he eventually regrets watching.