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October 01, 2017

State Of The Union: My 2 States And A Marriage

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Illustration by Swati Sinha

If you want to be happy in your union of two souls – and bodies – Verve’s Executive Editor, Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena is asking you to discard the rose-coloured glasses as soon as possible, wake up to reality and find your own formula to peace and happiness…

Many years ago, towards the end of the previous millennium, I decided to tie the knot. It was a love match – one that took two years of talking, convincing, and waiting to happen. Finally happen it did as a registered one – a signed contract that we entered into as, like my father, I did not much believe in the hullabaloo of rituals steeped in ceremony.

And as we stepped into holy matrimony (not less holy in our minds even though it was the result of a piece of paper) some voices of doom, which reached my ears much later, predicted that our tie would not last out the first year – divided as we were by too many factors (age, culture, lifestyle, backgrounds and more) – for our union to tide over. Today, more than three decades after our November nuptials, we are still together, having seen several highs – the birth of the two kids being the most important – and experienced many lows with differing degrees of equanimity.

The rose-coloured spectacles that I had put on in the first flush of love stayed on for some time – and I will admit that it is because I still look at life a little like Alice in Wonderland (someone had described the expression on my face as being a permanent one of curiosity, innocence, surprise and wondering). And I say here without a shred of doubt that what helped me absorb the cultural differences was the support of some members of my new family (will not name the Voldemort-like ones who dampened my enthusiasm and ate into the foundation of our relationship). I still remember being taken by complete shock when my first-born, a girl, had to go through the mundan ceremony – one that in my maiden home daughters did not have to face. I protested a bit – and that is an understatement – and when my vociferous arguments got me nowhere, eventually I had to grit my teeth and sit through it for familial peace.

Slowly, with the advent of the kids (a son arrived four and a half years after my daughter), and the slow maturing of our relationship, I got drawn into the customary pujas and festival rituals – I soon developed my own kinship with my maker. But even today, unlike others of my generation in my family, I do not pray daily. But I have my own little act that I follow – like touching the small Ganpati idol outside my door every time I leave the home the first time in a day.

Perhaps, in my younger days, I was a rebel without a pause – I remember once dressing in a pair of bright red trousers when an aunt and uncle in law came a-visiting. Luckily they took it in their stride – and my image was not unduly tarnished. Many occasions followed that warranted an outburst, but I soon learnt that it was wise to pick my battles and moments. And so, I developed my own motto- ignore-ance is bliss!

Sustaining a relationship through thick and thin (to use an overused cliché) has definitely not been easy – for financial, emotional and health problems have raised their heads over time. It never is. I discovered that our temperaments differed as did our outlook on things and often our views resulted in loud arguments at home, that often got settled by default or with time, or were just pushed aside and festered till they died out. I will not deny with all veracity that there have been occasions when I have thought of copping out. But, sanity (really?) prevailed. And quite often, turning to more senior members in the family for advice and emotional support has got me through the storm. At others, the support of friends has been crucial. And along the way many compromises were made as challenges were overcome….

The fact that we are still together perhaps speaks a little, if not lots, about our tenacity – especially in a time where relationships break over far less important issues. Today our kids have grown up – they have set out on their own paths in life and yet their presence in our lives remains a strong cementing factor. We are more acutely aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which we tolerate or brush under the carpet.

And I have learned – that my friends, philosophers and guides have told me – that, in marriage as in life, what one cannot change one best ignores. Follow this formula if you want a relatively (pun intended) happy-ever-after ending.

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