An acquaintance of ours passed away recently on account of heart disease – a gentleman in his late 60s. I have met him just a few times in the course of my married life to the OH, and he has always come across as a decent, calm person. In fact, his peaceful, no-confrontation nature and his naivete have been, many a times, fodder for talk in our family.
This gentleman had always been a passive, quiet and reserved person, never worldly-wise, always letting his wife take charge and take all decisions pertaining to their kid daughter. He was someone who would eat when told to, sleep when told to, and get up when told to – I don’t mean to say that he was a hen-pecked husband – far from that – but he belonged to that generation where mothers and wives wouldn’t let their sons and husbands lift a finger around the house. Sadly, the wife passed away when their daughter was about a year or two old, leaving this gentleman with absolutely no clue of what to do or how to go about life. Worry about his daughter sucked the life out of him, and he developed a nervous condition. He soon began suffering from violent epileptic fits.
What happened after that was something straight out of a Bollywood movie. The gentleman, who had no relatives who could take care of the child, re-married. I know many of you might find that objectionable, but that is what happened. I am glad to tell you, though, that the man’s medical condition was not kept hidden, but the girl was told about it, and she entered the marriage willingly (largely out of poverty, but the two did grow to love each other, and she took care of him till the end of life.)
Then, a divine love story ensued. The new bride and the husband found their soul-mates in each other. She cared for him and his household, and nursed him through his epileptic fits to the extent that he completely stopped having them. She fed and played with and brought up the baby as her own – and the OH and his family (and, to an extent, me too) have seen this. The couple had no other child. The man’s child grew to love the lady as her own mother, and till date, loves her the same way. When the daughter came of marriageable age, they chose a suitable groom for her and married her.
The gentleman, as I said, had always been known for his soft-spoken, naive ways. No one knew much about him as a husband, except that he and his wife were happy together, living alone in their house on his limited pension, the daughter visiting them from time to time with her sons. The lady, on the OH’s visit for the funeral, sobbingly told him of the happiness they had known together as man and wife, and it touched me deeply.
She spoke of how she would sometimes feel too lazy to go on her daily walk (she is a diabetic and suffers from high BP), and her husband would motivate her to take care of her health and push her to go. She spoke of how she would return home from her walk often to find a neatly-scrubbed platform in the kitchen and the dishes washed, her husband grinning at her. She spoke of how she and her husband would enjoy playing the ancient game of pallanguzhi on hot afternoons, squabbling like kids over the moves. She spoke of how her husband would withdraw his pension on the 1st of every month, and then call her from his favourite mysore pak shop in town, informing her that he will soon reach home with a box of the sweet. She would wait eagerly for him to arrive, and both of them would pray together before eating the sweet – month after month after month.
She spoke of how he would often surprise her with gajras of fragrant jasmine – he always bought two, one of which he would place at the feet of the gods in their pooja room and the other he would hand to her, saying, ‘For you.’ She spoke of how he would get angry when she wouldn’t let him buy something he badly wanted to, and would head off to a bus stand nearby, where he knew she would come in some time to fetch him and coax him to come back home. She spoke of how he would painstakingly separate the coils of mosquito repellant from the box they bought every month, because he knew she couldn’t do it on her own. She spoke of how he would, in his own little ways, take care of her and protect her.
She spoke of these and many other such instances, all of which the OH and I found incredibly sweet.
“Both of us were very happy with each other, in our own world. We were enough for each other,” she said. And that much was evident from their conduct towards each other, to everyone around them, without their saying a word.
I think theirs was one of those beautiful old-age partnerships that RM wrote about. Whatever be the reasons behind their marriage, there was love and happiness in their home, which was ‘home’ in the real sense of the word. They were one of those real-world made-for-each-other couples who warm the cockles of your heart when you see them together.
There was warmth between them, and lots of sweet, romantic, old-world gestures that I find utterly charming. I doubt they even said ‘I love you’ ‘to each other or called each other ‘sweetheart’ or ‘cutie pie’, but there was romance between them all right. Candlelight dinners and couple massages and walks on the beach are romantic too, but this is the simple, everyday kind of romance that is, I think, something else altogether. It is the romance intertwined with the minutest of one’s activities on an everyday basis, so full of genuine love and affection that chores do not seem like just chores. It is such everyday romance that makes every day of life special. It takes my breath away each time I witness it or hear about it.
The lady is now trying her best to gather the pieces of her life together, and strength inside her, and learning to live life on her own. She wants to live with her memories of their beautiful, full life, and I wish her all the very best in doing so.