True companionship is about loving someone continuously – no matter what the circumstances are.
I make good coffee these days.
This is a new skill that I learnt from my soulmate Vaani just a couple of years ago. The coffee I make does not taste as great as the one Vaani makes though. But on some days, I am pretty close to getting the flavor, the temperature, the aeration and the rich frothy presentation just right!
Interestingly, I met Vaani for the first time on October 27, 1987; that was at the college we both attended. So, later this month, we will complete 35 years of knowing each other.
And beautifully, magically, our romance has stayed fragrant over all these years.
No, it’s not only making good coffee that has helped keep our romance fragrant. Actually, to tell you the truth, for the longest time, I did not quite get into our kitchen at all. I was not even always around to be involved with many things on the home front. I was busy building a career and was later obsessed with growing our business.
Yet, over the years, as Vaani and I know it, we have stayed loving. Which is, we did not just fall in love in end-1987; we have stayed loving – in the present continuous – ever since.
Now, we have been married for close to 34 years. But it is also not the marriage that keeps us together. It is our companionship. It is our choice to stay loving that has helped us remain soulmates.
In this time, we have faced three major crises. Of these three, we are still enduring two: A crippling bankruptcy, for the last 16 years; and another, a serious situation that we wish to keep private, for a few years now.
Even so, despite all the upheavals in our Life, our companionship has only grown stronger. And that is because we continue to relate to each other.
Blending as soulmates
In the initial years of our companionship, when Vaani and I were much younger, our physical presence with each other surely mattered. We have kissed on public transport and have waited long spells for the other to join in at meal times. I remember, on my first overseas trip, to Tokyo in 1992, in an era when there was no WhatsApp or Facebook, I wept like a baby while calling Vaani over phone. I was missing her a lot. We have done a lot of interesting stuff together too – from celebrating atop the Eiffel Tower, to exploring New Delhi on foot, to curating memorable vacation experiences for ourselves as a family.
Over the years, we have transcended the physicality of our relationship. Also, for a long time now, we have been out of cash to gift each other things for wedding anniversaries and birthdays. But the intensity of longing and belonging between us has not diminished even a wee bit. We have blended as soulmates.
A celebratory spirit defines our companionship
These days, on some mornings, I wake Vaani up with hot, steaming, filter coffee. I help her with the dishes and with housekeeping chores. I enjoy removing the paint off her nails as much as she loves trimming my hair to give my near-bald pate a refined look. Importantly, we enjoy being with each other. We listen to old Bollywood songs together, exploring each composition and the lyrics, and sharing notes on them. We do the linen and laundry together. We shop for our weekly supply of groceries together too.
Our spirit of companionship, we realize, is celebratory. From the smallest of mundane tasks to the infrequent wins that come our way, everything gets celebrated. And, non-complainingly, we accept – and celebrate – our pain too.
This spirit of companionship has helped us beyond just surviving the enduring, tumultuous, bankruptcy that we continue to deal with. In fact, we are thriving. As the happynesswalasTM, we are living a Life of purpose: Inspiring ‘Happyness’TM! As a couple, our relationship transcends the personal space. We complement each other as business partners too. We are dogged in our collective effort to turn around our business and financial fortunes. Our running between the wickets is remarkable; it is the principal reason why, against the odds, we are still in the game! Clearly, our romance is fragrant despite the circumstances.
Because of the bankruptcy, everything material has been taken away from us – work, business, money, cars, gold jewelry, investments…every thing has gone away. We haven’t even been able to buy each other birthday or anniversary gifts during the last 16 years. Yet, despite the excruciating circumstances, between spells of pennilessness and those few times of finding some work and money, we have learnt to count on each other for strength.
Importantly, we accept whatever comes our way. Whatever we can do, to cope with the challenges that we are faced with, is done well, to the best of our abilities. We give everything our 100% – together! We both have learnt the fine art of flowing with Life.
Just a few years ago, when I told Vaani that I was feeling bad that I had never gifted her a ring, she said, playfully: “Okay, gift me a pumpkin!” So I went over to the street market around the Mylapore tank in Chennai and got her a pumpkin. Just where the street hawker sat, there was a small store that sold fancy, fake, ornaments. I bought Vaani a rather cute imitation ring for ₹100. When I got home, I stuck the ring into the pumpkin. I then went down on one knee and presented my “gift” to Vaani! We both laughed, hugged and kissed each other. In another year, again, unable to find money to gift ourselves something for an anniversary, we leveraged an innovative offering, My Stamp, from India Post. We had stamps issued with our pictures on them for a small fee! It was a low-budget idea. But it was a very memorable way to celebrate!
And there have been instances when all we have done is to sit quietly; processing all the pain that has been heaped on us by Life. I have often felt Gulzar’s lyrics from Aandhi (1975) come alive in those moments: “Jee mein aata hai, tere daaman mein, sar chupa ke hum, rotey rahein, rotey rahein…!” (I feel like crying endlessly, burying my head in your bosom!”) Even so, those tender moments have always been a quiet celebration – of our being there for each other!
Disagree, differ; but never say: “I told you so!”
Surely, Vaani and I sometimes disagree with each other. On what we must do with a situation we are dealing with. Or over an opinion we may have. But we have always followed a simple, unstated, principle between us: We never tell each other, “I told you so!” Which is, we may differ on approaches and views, but when we move forward, we are together in it. When a decision that one of us has taken misfires, we don’t display any one-upmanship or indulge in blame games. Now, that is a unique quality that we share as a couple. That’s how we have been able to face what Life has thrown at us. That’s how we have hung on to each other on this incredible roller-coaster ride that we are on.
A marriage often places an unnecessary full stop in a relationship
Vaani and I have both discovered that true companionship is about loving someone continuously. It goes beyond just providing and protecting. It is about being there, no matter what happens. It is about being non-judgmental. Therefore, to build and sustain a great, happy relationship, you don’t actually need a marriage as a social contract, you need companionship.
When people struggle in a relationship or in a marriage, I believe that they are essentially missing the companionship, that once was, between them. They may be in a relationship between them. But are they still relating to each other? When the relating is not there anymore, the relationship too is not relevant. It has perhaps been dead a long time ago!
That’s why people drift apart after falling in love and getting married because they have subconsciously compartmentalized their lives – one part that was before the marriage and the other part that is after the marriage. So, in essence, the event of a marriage places a full stop in a relationship. It pronounces the end of one phase of the relationship and begins another. This full stop is totally unnecessary.
Being happy being with each other
The truth about Life is that everything new, over time, will start seeming and feeling old. Also, how people look and how they – and others – feel about their physical appearance surely changes with age. With the passage of time, and thanks to the upheavals of everyday Life, romance does end up receiving lower priority. Every couple has to face this brutal reality. You see, the courtship is now over, and the marriage is done and dusted. That’s why people who fall in love, fall out of love too.
But what if you were to imagine that the marriage never took place? Won’t the loving be continuous then?
Life’s beauty lies in staying loving…in the present continuous, irrespective of the circumstances.
That’s the way Vaani and I treat our Life. We married to fulfil societal norms that were more pronounced back then. Period. But we haven’t settled for having fallen in love and married. In fact, we never see our marriage as a defining, epochal, event. Instead, we have let our companionship thrive. Our loving remains ongoing. And we both continue to rise in love. This is why we are happy being with each other!
The key to Happiness is to never let marriage place a full stop in your relating, your loving. Treat marriage as just another date in your courtship calendar. Then the journey together, no matter what the circumstances you both are faced with, will be a continuous, never-ending, celebration!
And the romance, well, will always remain fragrant!
Additional, relevant, links:
- Rise In Love – a 2015-documentary, made by a young filmmaker Shalu C. While focusing on the journey of Vaani and AVIS, the film explores how love thrives in the face of adversity. Viewing time: 30.18 minutes.
- Fall Like A Rose Petal – AVIS’ first book. It is the true story of AVIS’ and Vaani’s Life. It captures learnings from the excruciating, fascinating, Life-changing, experience – a crippling bankruptcy – that they are still going through.
- Click here to know more about the happynesswalasTM, Vaani and AVIS.
- If you wish to seek Vaani’s and AVIS’ perspectives on a Life challenge you are faced with, please reach out here – Let’s Talk HappynessTM!