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Published on: Sun, 01 Feb 2015 3:58:03 UTC
News Agency: CNN

Today is my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. I find that insane. My mother has spent more than half of her life with my father. She has spent more time with her husband, a man she met only twice before getting married to him 29 years ago, than with her parents and her siblings. I can’t imagine getting up one day, leaving home to walk into an entirely different life. It’s pretty daunting.


That’s how it was back then, though. Through word of mouth they found two single people whose horoscopes matched. My father came to see my mother. She was dressed up and sang a song (they always made you do that, how embarrassing) and when he left, he said he’ll think about it. It didn’t take long for him to say yes. Soon they were engaged and then married.


My dad was a “city boy.” Their family moved around a bit because his father was a Superintendent of Police (SP) in India–an unusual occurrence for a Tamil Brahmin family. They lived in a big house on police quarters and had constables to help them out or escort them. My father was the eldest of five, and the only son, so he was rather independent, indulging in a decent  share of harmless, boyish mischief. His father was a tall, broad, powerful man; his daughters his weakness. However, his father died suddenly, leaving a young man in his 20s in charge of a young family with no money.


Years later, at 30-some years old, he was adamant to get his second sister married before he did. After finding a suitable boy and scraping up just enough, he married off his sister and finally let the search begin for himself. The rest happened pretty quickly.


My mother was 21. My father was 32. She grew up in a well-developed town, but a town nonetheless. They were a small family with little money, but had a steady income: her father worked on the electricity board, they leased the downstairs part of their house to another family and they would sell the milk of their healthy cows. She was the youngest of four close siblings. They were driven and good in school. They had to be, as her father was all about discipline and hard work–but he was a gentle, religious man. She was her father’s pet.


So it was a shock to her when the man who came to see her was my father. She didn’t understand why her brothers and her father would set her up with a man 11 years older, from a family that was so different from hers. Whether it was a desperate match to stop a few town boys from pursuing her or whether the horoscopes were astonishing, she doesn’t know. But her brother had a great feeling about it and the match was made. Engagement. Wedding.


Of course there were those initial timeless struggles of fitting into someone else’s family that everyone goes through. Back then it was even harder because it was a stranger’s family. And despite knowing arranged marriages were the norm, everyone did have certain expectations of married life that may or may not have played out the way they imagined, but that small let down was also part of the norm and was short-lived.


There are times when I almost envy the way things happened for our parents. Sure everyone had fantasies, but they weren’t extravagant, and they accepted the way things happened. They had no choice but to trust that their parents knew what they were doing and they went with it. They were thrown into a relationship, usually their first and only one, and slowly learned everything about that person–raw and true–from the beginning. They grew together because it was new and awkward and special for both of them. And no matter what came their way, they stayed together, they dealt with it, because they didn’t even know that it could be any other way. I think there’s a beauty to that.


And when you have zero expectations, I think the only way you can go is up.

On the other hand, for my generation of pseudo-modern, confused-traditional, forever-on-the-fence, perpetually-perplexed in-betweens, struggling with a series of identity crises of whether you’re here or there or believe in this or that on a daily basis, this process is harder. It’s different knowing just one way of life and going with it. It’s a whole other ball game knowing both worlds and trying to collide them into one or having to face the tough decision of choosing one over the other.


I thought I wanted an arranged marriage and the beauty that comes with it: Learning about someone new and diving into life together, having your family love their family, compounded with the beauty of whatever comes with our modern picture of love–the secret looks, the sparks, the grand gestures, gentle words. I thought that’s what this 21st century “arranged” marriage would be like. Now I’m not so sure.


But seeing those of my parents’ generation–my grandparents, aunts and uncles, my parents themselves–I can’t help but imagine it will be great regardless of how it happens. My mother says she and my father are 99% made for each other. They are on the same page for all the things that matter. They are opposites in many ways, but perfectly complementary. They’ve overcome so many hurdles together. They support each other in all the important things, if not the little things. Often my mother jokes and tells me even if she searches the heavens and earth, she can’t find a husband as great as hers for me. They are a strong, perfect, power couple that have given my brother and me the best life. And if this isn’t love, I don’t know what is. Even though these silly 21st century fantasies of “love” and little things may stand in my way of finding it, if I can be in a match half as strong and long-lasting as theirs, I’d consider myself a lucky person. Because 30 years and counting? That’s the real deal.

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