I was always rushing—like a true Mumbaikar—skipping breakfast, taking the local train at peak time, jumping the line at the taxi stand, pressing the elevator button repeatedly, and jostling the crowd. At work, it was super hectic always—completing assignment targets, attending conferences, client meets, and strategic planning sessions. After work, it was a mad rush to reach home, clean up, cook, swap stories with family, read and surf the Web. I believe I tossed in my sleep too. This was how the days went by, sprinkled with some holidays, time-out with friends, movies, spa retreats, and such. A normal, middle-class life of an average working girl. Much of what happened next is linked to the essence of Mumbai, its liberated, open-minded, bindaas attitude, and the hard-working, purpose-driven way of life.
Marriage happened. An arranged marriage with a city educated, North Indian guy who is caring, loving, open-minded, and a complete gentleman.
Nothing could have been better, except for new rules. The first of many was no more going to office. Cool. I started working from home.
Then came cooking for the large family. Well, it was difficult, but I soon mastered the art. Gradually, I gained new skills. Because learning new things is always so much fun, right?
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The realisation dawned late that those skills were not just for learning, but for rebuilding the life I knew so well. A year later, nothing was the same as old. I was doing all the household chores with no help, contributing financially to the house, giving feasts, getting pregnant, relying totally on the Internet to cope with pregnancy, and sitting up until early morning to finish as many work assignments as possible, among others. It was taxing and frustrating. I was used to working hard and multitasking came naturally. But it was depressing. This wasn’t what I had envisioned as my future.
The future was supposed to be all happening, fun, travelling the world, getting pampered, wearing great clothes, and making great deals at work. How did my life turn upside down?
How could I let my life become a tangled mess of expectations, duties, and ethics? Then I snapped. I wanted desperately to get rid of the whole load of responsibilities and the pressure. I wanted to end the marriage!
I wrote a long mail to my husband, listing all my complaints and explaining how I could not continue. The mail was in the drafts and I had puffy eyes from crying all day. And he called. I hastily wiped the tears and composed my voice to remove all traces of tremor. If he knew I was crying, he would come over immediately to my Mom’s.
“When are you coming back? This time I am just not letting you go to your Mom’s. The home is not the same without you.”
“Guess what. I finally got paid yesterday. Check your WhatsApp. I will call you later.”
He had sent me an image. An image of a ring encasing a tiny diamond with the caption, ‘The stone shall grow bigger with each year of our togetherness. That means a big shiny mountain at the end of our lives’.
It was not the promise of a diamond mountain that made me delete my mail draft. It was the promise and the belief in the future. I realised there was so much lacking in our lives, but what I had was priceless. I had love.
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I could see a hope to get it all together with someone who was a part of my journey. The marriage was tough; tough on him too. He has also let go of so much he wanted at the price of being with me, to provide me with love, comfort, and support. He left his parents’ home to move to Mumbai to establish his business, he left his roots, the familiar faces, that favorite spot in the house…Like me, he too was starting afresh. He changed his way of life too. There were fewer boys’ days out, for there were fewer friends here. More of saving, less of spending. He had changed his set of priorities too. I now featured in his top-priority list. It was probably more difficult for me, but not easier for him.
I realised then that he never complains. I respected him so much more. I don’t know whether I love him or for that matter what love exactly is. But I knew that I would be lost without him.
Every marriage has so many elements to make it fail. We fight some and some hit us hard. Life never promised to be easy, but if it could give you one reason to smile every day, it’s worth it all.
Archana Sharma wrote of another arranged marriage that took a while to settle down. Akshata Ram started out believing she needed to be everything and do everything, only to realise that she didn’t have to be Superwoman all the time.