A chat with Suneil Shetty about his life and love.
Do you think love is permanent?
Yes, I fell in love with my wife. It’s been 26 years now, nine years of seeing each other and then we got married. After a few years when she delivered my baby girl, I again fell in love with her, and this time it was love plus respect for her. I also realised the strength of a woman during that time. So there came love and respect at the same level that I would give my mother.
Then was another level of love that came after, when both of us were in love with our daughter. Later was the two of us in love with our son. So the love kept multiplying over the years. And now I’m looking for ‘mool se zyaada sood’ – where the attachment will be passed on to my grandchildren. So this is how love continues, and it is a valid reason for marriage. I think it’s beautiful.
It’s not that every day we give each other roses and she cooks meals and puts candles on the table. There is mushy love where there needs to be. I have honestly celebrated every single day. My wife is an expressive person. I go to work in the morning, and when I come back in the evening, she is all mushy, whereas I am like “Yeah, okay, I just left in the afternoon,” but that’s how it is. For me loving her is appreciating her. I make sure I go back home. I don’t go anywhere without her. We have our meals together. We discuss anything and everything under the sun. I respect her tremendously.
What is your idea of love?
For me, it’s about believing in each other and letting a woman do what she wants to do. She wants to work. Okay, let her. And at the same time a woman who is aware of who her husband is and what does he like or dislike and vice versa.
What are the most significant gains from your companionship?
My children are my most significant gains.
What does ‘giving space’ in a relationship mean to you?
It means letting her develop her personality. She is not just Sunil Shetty’s wife but is Mana Shetty, an individual. She has a personality of her own.
Do you think giving space in a relationship is important?
Giving each other space is very important. Probably that is why a lot of the relationships today don’t work. Kids get married today, and in a month they split because they do not believe in giving each other the freedom to do what they want to. If they thought that they need to give their partner that space, issues won’t come up. Ego is another thing that is killing relationships today.
Do you think that maintaining privacy has placed in a committed relationship?
Absolutely, and that’s why you have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s not about checking each other’s phone. There has to trust in a relationship for that. My phone is always lying there, and hers is lying where I am. Why would I need to check? There should be no need to check each other’s phones.
Does forgiving come to you naturally and organically?
I think it comes naturally to me, not only with my partner but with anybody else too. If I am upset I know that I am only upset only for that period and mentally I have understood that I’m angry just for two-three hours and later I forgive the person anyways, so why just waste those two, three hours? I bounce back in three minutes only. As I have aged, I have learnt not to waste time. Let’s just leave it.
What are the most significant relationship challenges for a couple in urban India?
The Internet. Two people sitting together for dinner is a challenge when both are on the phone instead of talking with each other. That is common, and that’s what the person says, “What you are doing, you are more on the phone.” That’s where the problem starts. This damn phone. This damn Internet. I mean you shut off your Internet after 9 o’clock. Shut off WhatsApp. Shut off your phone. And you’ll see how you sleep and how your relationship will improve.
You practice that as well?
I do. I don’t have a phone in my room.
Do you make sure that Athiya and Aahan also shut off their phones after 9 pm?
I don’t get into my children’s space. I can tell them that much. They are adults. I will never get into their area because there is a generation gap whether you like it or not. Why would I want them to get irritated at me? So I’d rather say, “Fine baby, be careful, make sure you sleep.” I’d replace it by saying sleep for 8 hours. You need 8 hours of sleep.
What do you fear most about your relationship?
It’s always losing the loved ones that scare me. I keep thinking, what would life be without them? Because I am so dependent on her, she is so reliant on me.
Are there conflicts that you’ve avoided in the relationship?
Of course. So many times. Sometimes she is angry, and I am right, but still, I let it go. I don’t get into it. Of course, we fight, we argue, but mostly we let it go.
Now that you look back, what do you think are the biggest mistakes you made in your relationship?
No, I don’t think I have made any mistake at all. The only error that I think I’ve made is to take nine years to get married to Mana. That was also because my parents didn’t want me to get married. Mana comes from a different community. I come from a small, simple South Indian community. I do think that I wasted that time. Probably if I were married earlier, I would have had grandchildren by now. So, I miss that part.