Category Archives: love

Blowing the Lid off a Marriage

A good long day being folded and put away for the night suddenly flares up with an unexpected argument.
I forget what the disagreement was about but I remember how we went about it. A casual remark sparked a more vehement assertion from one of us. My tone became sharp. His voice grew louder. It felt like he was yelling at me. I stopped yelling back, but by now he was on a roll.
I looked at the child who was watching us. I hoped that he would see that both our child and I were distraught. I held her in my arms and lay down with her to sleep. I wanted to reassure her that it’s just a temporary fight, that arguments are a part of life. We’ll sort it out tomorrow.
I slept through the night instead of lying awake like a younger me might have done. It is a milestone in our relationship that I can turn away from an unfinished fight and just fall asleep.
The next morning demanded its own rhythm. Children get ready for school. There is a bus-stop and breakfast routine. He appears. He is sorry but he won’t say sorry. He sits around looking sorry. Some tears flow down my cheeks. We distract each other with conversations about logistics. We talk about other people. Future plans are made. Then we replay the “sorry scene” one more time. He won’t say sorry.
It might be faster to do that. But we are not efficient. Love is not efficient. It slows us down. Marriage chugs along, getting the work done. It has deadlines to meet.
We used to be the annoying couple who never seemed to disagree with each other. Friends would mock us for being so well behaved.
Last year when my husband and I exchanged gifts on our 10th wedding anniversary, I asked him for a few good arguments. I want to let go of the silences, I said. I realized that our “differences” scared us. Afzal would get angry and give up too easily. I would be fearful and try to cover up and deny them. One reason we seemed to get along so well was our fear that we had very little in common.
In the 11th year, we learned to fight. This month we complete 11 years of being married and to celebrate I am going to blow the lid off our marriage.
I am really good at making money and Afzal is really good at spending it.
“You are not supposed to keep money,” he reminds me, “you are supposed to spend it on what you want.”
I don’t get his logic at all. What are banks for? What are accounts for? What are envelopes stashed between saris for? Before I had children I was saving for their school fees. Now I must save for their higher education, no?

Apparently not. Well, I am learning to spend money after I have earned it and he is learning to earn money before he spends it.

I spent most of my growing-up years living in big city apartments. His home is a sprawling haveli in his village. He opens doors and windows and lets fresh air circulate in the house. I am learning to live with dust everywhere.
I grow indoor plants in cracked coffee mugs. He plants tree saplings. He is beginning to share my joy at the tight fist of a new leaf on the windowsill. I pretend to be interested when he gushes about the trees that will surround us 10 years from now. We live on the edge between my city and his village.
When setting food on the table, I use the words practical and logic a lot. He talks of adaab-e-dastarkhwan. I get impressed and accept his version of table etiquette. Besides, he’s in charge of the rules he sets.
We have the compulsive habit of showing each other the mirror. There was a time I would come home enamoured of this CEO I worked with, and narrate anecdotes in awe.
“The property dealers I meet are better than these corporate honchos,” he said. “Whatever they are, they are on the outside. They are honest that way.”
I am worse. I hit out at what he calls family. I show him what his mother endures. Propound theories about his father’s patience. The games other people play.
Outsiders in each other’s worlds, we are blind to hierarchies and unwritten rules. We make each other very uncomfortable in what used to be our comfort zones. Sometimes it is too much and we fight. Stripped of our security blankets, we find ourselves forced to redefine and articulate our choices again and again.
Marriage is the bad cop who keeps us on our toes. Love is the good cop who announces the tea break. The time to look out at the setting sun.
“Stop analysing everything, Natasha,” he interrupts me. “Life is not for analysing, it is for living. Live it.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Why are you so quiet?” he asks me after a long pause.
“You said, no analysis,” I say, “so I am being obedient.”
His face crinkles up in amusement.
Don’t be afraid to love. It is a terrible thing, but it keeps you alive. Be an adventure hunter, determined to keep some part of your innocence alive. I’m still new at this, jotting down notes on the side as we go along.
…………..
[This was first published on Livemint.com here: Blowing the lid of a marriage

What were we afraid of losing?

We spent our best years fighting
That was the best thing about them.

We began to live together when we began to fight
We began to fight when we became unafraid of losing.

What were we afraid of losing?
I know I was afraid of losing him.

I was afraid I would be hurt
Now I treat words like falling leaves, not a sharp knife.

When I have no words to counter the barrage from him
I leave the room.

Sometimes I stay and make faces at him
I let him fight with me.

Because that is love
Love slicing through silence like curtains pulled suddenly.

Too much sunlight makes us wince
Sometimes the view distracts us.

Why are you fighting with me, he says
You know why I am fighting with you, I say.

We fight because the silence stifles us
We fight to find out if we are still friends.

I fold some fights in the pages of time
Letting them mature over years.

By the time I bring them out between us
Some of them have become stories to tell.

Sometimes we start fighting as soon as we meet
As if we must accelerate everything.

There isn’t time for everything

So lets get straight to the point, lets fight to keep us together.


Rage, rage against the dying of the light

“That girl, your friend’s niece, she got married?”

It was a really random question I asked my mother. We were finishing dinner, she and I. The children had already eaten, I could hear a music based reality show on the TV in the other room.

“She’s back home, didn’t I tell you,” my mother said with alarm in her voice.

“What happened?”

“Oh, she had a terrible experience. The man she was married to was already in a relationship with someone else. He even had a child with that woman.”

“What?”

“Yes. He used to go out alone for long walks after dinner to talk to her on the phone. He would lock his new bride in the house, telling her that it was not safe for her. She didn’t even have a cell phone.”

My mother’s friend is a smart, rich, modern Indian woman. She has no children of her own. Her niece lost her father when she was a child. She has been raised by her mother, her grandmother, her aunt and her uncle (her mother’s brother)

One child among 4 adults. One young, pretty, educated, Delhi-born and raised working woman to be married. An arranged marriage is arranged. And botched.

How did they manage to do this? How did they meet and check out a young man and his family and not get a whiff that they were going to be cheated so badly? I want to know.

My mother tells me more. The in-laws had lied about their property and income. They had been greedy about the dowry they expected. There had been rudeness. Now the girl’s uncle has hired a detective who brought the news of his lover and their child.

No, no, no. Don’t tell me this happens all the time in India. Tell me HOW? Tell me how you guys do it. How and why do you betray your own children like this? Answer me.
Who were you trying to please when you acted against your gut and let this arranged marriage go through? The patriarch amongst you guys? The goddam extended family? The in-laws who never were.

What do you do with your brains? What do you do with your love? I know you felt love for your daughter when you were raising her. What did you DO WITH THAT LOVE?

Did you bury it in a shallow grave and pat in down with your shoe? Put it in the back of a drawer and let it die in the darkness? Leave it whimpering in the dark till it lost its voice?
No. I am NOT crying. I am freaking not crying.

My mother tries to calm me down. I ask her, “Mamma, when they could see that the in-laws were being greedy, that the groom was acting rude, then why didn’t they probe deeper then?”

“It’s not easy to tell these things,” she says.

“They hired a detective now, right? Why didn’t they hire one earlier? Oh I know that’s not how these things work.”

“People can’t tell these things,” she says.

“How can they NOT KNOW? People show so many signs, why do we overlook what is OBVIOUS. Or suspicious. I can SEE IT.

“You were like this even when you were a child,” my mother says.

I know I am screaming for me. I am screaming for all daughters. I am screaming to release the muffled voice inside me. Inside my mother.

I also wanted to live, Neeta screams at the end of Megha Dhaka Tara. “Dada, ami baachte chai.” 
Rescue me, she says. Let me live. Give me permission to live. To love.

Do you know where the tears come from?

When I died that day,
I didn’t die.
I broke many parts but I survived.
All of me didn’t live either.
I carried the dead weight with me for years.

That’s also why I cry.

At funerals where everyone else is dry-eyed.
At weddings,
When the bride begins to walk away.
In school, when children get on stage,
Unmasked.
Crying brings me back from my dead.

I cry for grandmothers who didn’t stop to mourn.
For people who were gone before I was born.

I cry for children silenced by abuse.
I close my eyes not knowing where the tears come from.
I cry because no one else did.


Parents who hate and try to pass it off as love.
Learning to be indifferent because feeling hurts too much.
Because we are strong.
We must move on.
We must get up and dust our hands.

I cry because it is an ocean inside.
I didn’t know it.
It surprises me.
Tears come in waves.
I struggle to remember the faces for whom I cry.

I cry because he never did.
I cry because he learned to laugh when he wanted to cry.
I cry because I want to stop him but I cannot.
I cry because it bothers him.
It jolts him.

It might make him cry one day.

Notes on M A B


MAB: I don’t know why I love you, but Damn! I do

Makes the most atrocious (embarrassing) PC. Unapologetically.

Is masseur par excellence.

Expert at cleaning the bathroom he uses…. he dries the floor with the wiper…. even if the effort makes him bathe with sweat.

Hates make-up. (But not made-up women)

Is excellent with our children…. even though he insists vehemently that he “Hates” children related chores. Brushing teeth, going park, attending school functions.
(‘Why should I travel by bus when I can afford a car? Get a maid, Natasha!’)

Has a special something with Nam Nam, although he dismisses it as my desire so strong that I imagine it.

Worships his Ammi.

I told him today that he is a conservative liberal.

Dreamer-doer.
Dreams up what Chris (our XXLsize English friend) used to call Beg Plans.
Dreams up these dreams and while others are silently praying that he may get over it, embarks on doing them…….. and pain or no pain, gain or no gain ends up doing them.

Some kind of a financial maverick. I cannot elaborate on that yet.

I’m beginning to realise that he has some strengths and talents of genius proportions (calibre)
I can’t quite put my finger on it yet…… but I am slowly getting a sense of it.
(partly from all the suffering he himself endures…. and partly from the suffering caused in me as a side effect of loving him and being true to him as intensely as I am)

Sounds a bit off, I know, but I am saying that even all this misery, pain, heartache and hidden diseases point to something big brewing inside. It wouldn’t hurt so much if he weren’t aiming so high and working so hard. And stretching himself all the way from Adilabad to God knows best where.
It may well be that in some way he is stuck. On his own, he is not being able to make a breakthrough. Or he isn’t ready for it, yet.
We’ll find out.

So what the hell are we two doing together? We don’t know yet, but we’re keeping at it. God guiding us.
He is so silly, he doesn’t even know yet that we have the same God. I mean Af is silly, not God, of course.

Is an artist. People artist. Self trained. Sometimes frustrated, but then this path is hard.

Meanwhile he continues to make atrocious PC.
And brush their teeth at night even as he can’t stand anymore with that pain in his legs. Then massage three pairs of little feet to put them to sleep.