I am no authority on marriage. But I committed to marry a man that I only met once. We had corresponded with each other for over a year, emails mainly.
We have been married for eight years now. And while many, many things go into making a marriage work, I have realised that kindness, tolerance and humour help a big deal.
Yesterday, we were watching an episode of the American sitcom series Seinfeld (the series ran from 1989 to 1998). It has an old world charm to it (no mobiles, Compaq laptops…) and in this particular episode, George Constanza (he’s one of the four main characters in the sitcom) decides to get engaged, and then almost instantly regrets it. This is because he has to pass over outings with Jerry Seinfeld (the chief protagonist in the series) that involve some activities that he really loves, like watching action movies and baseball games, and has to instead watch romantic movies like Mad About You with his fiancé.
While watching the episode, I was reminded of how the husband often came with me to watch movies like My Cousin Rachael, The Light Between Oceans and Rebecca – and when we once almost ran into his colleague while going for the movie The Light Between Oceans, he had quickly covered his face with his hands and stepped aside – he didn’t want to be caught watching that movie.
And I also remember that when we were finally seated for the movie, (it was a Tuesday night), there were only four of us in the cinema hall.
“And three of them are women, including you,” my husband had moaned.
So I thought of that moment and of various others. Including, comparing how Constanza in that episode responds to his fiancé (in monosyllables) when she asks him about his day and how the husband used to respond like that too (albeit over a phone call when we had been engaged), and I couldn’t resist asking him:
“Nandan, do you, like Constanza, regret the loss of that independence that comes from being single?”
“Like what?”, he paused the episode.
“Like, just being able to watch as many action movies you want to without having to watch an equal number of romantic ones or just sit on the sofa watching television and having your dinner, and not have to sit at the table and have a proper meal?”
“No. I got married because I wanted those things. I had enough of having an apartment all to myself or just watching movies by myself. In fact,” and he paused,
“I wanted to sit down at the table for dinner and make conversations, BUT -“
And we both burst out laughing before he could finish that line. That is because he likes to make conversation when we are sitting down to eat. Conversation that isn’t about yes or no, but like deep, meaningful conversation and answers that cannot be answered in a yes or a no, or a maybe. And as luck would have it, I don’t like long, deep conversations over a meal, because, well, they come in way of eating! I usually fall silent when eating because I just want to eat.
I mean, if you are eating, delving into that piece of Konkani masala marinated fish or mutton biryani, or peanut stuffed aubergines and someone asks, ‘What do you think of the politics of caste?’ or ‘What do you think of the book you are reading?’, how do you possibly answer that?
I cannot answer questions like these without pausing, without letting the food go cold. If it were a question like – ‘What do you think of Trump?,’ I could have answered in a word, and we could have gone on with our meal.
I can sum up what I think about Trump in a single word, but deeper, layered conversations are for after dinner. Over a coffee or a cup of tea. Not for when a delicious piece of fish or a bowl of hot dal is waiting for you on your plate. You can’t keep a tenderly cooked piece of meat or a deliciously stuffed aubergine waiting on your plate.
So, he tolerates my absolute nun-like silence over meal times. I tolerate his asking me endless questions over lunch and dinner in spite of knowing fully well that he will not get any meaningful answers. He tolerates my choice of movies and in return, I accompany him to his choice of movies (read mafia, science fiction, crime…I just don’t give him company for horror. I do not have the stomach for it. Have any of you ever watched Korean horror?)
And then there is humour. Not all differences are tided over by humour or by kindness or by being tolerant, but there are situations like the one above, when he comes up with a really good punchline and we go laughing in the middle of an episode.