Engaged to growth

A month ago, my partner and I decided to get engaged. Considering all the practical logistics – my daughter’s exams, my brother-in-law’s annual leave, my nephew-in-law’s Christmas holidays – we zoomed in on December 23 as our date. We had only our immediate family and very few close friends with us at the dinner held at my parents’ home. It was a simple affair, nothing ritualistic except an exchange of rings. The idea was mostly to get his family and mine to meet. We were both slightly abashed about it: I, because I’ve been married before and am a mother of two teens, for heaven’s sake. He, because he is generally not one for PDA, and even holding my hand to put the ring on was a matter of acute embarrassment for him. He didn’t even look at me in the eyes, and I have warned him that he has to repeat the whole thing properly one day when we are alone.

Most friends were happy for us, because somewhere our step reaffirmed their own faith in happy endings, and the triumph of kambakht ishq (‘damned romantic love’) over societal rules. Both our mothers’ eyes shone with a deep contentment that their children had found equal partners in this lifetime – mothers can see soul connections in ways that fathers never can. His father is no more, and my father was a bit sad – for reasons I will never know. And my children? Ah, those pieces of my heart were divided with both happiness and pain. Happiness for me, pain for themselves because they fear they will lose me.

(I think of them that night as fragile, slender roses made of smooth glass, tinges of red, blue and green for all their conflicting emotions. I have to hold them tenderly, tenderly even in my thoughts.)

A couple of wizened, worldly friends, though, asked: Why marry at all? Why not just stay together as a couple? Why do you need marriage now, at this stage, when you have already broken rules and survived?

For my partner, the answer is simple. He hasn’t been married before and he wants to be. He has a positive perception of marriage, unlike me.

For me, the answer is a question. If life is about taking on challenges, setting off on new adventures, then isn’t this as good an adventure as any? I can’t go hang-gliding over steep cliffs in Australia, or trekking up to Kailash Mansarovar, but I can plunge into the next big thing that frightens the hell out of me and leaves me tremulous with exhilaration: Marriage. I cannot confront sharks and tigers, but I can confront my own demons. I cannot set off into the forests of the Amazon but I can set off into an uncertain future, chart my own new path and deal with whatever happens using whatever resources I have developed over time. Life is too short to live in a comfort zone. I have to jump, soak myself in the doubts and delirium, and learn to fly.

It is an icky inner adventure, admittedly, not a glamorous external holiday. Nothing I can post Facebook pictures about, or share with anyone, even him. But the most difficult journeys – sometimes the most rewarding too – are the ones we must take inside us. Let the tears flow if they must, let the monsters and beasts come on out, let the ground fall away beneath my feet. I’m in this to the end.


3 thoughts on “Engaged to growth

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