This month, Bapuji and Ba will have been married for 75, yes seventy five, and I don’t mind writing it again, SEVENTY FIVE years. It is the second diamond wedding in the anniversary calendar. I had hoped to time this blog entry for Valentine’s day, but in the end, it really does not matter, for after two countries, seven children, eleven grandchildren, four great grandchildren, a thousand or more overnight guests, tens of long-haul flights, death and disability, bucketfuls of joy and laughter this couple, who have survived a lifetime with each other, hardly need the reminder of love which occurs on the Feast of St Valentine. Besides, theirs was not a conventional marriage, in terms of here and now. For them, love came later.
Bapuji and Ba had not set eyes on each other when they married; there were no photographs and meeting in person was certainly not possible- forbidden by culture and distance. The marriage was arranged by Bapuji’s boss in Africa, a respected elder with many connections. Bapuji travelled back to India on a dinghy, and was wed wearing a long coat over the traditional peasant ‘dhoti’. Ba cannot remember the colour of the sari that was bought for her; it holds none of the romance that a much-desired wedding dress has for brides today. Two innocents were married.
Bapuji remembers how nervous he was as he tried to keep up his pretence of confidence; to Ba he was the tall, fair, handsome groom who had travelled far and was wise to the ways of the world. When Ba’s uncle asked Bapuji to look after his ‘daughter’ (he had taken over responsibility for Ba as she had no father), Bapuji replied magnanimously “Do not worry, your daughter is my daughter”. His immediate look of mortification resulted in an eruption of laughter, and with that the newlyweds returned to the small town of Gunda, where they stayed with Bapuji’s sister-in-law, Motiba. In the weeks that followed the couple tried to get to know each other, battling shyness and propriety, under the ever-watchful eye of Motiba. Just one month after the wedding, Bapuji was once again bound for distant shores, leaving behind his young bride.
It was a difficult start to their union. Two years passed before Bapuji and Ba were reunited, before married life could finally begin. The love that forms the foundation of most modern marriages grew slowly, and together, Bapuji and Ba have a bond that is as unbreakable as diamonds. It is a normal marriage of good- natured teasing and irritable bickering; Ba may complain about Bapuji’s annoying habits but she also massages his aching legs every day.
When asked what his advice would be for couples now Bapuji stated “Lead a simple life; do not set unachievable ambitions for yourself or have unrealistic expectations of your spouse. Learn that you have to forgive.”