A Long, Happy Marriage – My Secret Formula

Who is Sulabh? Well, it would be more appropriate to ask What is Sulabh?

The current flavor of the season, indeed, is Virushka (the conjugal alliance of a world-famous cricketer and an established film star is what the media dreams of writing about), with matching stakes in looks, fame, and fortune. They are followed very closely by Harkle or Harghan or Megharr, depending on what the cheesy media nomenclaturists will choose to call the blue bloodied bond of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Everybody and their brother, in every corner of the globe, it seems, loves a good romance and a fairy tale wedding. That is, until, the bells for divorce begin to chime. Statisticians tell us that divorce rates are increasing in India, Australia, UK, all across Europe and the US. In States, the divorce rates have fallen marginally in the last couple of years but are still at the 50% mark with subsequent marriages facing an even higher rate.

The six main reasons for divorce cited by divorce coaches and marriage educators are – strong urge for independence, couples don’t know how to fight fair, ‘My way or the Highway’ mentality, declining morals and skewed beliefs, marriages are viewed as disposable in today’s society and our marital expectations are childish.

The six main reasons for divorce cited by divorce coaches and marriage educators are – the strong urge for independence, couples don’t know how to fight fair, ‘My way or the Highway’ mentality, declining morals, and skewed beliefs, marriages are viewed as disposable in today’s society and our marital expectations are childish.

Yet, there are some of us who believe in eternal love, until death do us apart and the “saat janams.” We see many elders in India celebrating their 50th year of togetherness, a cousin recently celebrated her silver, another contemporary is inching towards 20 years.

We – Sulabh and I – personally celebrated 23 years of our Friendiversary (yes, there is such a word in our lexicon now) and 17 years of having been married happily.

So, it set me thinking just what we may be doing right. I realized that I have a partner who is far removed from the patriarchal pressures of identity and does not define himself by the stale, old notions of ‘lord and master.’ Here’s how Sulabh, having stepped away from every regressive diktat, has been the anchor for our blissful conjugality.

Sulabh to me is faith, fate, feelings, and fortitude much more than the mere presence of another human being by my side.

Sulabh could have been a cookie-cutter spouse with all the thrust-upon roles and expectations that make such a liaison unbearable, irksome and laboured. But Sulabh has been a gust of fresh air, supporting logic and reason, while non-conforming with the staid and stagnant beliefs that have infested our society and psyche. He has always been open to the idea of paving one’s own road to the final destination of our journey together.

Sulabh has never been just about looks. In fact, I was shocked when in the second year of our togetherness; my Australian Boss saw him waiting for me on his Scooter outside her Anand Niketan residence and remarked, “Gosh, he is one hell of a sexy man.” To me, Sulabh has never been sexy in the theoretical definition of the word. To me, he has been the comfort and coziness of a teddy bear that I have snuggled into each time I have been bitten harshly by the world.

Sulabh is not the royal blood that ran in his mother’s father. He is not any of the arrogance that may have sat on the head of his much landed, Brahmin ancestors to whose family, as a matter of huge pride and privilege, belonged the town temple and the resident deity (the Kuldevi).

Sulabh is the love that fills the void left behind by my father and mother who passed on early. He is the testimony to one of life’s wonderful truths – that a spouse can also fill the shoes of parents lost in the race of life.

Sulabh is not his gold-medalist, Leeds graduated, Violin-playing, much recognized and published Mining Engineer father who made several wrong decisions by going into business and having lost it all, landed penniless at our doorstep.

Sulabh is the promise, that no matter what and how many downs we face, tomorrow will always be better, shinier and hopeful.

Sulabh is not his maternal Uncle with the aristocratic title and possessions. Sulabh is the supporting pillar of the home we have built for ourselves, with our own sweat and toil.

Sulabh is not even the non-resident American Cardiologist Uncle, who allegedly had George Harrison amongst some of his famous patients. To Sulabh, I am the celebrity who is meant to conquer the world and come out on top of anything I choose to do.

Sulabh has never been about the shams and societal pressures that families can impose. He is not about rituals and practices either. Yet, he has kept each and every Karva Chauth along with me, without any persuasion and ensuing drama.

Sulabh is never about He and She. It is always the We that matter. And this is just not about gender. It is taken to all other roles and responsibilities. It spreads to being just and showing respect to all around, including the lowest common denominator who work for us.

Sulabh is the least about idolizing and conforming. Or coercing me to follow in the footsteps of his family where religion or matters of culture go. Instead, he too sees the God in things and people I hold supreme, recognizing the divinity in my dog children, the peacocks and squirrels I feed, the greenery I nurture, the inclusiveness I bring in for those people who need the most care and attention.

Sulabh is a mirror to me, accepting me just the way I am. There is nary a need to spruce oneself up or polish and paint to present a pretty visage. I am who I am, in whatever shell I am encased in at that particular point in time and that is all there is to it.

Sulabh is my conscience. He is constantly telling me when my own standards fall, where I weaken and waver, the moment when I lose touch with my soul.

Sulabh is the very fairy tale where there are no mental demons to slay or villains of ego to kill; where there are only happy endings.

Sulabh is as real as they come with failings and flaws, and habits that annoy or mannerisms that irritate. Yet, with so much of niceness hanging out naturally from his every pore, he is stuff that dreams are made of.

Sulabh falls, Sulabh fails, Sulabh falters. But Sulabh is the reassurance that we must have the courage to nurture the vision for a fine tomorrow built on today’s endeavors and convictions.

Sulabh is the pair of arms I run into, every time the lies of this world and lightning from the sky scare me. He is the rock solid shoulder I can lean on when parts of me disintegrate internally and all I wish to do is crumble and cry.

Sulabh is an affirmation of the beauty of life and the significance of living even when death tears me apart and ravages me somewhere inside.

Sulabh is the very breath I inhale and exhale. If it were not for him, then I would have long been dead, having stared loss squarely in the coldness of its eyes and faced the passing of some of my most dearest.

And that is the secret formula for a long, happy marriage – respect, trust, understanding, sacrifice, compromise, honesty, you before I, logic and reasoning as against ego, open-mindedness as against blinkers of age-old practices, and most of all unadulterated, simple, uncomplicated love.


L. Aruna Dhir
L. Aruna Dhir
L. Aruna Dhir is a Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist for some of the world’s highest-ranked Hospitality publications. Her industry writings are syndicated to the finest global hospitality bodies and used as references in case studies and hotel schools. Aruna runs an exclusive channel on the award-winning media digest, BizCatalyst 360° called “Hospitality Matters” based on her hospitality industry insight and commentary. Aruna is a recognized and national-poll winning Corporate Communications Specialist, PR Strategist, and Writer. A seasoned hotelier, Aruna loves to present hospitality industry watch, insights, case studies, and analysis to her ever-increasing base of global readership. Aruna has over two decades of experience in Hospitality Communications and Brand Management and has worked with some of the best global hotel companies. In her last corporate role, Aruna was the Director – Public Relations at The Imperial New Delhi, where she was part of the core group and was responsible for re-launching The Imperial as one of the finest hotels in India and Asia. Aruna’s hotel experience includes leading the Marketing Communications and Public Relations portfolio for flagship properties at The Oberoi Group and Hyatt International. She also helped launch the Vilases as the uber-luxury experiences from the Oberoi stable. As an industry expert, Aruna has launched brands, developed training modules, created standardization dockets on business communication, written manuals, conducted Image Study & Positioning Analysis, and led media campaigns of Australian Ministers in India. Aruna Dhir’s successful work tenure with Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in India in the capacity of Media Relations Officer, saw her working on a host of never-done-before exciting projects including the hugely rewarding organisation of Australia-India New Horizons – Australia’s largest ever Country Promotion. Aruna Dhir is the first-ever Creative Writer for the Indian greeting cards giant – ARCHIES Greetings and Gifts Ltd. The milestone puts her in the league of Helen Steiner Rice and Amanda Bradley. While with the company she came out with several series of cards sold under her byline – an unprecedented feat that has not been repeated since. L. Aruna Dhir also dabbles in poetry and has to her credit two titles of Anthologies published and marketed by Archies G&G Ltd. Aruna serves on the Board of Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues (AELD), a front-running Commonwealth Body that works towards developing leaders and influencers of tomorrow, with Princess Anne as its international President. Aruna has been engaged in freelance work for Doordarshan – the Indian National Television, All India Radio, and Times FM. Academically, L. Aruna Dhir topped at the All-India level in her PG Diploma in Public Relations and Advertising. Aruna has been a Ph.D. scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, akin to an Ivy League in India. She has earned a Senior Management Course Certification from the Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; V Dimension Management Company, London & Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines. Aruna Dhir has represented India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the GSE Program of Rotary International. She has also participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia and chaired by Princess Anne. Aruna is a Life Member of the Public Relations Society of India A Freelance Writer since 1987, with articles that have appeared in India’s topmost newspapers and magazines, Aruna is also a blogger, a memoirist with works published on platforms like Medium and a Book reviewer on Goodreads. In her official and personal capacity L. Aruna Dhir has and continues to work on several social awareness projects – People for Animals, Earthquake Relief, National Blind Association, PETA, WSPA,, Friendicoes to name a few. Born at Allahabad (now Prayagraj), one of the world’s oldest known cities, L. Aruna Dhir grew up and did her schooling in Dehradun, regarded as a prominent seat of academia and literature. After being brought up in the sylvan surroundings of the verdant Doon valley, Aruna chose to make the Capital City of Delhi her second home.

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