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.