A Valentine’s Day party the desi way

BY AJANTA GOSWAMI

The invite read
The Phookans are planning to celebrate ‘a little bit of family love’  this Valentine’s day, with our Muncie Peeps plus their families, at our Home Sweet Home.
1.Wear you best BLING BLING from your Sweet heart
2.Bring your fav Chocolate Dessert & or a Choco Drink.
We will share the ‘ton of love’ you bring, piecemeal by piecemeal, sip by sip, while group singing & dancing to many romantic Bollywood numbers.

  • I cleaned the house.
  • I cleaned the sidewalks.
  • I put up the streamers and the balloons
  • I  stacked the paper products
  • I filled the water jugs & the electric tea kettle,
  • I chilled  the wine & the soft drinks.
  • I sprayed the rooms with honeysuckle deodorizer.

Setting the mood for love, love and more love. 
‘Why celebrate Valentine’s day with the Muncie Peeps’? you might ask,
‘Why not celebrate it with hubby dear?’

  • What is happening here?
  • Have they fallen out of love?
  • Has the romance fizzled? 

You brain  must be buzzing with all kinds of unasked questions.

Believe me, on my end, I too have many questions…

Valentine’s is a big day in the Western world for celebration of love & romance
I hear folks in India, too, these days are celebrating Valentine’s day. They are craving to keep up with the western values & the modern times.
1.However do you ever wonder
if Valentine’s day celebrations equals to love & romance, why does a couple get to celebrate it only on one day per year?
2.How does chocolates, flowers or a candlelight dinner on Valentine’s day bring about romance in their relationship long term?
3.What if a couple express their love for one another everyday with small
acts

  • like getting a drink of water at night, without asking,
  • folding up the dry clothes, when one is tired,
  • taking the car to the garage, with a smile,
  • taping of a favorite TV show to watch together later,
  • listening to songs they both love on the car radio?

Is that not considered love? 
Are they not romantic enough?

In the famous Broadway Musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ when asked by Tevye
‘Do you love me’? 
Golde’s replies  
‘For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought him, starved with him, Twenty-five years my bed is his, If that’s not love, what is?’ 

ajanta1

Terrific answer in my Desi opinion!

Why?

Because growing up in India, n
obody & I mean nobody, talked about love or romance being a prerequisite for ‘a marriage’ to occur. Indeed, there were no dating, no romancing, no falling in love, no long courtships encouraged  among the youngsters. If a couple fell in love it was an exception rather than the rule. And their love shrouded in secrecy for fear of reprisals.  There certainly was  no hugging, kissing, or any public physical display of love by a  couple before or even after the wedding. Coming from a good(sic!) family meant, boundaries between the sexes were strictly maintained in public, with no transgressions whatsoever.

For many youngsters the first time society publicly sanctions a meeting between a ‘boy and a girl’ is when the boy comes to ‘see’ the girl chosen by his parents. 
It is a token yes to the marriage; that is what is expected of the couple.

Nothing more.
The parents in most cases are the ones that make ‘that call’.

Why?
Because per the Desi culture, the parents know what is the best for their child! 

  • Is the boy a good provider?
  • Can he be trusted to make mature choices in life?
  • Will the extended family care for the daughter? 

The unasked critical questions that goes through the mind of the bride’s parents while negotiating with the grooms family.

  • Will the girl be docile, caring, kind & respectful?
  • Will she be able to provide children  specially boys,to keep the lineage going?
  • Will she take up her domestic responsibilities well, with no complaints?

The questions that  goes thru the mind  of the groom’s parents.

The main criterion however, that ultimately clinches the marriage deal is the matching of the couples horoscopes. The celestial blessing!

But coming back to that first visit…
What can one figure out about their life partner in that heavily orchestrated first meeting?
Nothing at all in my biased opinion!

Even after the engagement ceremony takes place, the couple have very limited social visits.
Indeed the Desi  expectation is that most of  the youngsters will develop a meaningful, sustainable relationship only after the wedding vows are taken! Marriage is the binding institution that will allow for their relationship to flourish and grow.

Not love, not romance but joint responsibilities, duty, sacrifice, hard work, honesty, are some of the words used to describe successful marriages in the Desi context. That is what most families aspire for their children, when choosing a mate. Since there are no major expectations of love & romance in the marriage, if that happened it was a blessing. If not,there were no major regrets in either partner.

Which brings up an interesting question
Is it essential  to have ‘love & romance’ for a marriage to work well?  

Depends on who you ask!
Were my parents, my uncles, my aunts, my grandparents

  • not happy?
  • not satisfied?
  • not fulfilled?

in their arranged marriage?
Were they simply  accepting of their sad fate of not starting their life with love & romance? I really could not tell, for it never occurred to me to ask!  They looked happy enough to me when I think back!!!

In the Phookan household we fight, we yell, we refuse to compromise, we question each other’s decision, we go to bed mad, we get up mad..no not roses, not chocolates, no nothing many days. 

When you have a baby crying whose diaper needs changing, the telephone is ringing and the curry is burning on the stove…you dont think of romance. Instead you yell with considerable anger at your spouse that is flipping the TV channels for no good reasons.’Can you look up and help here before I throw something at you?’ And he smiles and changes the baby’s diaper.Well to me that constitutes  the perfect relationship… ‘Rab ne bana di jodhi'( God created this partnership)

When you come home after a long long day of work and someone cheerfully asks   ‘What are we having for dinner tonight honey’. Gritting your teeth,you reply in your calm, quiet, contained  voice ‘Toast and tea if you are lucky’  He looks at your face and immediately agrees “Oh yes. And I love you too”
He indeed is your soul mate.

  • Does that mean we have a horribly terrible marriage?
  • And our relationship is floundering?
  • And we are hate mates as opposed to soul mates?
  • And there is no love or romance left? 

I think not
I truly believe we have a very realistic, mundane, boring, everyday marriage- like zillions of couples all over the world.  

For whether it is a love marriage, or an arranged marriage (or a long term relationship), over time & in dealing with the hassles and stresses of daily living, most couples tend to get jaded, fatigued and tired.
Many days who has the time or the desire for love & romance!!!
Indeed, after a few years of marriage,in most households, the ratio of romance to mundane days can range anywhere from 1: 364 to 364:1!

On the other hand for most couples, as they navigate the variegates of life together, they mature emotionally & develops a better understanding and respect for each other.

  • They become tolerant & patient
  • They become caring & affectionate
  • They become accepting & forgiving

Love & romance…. do they not matter at all? No I will not go to that extend.
We all need a little bit of love.
We all need a little bit of romance.
For they certainly add to the allure, the charm, the  excitement of being a couple.

Even in my times in India…we went Ohhs and Ahhs when we saw a husband buying flowers( gajra) for his wife hair or a saree for her birthday. The over dramatized romantic Bollywood songs we saw in the movie theatres, turned our knees to jelly! I must say life will definitely be quite boring, desolate & in vain without such sentiments!!

However they are not the core traits that will enable a marriage to traverse and to survive the rocky road called ‘Life’. Indeed you may have bucket loads of love & romance, but without the core foundation, the building called marriage, is shaky and prone to break easy!

Hence my gripe of celebrating only ‘love & romance’ of a partnership on Valentine’s day.

In my  humble opinion, what needs to be highlighted, glorified, & advertised everywhere in the world on Valentine’s day, are the  GLUING traits, that can keep a mundane, boring relationship going strong for decades. Scale down on the ‘love & romance’ while celebrating the ordinary traits of caring, tolerance, forgiveness, duty, responsibility etc, that daily life demands.

An American ritual with a Desi twist 
‘A Desi Flavored American Valentine’s Day’
Why not?
Why not start a trend?

A celebration of mundane boring traits of a successful & stable relationship which leads to the formation of a stable & loving family life.

*****On a side note
Boy!  oh boy! I cant wait to see what Gautam will bring me on Valentine’s day?

What is the price of our love? 
And will it keep our jaded marriage energized for another year? 

Priceless questions!

Ajanta Goswami

Ajanta Goswami

Ajanta Goswami MD, has been living in Muncie, Indiana for the past 16 years. She, and her husband Gautam and son Sujoy consider themselves to be "Hoosiers with an Assamese heart". A Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist by profession, Ajanta is actively involved in many community projects pertaining to prevention of Child Abuse, and in promotion and acceptance of diversity population living in the heartlands. She has received numerous community and citizenship awards in the past several years for her work in these fields. Of late she has started a column called "Middle age and restless" in capturing the angst of an middle-aged immigrant living in the States.