Times can change but some things never will.
A prince charming still comes on a horse and sweeps the dainty darling off her feet. He still serenades and charms her with his boyish looks and chivalry. This was the case when my mother was growing up ninety years ago, when I was growing up fifty years ago and when my daughter was growing up twenty years ago. And I suppose this will be the case for pretty much forever.
I found my prince one fine day sitting amidst many eager relatives. I hardly got to speak with him as he and his family scrutinized me. With my head bowed down, I hoped that he is everything I have been always hoping and praying for. It turned out he wasn’t.
And that is because he was more than it all 🙂
Well, he is not the sorts who buys me flowers or writes me songs.
He is not the sort who springs surprises or plans dates.
He is not even the sort who remembers all anniversaries and takes me for candlelight dinners.
You look at me dazed? Then how is he exactly, you ask?
Well, he is the sort who forgets everything and sits by my side when I have fever.
He is the sort who slips on the road while going to pick our child from school but still makes it in time, with a big smile.
He is the sort who spends days helping me prepare delicacies when our children visit from abroad.
Now that is prince charming in diamond for you alright, ain’t he!
At an age when my knees creak at times and my feet give up at the end of a long day, I find it tough to feel old from inside. My body has aged but my heart has not. Without asking for me permission, or waiting for me to exercise any control, my body has taken its own reigns and it is speeding along the years of life at its own pace and volition. But my heart somehow stays untouched by what is happening to me outside. It feels forced inside an aging body. It tells me often that it is untouched by what has happened to it with all milestones in life, it still feels the same dreams, it still cherishes the same hopes that it did yesterday, or a week before or years before.
A typical middle class girl born in a huge family with many brothers and sisters.
A deep interest in theater and drama, but an atmosphere where woman got married and tended to their families as a default.
An M.A. degree obtained with some effort and cajoling – a rarity in a family of children not much interested in education, despite a highly qualified father and a wise though family-burden-laden mother.
An arrange marriage at the age of twenty-three to somebody seen once and related to elder sister’s husband’s sister’s husband.
Entry into a huge joint family with limited means, fewer rooms and almost non-existent open-mindedness.
A resulting life often marked by arguments, fights and pressure from sisters-in-law in all areas concerning how she should live her life and bring up her children.
A caring husband despite burdens of family pressures and politics, three beautiful children, fascination for cooking, unbeatable sense of humor and an undying hope for a beautiful life.
Children growing up to be loving, responsible and successful. Finally freedom from the joint family to be able to live her life on her own terms after many years of marriage and many ups-and-downs later.
And after you picture the above, you arrive more or less at where I am today. But all said and done, I have lived a full life so far. I have laughed and cried, loved and cared, given and taken, gone up and down. If I have wrinkles, it is because I have laughed so hard at times that my skin creased, if my knees hurt me at times it is because I have ran around organizing things and events for friends and family, if I my memory is failing it is because for years I was the first one to wish everyone a happy birthday, if my hair is graying and thinning it is because I have gained knowledge and experience from everything I have seen or done.
And I am proud of the woman I am today, and the woman I am becoming with each passing day. And you know what? I am proud of the man who has helped become this woman. The man who sees me as the child I feel like from inside. The man who is willing to be my partner in crime and my punching bag at the same time. But more than anything else, the man who inspires me every day with his simplicity, humility, honesty and greatness.
I am amazed by what drives my man. He is driven by the most simplistic and basic values of truth, hard work and gratitude. He is not fancy or glamorous. He doesn’t know Gucci from Prada or a jaguar from a Civic. But he knows that children need a secure future, his wife needs moral support and the world needs more caring citizens. It is his belief in giving and caring that drives him from within. In each situation he does not ask what is it that he can get from the situation around, instead he asks himself what is it that he can give. He does not sit and dole out armchair philosophy on the society and the infrastructure; he either does something about it or if he can’t, then he keeps his mouth shut. When he is dealt a bad hand by fate, he does not wallow in self-pity. He asks himself what is it that he can change about himself which will help him in similar future situations. He is driven by not only his self-belief, but belief in everything is most fundamentally true and essential – goodness, humility and love.
Each time somebody comes to him for advice asking him how can they get their boss to give them a raise; my husband in his most simple, wise and unassuming way asks them: what can you give to your boss? Instead of wondering how they can give you a promotion, why don’t you focus all your energy on how you can contribute to this job and give it your best? Then, sooner than later, the rewards will obviously start flowing in, but for all you know you wouldn’t even notice because you would have discovered the joy in working hard and giving your job your 100% – you would discovered the joy of the journey over the obsession with the destination.
If somebody asks him how they can get their spouse to give them more love, my husband asks them: have you thought about becoming so full of love yourself that you stop looking for it outside? Have you thought about identifying any lack within you that makes you look for love outside? What about spending your entire life in giving love, in loving, rather than expecting love, or taking? How about discovering the selfless joy in giving love not only to your spouse, or to your near ones, or to the people you know, but to everybody you encounter, simple pure love which seems impossible at first, but is not if you discover that if you are made of nothing but love then it just flows out of you without putting in any effort?
Living with such a man, it is very difficult to stay in the shallow waters of life. The way such a person holds up a mirror to you, almost forces you to go deeper into yourself and explore all your hidden fears and strengths. Sometimes you discover that you are more resilient than you gave yourself credit for, and at other times you discover that you are more jealous and insecure than you thought. But you have to be ready for such revelations and not get jolted by the power of their insights. My experiences with my husband have been full of such moments of deep awakening (if I may use the word slightly loosely, though I believe that nobody other than Gautam Buddha should be using it 🙂 ). My experiences with him have slowly taught me to dissolve my ego and believe in the inherent goodness of my being and life. my experiences with him have showed me how blessed I am to be spending my life with somebody who is truly a beautiful soul.
Through my experiences with my husband, I know from deep within that he is undeniably made of something great.
Let me share an experience with him to give you an insider peek. This happened seven years back. We were living in a congested Delhi locality. It was an inconvenient house but we stayed there for many reasons, lack of resources being the top most obviously. Other than that, it was close to my husband’s workplace, close to where he had grown up, where we had lived all our lives. My children were growing up fast and becoming self-assured individuals with career choices of their own. Gradually our house of many years became too small for all the spiraling lives, dreams and activities. Children complained there was no space to throw parties for friends, they grumbled about noise when they tried to study and they said that their lives too claustrophobic in that entire area. These were not issues that I hadn’t faced my whole life. I had severe migraine headaches because of all the noise in the initial years of my marriage but then I guess I just got used to it. But now when I saw my children complaining, my heart just broke.
A mother is a nurturer. She has the natural protective instinct that makes her envelope her kids like a lioness, that makes her fend for them, feed them and guard them all her life. A woman needs a man who will be perfect for fathering her children, perfect to start a family, perfect to extend the line and be the overall strong protection that she and her young ones need. If I sound like I am describing the animal kingdom, don’t blame me because I feel that is how things are, it is the law of nature and biology. And this is how I always knew things to be. So, while I saw my husband noticing our children’s woes, I was never really expecting him to be able to do anything about it.
But he did.
I knew my husband was upto something. He was discussing some properties with me. He had been scouting around. But where was the money? He had considered doing something drastic with his business and we had discussed it many times but the market was bad and there was nothing very promising we could conclude. In the past, I had raised my hopes many times only to be bitterly disappointed and I did not want to go through that pain again.
So one day, when my husband came home with the sale deed papers of his small business venture and along with them allotment papers for a new apartment on the outskirts of the city, I was stunned. The apartment was in a very quiet and scenic area with a swimming pool, gym, lots of open spaces and parks. It was far but it was all we could afford. Only after absorbing the news of the apartment slightly, I looked at the sales deed. But I still didn’t realize its significance. I asked my husband about the decision and he said that he was getting old and it was a good time to start thinking of retirement. From the money he got, he had bought the house and the little remaining could be either invested somewhere or he could start a small business in the new locality. But then he kept the paper aside and looked at me, “But you know, both decisions are still in the very initial stages. I wanted to surprise all of you but if you feel this is not fine, we can reverse it. I want to be sure that my wife understands and approves of my decision before I go ahead with it. I have been discussing all these matters with you in parts but this together is a very big decision. Please let me know what you think and how do you want me to proceed.”
I sat there and looked deep into his eyes. And then I just cried, and cried, and cried.
The cubs will be happy now. The lion had shown his love and respect for the lioness.
It all happened pretty quickly. We received a part of the payment at the end of thirty days, with which we paid the first installment of the apartment. The remaining amount was converted into a loan. Out of the remaining amount we were to receive from our business sale, we received another part at the end of sixty days with which we got the interiors work done and started moving in. with our savings, we purchased essential things that were required for the new place and started paying the loan EMI. We had moved into the new house lock, stock and barrels by the end of the fifth month.
No, but this is not the experience I am talking about. It comes now.
It happened a week after we had moved into the new house when I had more or less unpacked the boxes and set up the kitchen. The take-aways had mostly ceased and hand-washes / towels / pillows / any other required thing had been discovered and put in its rightful place. I woke up in the morning and went for my bath. When I came out, I saw that my husband had finally discovered the right grocery store around. Till then we had been relying on our stocks which we had packed from around our old house. Since the apartments were relatively new, not many families had moved in and hence nobody had much idea about what to do on groceries and other basic necessities. He was walking into the house with his hands laden with packets of food, vegetables, milk, snacks and toiletries. Since he knows that I get very irritated if he doesn’t discuss with me before such shopping trips, he looked at me and smiled.
His sheepish guilty smile.
At that moment, it was like a cloud of tears burst inside me. It suddenly hit me that I was looking at a man who had built his life around something and just dismantled it all so easily. Somebody who was used to waking up in the morning and walking to work. Somebody who had invested years and years of his blood, sweat and life into his work. Someone who had practically set up the business from scratch and given his everything to it. Somebody who had hoped he will live his entire life in his old ancestral house and established his entire life on things around it. Somebody for whom it was like an identity was taken away at an age where change was so essentially and fundamentally difficult.
That man had one day looked at his wife and children and thought enough was enough. He had decided that he will do anything in his power to make them happy. He had decided to break apart his old life and try building a new one about which he was totally clueless and unsure. He had made excuses of retirement, aging and lazing to give up something which was the only thing he ever knew, the only area he was ever acquainted with and the only lie he understood. That man had honored his commitment to me with pretty much his life.
My man had protected my cubs, he had proved himself as the ideal protector and giver, he had done what he should have done without me asking him to do it. And I knew that for such a man I could give my life. We had been married for almost twenty-five years that day, but yet I knew love that day like I had never known it before. That day, standing there in bathroom doorway with my wet hair dripping over my face hiding my tears, I knew that I was the luckiest woman in the world. That day I knew that what I shared with this man, who I could proudly call my husband, was the purest, deepest and rarest form of love. That day I knew that he was #madeofgreat.
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Here’s Messi greeting us in his unmistakable charming style.. 🙂
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