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The Wear and Tear of Valentine: Indian Americans Weigh-in On the Importance of Romance in a Relationship

The Wear and Tear of Valentine: Indian Americans Weigh-in On the Importance of Romance in a Relationship

  • While many believe in professing their love verbally, and some prefer actions rather than words, most like to incorporate a little bit of TLC in their daily routine.

The word romance conjures up images of candlelight dinners, passionate embraces, and bouquets of roses. But it always doesn’t have to be elaborate. A simple hug, a peck on the cheek, a loving text in the middle of the day, sweet nothings — all convey your feelings to your partner and make them feel loved, special and wanted. Not to mention it keeps the relationship alive and interesting.

Romance, at any stage of a relationship, helps solidify the bond and reminds us of our relative uniqueness to our partners. But how long does romance last? Do the passion and love that’s omnipresent during dating and the first few years of marriage fade away as it progresses? Or does it evolve?

Raj Asava and his wife Aradhana of Plano, Texas, are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year. Top photo, from left, Gayathri and Naren Rao; Priya Deva and Greg Boys; Sonny and Ritu Chatrath; and Mili Mavely Washington and Tyris Washington.

While many couples believe in professing their love verbally with ‘I Love You” texts and messages, some prefer actions rather than words. Many go the extra mile in accommodating significant other, making time for each other or incorporating a little bit of TLC in their daily routine — whether it’s having the morning coffee together or breaking into an impromptu jig.

So where does the excitement of romance fit in a desi marriage? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, American Kahani caught up with a few married people to find out the importance of love and romance in their relationships.

“The dynamic of romance differs over time between couples,” says Shay Banerjee of San Diego, California. “I think it depends on a number of factors including health, raising kids, stress level, and time.” Shay, a business analyst, and his wife Theresa, a global ethics and compliance director, have been married for over 15 years and have two kids. When they used to commute to work, the couple would say “I love you” to each other. However, since they’ve been working from home for the last few years, it’s changed. “I’d say it certainly takes work to keep love alive and healthy.”

Vermont State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale and her husband Jacob Hinsdale at their Hindu-Jewish-French Canadian-Congregationalist wedding ceremony.

For software professional Manjari Chovatia of West Windsor, New Jersey, the romance in her marriage has gotten stronger with age. Although she and her husband Janak don’t profess their love verbally, “there are other ways of showing love and affection,” like a bouquet of roses and a greeting card on important occasions like birthday, anniversary and of course, Valentine’s Day!

Similarly, Sonny Chatrath, an actor, producer and travel manager based in Freehold, New Jersey, believes that love and romance can be shown in different ways, like caring for one another. When his wife Ritu broke her ankle in a freak accident at home in December, Sonny took off the entire month of January to take care of her.

Kishor Mehta and his wife Padma Mehta of Naperville, Ill.. Married for 47 years, the couple is looking forward to spending more time together post retirement.

Although their’s was an arranged marriage in 2000, it was love at first sight for Sonny. “The last 21 years have been nothing short of a love story for us,” he says. “We may not have known each other before, but our love shows. Although they have nothing much in common, except the same birthday, Sonny says: “I just have to close my eyes and the 20-year-old Ritu appears in front of my eyes, emerging from the immigration gate at Newark 21 years ago. I don’t think I ever loved anyone the way I love her. I think our feelings for each other will stay the same until our final days on earth.”

Mili Mavely Washington and her husband Tyris always find time for each other despite a busy schedule and three kids.

Professing love verbally is part of daily life for many like Varun Gandhi and his wife Sheenika of Los Angeles, California. They have been married for over five years, and still say “I love you at least 10 times a day, more likely a whole lot more.” The couple knew each other 15 months before marriage. “We met in July 2015, did an Indian engagement in February 2016, I proposed to her in May and we got married in December,” says Varun.

“While we haven’t been married very long, we still wake up saying ‘I love you,’” says Vermont State Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who married Jacob Hinsdale six months ago, in “a Hindu-Jewish-French Canadian-Congregationalist ceremony. The couple also finds a way to make the other person happy every day. “He has taken up baking and helps a lot more around the house now that I’m running for Congress. I still set aside time to spend with him and our dog on walks or just by the fireplace.”

Taking time for each other, and investing time and energy in the relationship despite a busy life is also a priority for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Mili Mavely Washington and her husband Tyris Washington. The two met 22 years ago in Delhi and were married a year later. “Over the years, life has certainly thrown us some curveballs as well as so many bright and beautiful days,” says Mili. And “through the ups and downs, the one constant has been our ability to rely on each other.” On good days the couple laughs out loud together, and on rough days they lean on each other. But what’s remained constant is love and romance. “All these years later, we still always greet each other with a lingering kiss and a hug.”

Mili says she and Tyris understand that unless they invest time and energy in each other, “the rest can fall apart like a fragile house of cards.” She finds “the little things” most romantic – “the out of the blue “I Love You” texts, him gently pushing a kid out of the way so he can sit close to me, the holding hands and physical touch, and just the time and space that we find for each other.”

Sonny Chathrath of Freehold, N.J, with his wife Ritu. “The last 21 years have been nothing short of a love story for us,” he says.

Occasionally in the morning, when the working parents are trying to get everyone out the door on time, in the middle of packing lunches, Tyris will turn on some music, pull his wife in close, and they dance while their kids smile big. “What more could a girl want?”

The feeling of being loved and desired is something Gayathri Rao has experienced since she met her husband Naren, almost three decades ago, and the romance hasn’t faded to this day. The couple was engaged for five years, and have now been married for 25. “We still say “ I love you “ to each other every chance we get,” the Houston, Texas-based realtor says. “He still treats me like I’m the most important thing on the face of the earth. I still get that giddy feeling every time I see him in the crowd like he is my Prince Charming.” The only thing that’s changed is the need to prove their love to each other by buying gifts on Valentine’s Day. While her husband introduced her to Valentine’s Day when they started dating, they don’t celebrate it at all. “For us, whenever we are together, it’s a good enough reason to celebrate life.”

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Actress Priya Deva with her husband Greg Boys.

Actress Priya Deva has a different take on romance in a marriage. She and her brother grew up in the U.S. to immigrant parents who had an arranged marriage. “Although we grew up in a stable house, our parents had a stereotypical role,” Priya recalls. “Having seen that, my brother and I didn’t want a contractual marriage, we wanted a marriage based on love.” Priya has been married to Greg Boys for over 25 years and have two beautiful daughters. “I think when there’s genuinely deep love, romance is also there.” And both love and romance change as the relationship grows, she notes. “First it’s more sexual than romantic, but then sexuality becomes sensuality,” she says, adding: “You value it more because you know it’s not immortal.”

The way her husband “thinks of life and service” is romantic to Priya. “For me, the chocolates and flowers are gestures that society tells you to participate in. But his philosophy and motivations of his core soul is where my notion of romance lies.” Greg is a pilot and likes to fly in his spare time. He uses his plane for charitable services as well.

Working to make a relationship work is something Illinois-based businessman Kishor Mehta has done for more than four decades. He and his wife Padma have been married for 47 years and have two married daughters with families of their own. Kishor, who recently retired, looks forward to spending more time with his wife – “relax and have their morning cup of chai in the backyard and catch up with each other.” The couple has been operating their respective businesses – consultancy and a travel agency – from home since 1991. “Since then we have been together every single day,” Mehta says. “Our romance is still alive,” he says, “I still adore my wife just like day one.”

While romance and love are important, Kishor and Padma say their marriage is based on getting their priorities right and on trust in each other. “Not every day is hunky-dory, one has to accept your partner’s drawbacks,” says Kishore. “Most important is to look at the bigger picture, rather than cribbing on small things. No one is perfect.”

Like the Mehtas, Raj Asava and his wife Aradhana of Plano, Texas, have built their 40-year-old marriage. “Love is the foundation upon which we built our family,” Raj says. “Love is the light that guides our way; it is the energy that gives us the confidence to deal with life’s adversities and issues; it is the tender thread that keeps us together.”

In 2017, the couple founded HungerMitao, a grassroots movement focused on raising awareness about hunger in the U.S., improving community engagement, and channeling resources and contributions of the Indian American community in the fight against hunger.

In a poem, “Marriage, The Most Loving Relationship,” Raj writes: “Unlike all the relations, that are made by creation; marriage is the only relation, that is made through selection. It is a cross between blood relation and friendship, for it takes two to navigate this journey we call life, without tipping over the ship ….. And that’s because, after marriage, your real friends are each other, for in your spouse you will discover a true fan, a friend, and a lifelong lover.”

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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