How Love’s Labor’s Lost: A Man’s Pride and Prejudice Without Sense and Sensibility
- This strange love story reminds me of what Princess Diana told BBC’s Martin Bashir about her life with Prince Charles: "There were three of us in this marriage.”
This love was flawed and broken the way only we humans know how to break things with our ego, pride, insecurity and complexities.
Where do I even begin to tell the story of how deep a love can be, how it transcends time, place and people. Perhaps this is a story about how women are their own worst enemies. Either way, it is a story that tells us how frail, fragile and fraught we are as humans and how much we hurt each other.
This love story began when I was two years old. Growing up in India in a culture that wove love stories like Laila Majnu, Heer Ranjha and the epic symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, into the very fabric of our existence, love was always an integral part of our lives.
One such love story was of a boy and a girl who were neighbors. The boy, an athlete, artist, and a poet, found his muse in this shy, thoughtful and in her own way poetic girl, who seemed to worship the very ground he walked on. Her face could be found in all the paintings he created, and her name in every poem he wrote. The girl called him Sagar, which means ocean, symbolizing his all-encompassing love for her.
Everything thing was going well; their wedding date was being finalized, till the boy’s older brother who was a doctor in the same little town, got accepted into Stanford Medical School to do his MS.
The boy’s family wanted to hurry and finalize the date so that the brother and his wife could be part of the wedding before they left for the United States.
Unknown to the boy’s family, the girl’s mother was beginning to have other plans for her daughter. She saw that here was one brother headed to the U.S., which in those days was the land of milk, honey, money and so much more. That means his wife would not have to live a life in India subjugated by a fiercely dominating mother-in-law or live a life where the mother-in-law would be her responsibility. She wanted her daughter to have the same opportunities that the brother’s wife had.
The boy was told — “Do what your brother is doing and then come back for my daughter.”
The young couple knew this could not be achieved overnight and that they would have to wait. The boy, who had no desire to move, live or work in the United States tried to convince the girl’s mother that he could do so much more in India and that he would make sure their daughter was well looked after. He fought for the girl he loved. As heartbroken as the girl was, not once did she speak up or fight for her love. As most Indian girls do, she gave in to parental pressure and said she was willing to wait.
The meetings between the boy and the girl stopped. But the love never stopped. Letters went back and forth, each one professing how much they loved the other and how they would wait till the end of time.
It was time to apply to universities in the U.S. Maybe that was the first step he needed to take to have the love of his life by his side. With a successful admission into a college in the U.S., he packed his bags, leaving behind a heartbroken girl but with promises that he would come back for her as soon as he was done. As devastating it was to be separated, they were confident of the deep love and bond that they shared. She cut a lock of her hair to give him and kept a lock of his and stood at the departure gate waving farewell with anguish and tears.
Life went on for three years. She taught in a local school in the city that they both fell in love at and kept his memories close. Since the day she cut her lock of hair off and given it to him, she had sworn she would not comb her hair till he came back, and they both would be married. That was the extent and depth of her love for him.
He was doing his MBA, playing soccer for his college, having art shows, getting artwork commissioned and working to support himself. The distance between them was only covered in letters. Hundreds and thousands of them in the years that he lived in the U.S. and she in India. The love and the bond as strong as ever.
After finishing his MBA, it was time to decide.
Older, wiser and a little more set in his ways, he landed in their little town. Everything seemed to fall in place. It was time to start the wedding planning all over. The girl’s mother knew that it was only a question of time before the boy’s permanent residency in the U.S. came through and her daughter would be on her way to live the life that his brother’s wife lived, so she no longer felt the need to stop or restrict a wedding.
The girl’s penance of going to the local shrines of Gods and Goddesses offering supplications and prayers was finally coming to an end. The hair that she hadn’t combed since she cut her lock to give to the boy three years ago would finally have a comb running through it.
The boy was now a man. He was an individual, he was qualified. He had people seeking him out for art and movie projects, but most of all he was fully aware of his self-identity and what it meant to him. The more he was sought after for work projects the more he became aware of his talent and most of all his pride.
To him, he was still the same person he was three years ago, yet three years ago his value as a person meant nothing to the girl’s family. He was told to “fix” himself before attempting to marry the girl. The more he thought about it the more resentment he seemed to be raking up towards the girl’s family. The fact that the girl had not moved on, had not given up on him and had put her life on hold waiting for him, didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. He was aware of it and in his own way admired her and loved her more for it. But at the same time, it seemed he could not bring himself to forget that she had not stood up for him when her mother put down terms and conditions for marrying her.
The man who was now 25 left home, left his love and left all his dreams behind, telling her to not wait for him and find someone else to marry. He had decided that he would not marry and find all that he had lost, in his work and his art.
The girl, now a woman, went back to her teaching in the local school, nursing a broken heart and an uncombed head.
20 years went by…
Well into their 40s, neither of them ever got married. They still wrote to each other, more like friends now and saw each other when he went back to his hometown once a year. They still loved each other but he was caught up in his pride and she, caught up in her steadfast love for him. But that connection between them remained, while their families pleaded for each of them to get married either to each other or to someone else.
He traveled all over India on his art projects, always reaching out to her for moral support, running his ideas by her and for the love that she gave him, unconditional and unwavering. She never insisted that he marry her. She chose to live as a silent partner, never physically close but always mentally one with him. This love, this dedication to each other, despite the situation, is what makes ordinary stories of love into epics.
The love story that began in 1963 between a boy and a girl remained nameless but bound by a connection that even the universe had no control over.
After these 20 years, there was a challenge between friends, that finally changed the dynamics of this love. The man had returned to his hometown to live and work after more than a decade. He started work and business in this little town where the love between this girl and boy had blossomed and had stayed unwavering. The families still had hope they would marry.
One evening, when the man and his friends were at work talking over endless cups of chai, one friend told the man, “You are getting older, how long do you want to be single?”
“No one is going to give their daughter to you, so why don’t you just marry this woman that you have loved all these years?” they continued.
Strike two to the ego. These words from his friends, struck something deep inside of him. “You think I can’t get married?”
“Yes, no one is going to marry you at this age. There is this young girl here at the agency, the copywriter, you think if you propose to her, she is going to say yes?”
“I will prove you wrong!”
Four years went by…
One day the young woman he married (the clueless copywriter) was given a trunk-full of love-letters from 1963, by the man’s sister-in-law living in the States.
“Here, these belong to your husband.”
From that day forward, as Princess Diana, said in her much talked about TV interview: “There were three of us in this marriage.”
(This story was first published in Women’s Web).
Shabnam Samuel is the author of the best-selling memoir, “A Fractured Life” and is an international motivational speaker. She is also the founder of the Panchgani Writers’ Retreat ( www.panchganiwritersretreat.com), based out of Panchgani in India. The retreat incorporates mindful living along with creativity and wellness following Ayurveda principles, with yoga, meditation and writing workshops. Shabnam is a student at the Kerala Ayurveda Academy in Kerala, India. When she is not writing, speaking or learning, you can find her cycling somewhere in the suburbs of Maryland where she has lived for over 30 years.”