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  • Penny Lover

Geeta and Subash

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

#ArrangedMarriage #Love #WeFoundLoveInThe80s #kindness #MarriageGuidance

Geeta and Subash met through family matchmakers who knew them both well. They had a traditional Indian wedding in August 1989. They share their thoughts on falling in love and staying in love after getting married. When their grown-up daughters left the family home, they realised that they needed to find each other again, so they went through marriage counselling to revisit their shared values which rekindled their love for each other.

Geeta and Subash, September 2020. Photo Credit: Outroslide Photography.

Geeta tells us their love story

Individual photographs of us were posted to each other's families first. The photos were far from stylish, but there was some initial attraction on my side. I thought Subash looked like Anil Kapoor, a popular 1980s Bollywood actor who I had a bit of a crush on at the time,. He had a mullet hairstyle, thick moustache and one earring - the fashion of those days!

The Introduction

Shortly after, I agreed to see him in person, my dad organised a gathering via the matchmakers. A meeting was arranged at our family home, with the two extended families present. There was quite a few of us, and I recall looking through my bedroom window in a slight panic when 3 carloads of visitors pulled up to the house. This meeting was quite formal and daunting, and my first experience of a relationship introduction. We only spoke 'alone' for around 20 minutes, and that was with my best friend present as a chaperone, as my dad insisted (she was a little sceptical of him initially). My father was strict about pre-marriage dating, and I never had a boyfriend before meeting Subash. About a week later, we had a phone call from Subash’s father to say that he had agreed and wanted to marry me - I also said yes and followed my gut instinct, rather than brain at the time. That was the start of our short, six month courting period before our epic Indian wedding, arranged by our parents - it ended up being featured in the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper.

Geeta and Subash on their wedding day, 1989

Getting to know each other

I lived in Nottingham and he lived in Hounslow, and we mainly communicated by writing letters and phone calls. He called me every couple of days from a phone box, for at least an hour. It was an exciting period, and I looked forward to his calls and receiving his hand-written letters. There was real suspense in the waiting, and it wasn’t like today, where everything happens instantly. My dad felt that we were communicating too much, and he would often remark: “Can Subash not wait until you’re married?!” I wrote and posted a letter/card to him every Friday, spraying the paper with Rochas Byzance perfume. It was the first perfume he brought for me on our second meeting, and it became my favourite. I also made him 80s mix tapes of Bollywood songs that I thought he would like, recorded from the radio station, as that is how we did it back then.

Mix tape made by Geeta for Subash

Our 6 months of letters are safely stored somewhere, but we’re not sure where right now! Mine were always written on pale blue paper, using a fountain pen.

After marriage, I relocated from Nottingham to Hounslow, and this was a big move for me away from my family and friends – I felt really lonely, even though I lived within the extended family. We lived with his parents and brothers in the extended family home for a few years, until we had our 1st daughter. Our 2nd daughter was born just after we moved into our own home, when I was 7 months pregnant. Love in the extended family is interesting, particularly back then, because you don't have those cosy sofa hugs and movie nights, or show intimacy in front of the extended family, especially not your in-laws! Love was a very private emotion between the two of us, and we always prioritised the extended family before ourselves generally. This is what traditional values meant for us back then, based on our upbringing – we didn’t know any better and would have felt selfish if we prioritised ourselves. We were a couple with wider family responsibilities, and we took that seriously. We have strong shared values of helping our family, friends and the wider community.

Supporting each others dreams

I had a place at University to study Economics, but didn't go because I was getting married. My dad believed in the power of education, but also said a good man was hard to find, and if he was supportive and kind, he would encourage me to study later in life (he was right too). My dad really liked Subash, and he always described him as a genuine, wise and hardworking man.

I did mainly part-time admin jobs when the kids were young/pre-school, to help me juggle life. I went back to studying full-time for my degree when my youngest started reception school. I then started teaching across West London schools and got promoted quickly. I eventually moved into a University lecturing career, where I studied further for my PhD and research projects. I absolutely love studying and missed out on University life by getting married at 19 years old.

Subash had promised that he would support my return to education one day - he was and still is, a man of his word. He has always championed me and my dreams, whilst not interfering, and knew how much I wanted to write and learn. We are both career-driven, ambitious people, and over time this did take its toll on our relationship, as were both spinning too many plates at times (Subash is a brilliant juggler, as am I).

Working long hours and weekends can take its toll

Subash’s career development before mine, meant working very long hours, weekends and a lot of travel. He would often stay away from home, which had knock-on effects on me as a young mother raising 2 children. We had to find and make time for love, and often with all the pressures of building a career and life, our emotional and physical reserves were low. Our lives evolved so fast, and time for romantic love like people experience in the movies seemed non-existent. In amongst career-building, raising 2 children, extended family commitments and cultural demands, life’s pressures eventually took its toll on our relationship, and my mental health suffered as a result. That was a really hard time for us as we navigated the complexities of our private and social lives.

Marriage counselling helped us to rekindle our love

After 27 years of marriage, we entered the empty nest phase, and had to learn to focus on each other again, and re-find points of connection through love and kindness. We reflected on our relationship through marriage counselling sessions, on how we’d become a bit transactional with each other, and needed to engage with other from a place of kindness and love, rather than bickering, and what we called ‘point-scoring’. Marriage counselling offered a safe and neutral space to discuss issues with a qualified mediator, in a way we had never engaged before (yet our daughter went through pre-marriage counselling with the Catholic church). As we’ve grown older, we are investing more time in our long-standing friendship circles, so that we build a supportive network outside of family too. We want to maintain our independence and wellbeing as we grow older, and having kind and reliable friends around you is so important.

"This was a huge step, as we had very much devoted our married life to our children, extended family and making a living. We knew we would never separate or divorce, but we’d started to take each other for granted in things and needed to rekindle love as we entered a new stage in our lives. Marriage counselling got us talking openly and honestly as partners/lovers, and not just as parents to our children”.

Geeta and Subash on holiday.

What has kept you together after all of these years?

We always made time for family holidays (UK and overseas), and also tried to go away alone as a couple at least once a year, even when the kids were young. As our kids got older, the pressures changed, and the language of love evolved as we entered different stages in our lives. During all the challenges we have been through, and we’ve had our fair share, we always believed and trusted in each other like soul mates.

What is love?

Geeta says marriage isn’t easy - it’s hard work and requires a lot of effort from both sides, especially when you’re not feeling physically or emotionally well, or when life throws you lemons. This quote has always stood out to her, from one of her favourite movies:

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two. But sometimes the petals fall away and the roots have not entwined.”

Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli's Mandolin

In any long-term relationship, both parties have to be prepared to compromise. Love has many shades of meaning at different stages of marriage.

It's not about ownership of each other in the patriarchal sense, is there has to be mutual respect and kindness. It’s about trust, kindness and giving to each other without expectation of return – your needs change as your relationship and life evolves, and it’s important to reflect on that and nourish each other within the resources you have at that particular time.

The secret to staying in love

Playing to your strengths and working as a team is absolutely key. Don’t measure your efforts and compare, but rather, focus on the amazing things you could achieve when you work together through love and kindness. Never stop learning and building new interests/hobbies, as they keep interesting conversations going. We have both built new interests and roles outside of each other, as well as with each other. We have developed strategies to better listen to each other, and we’ve learned to disagree without confrontation or anger.

The language of love can be silent, and words do not always have to be spoken- sometimes the smallest gestures/actions can express gratitude. To us, love is what you don't show to others in public, as they are your most intimate moments. Love is looking at your children and thinking - wow, we created you and raised you through our shared love and hard work. It is important to show each other's family love, as it shows that you care about each other's upbringing and history. In a traditional Indian family, this is not always reciprocal as the woman's family is often considered secondary.

Geeta and Subash looking very 80s Bollywood!

Whilst we had a traditional Indian marriage, we wanted our relationship to be different to what we witnessed with our parents when we were growing up, and the patriarchal families and structures that they were raised in. At times, we found ourselves slipping into their mode, maybe because it was convenient within life’s demands – it’s important to question our actions, and reflect on how they make you and your partner feel. It takes effort to unlearn and relearn ways of loving, based on our traditional upbringing, but we have grown through that process of questioning.

Today, we reflect again as we’re moving house and starting fresh in a new location and home. For the first time in our lives, this big action has been about just the two of us. We will always be family and community orientated, as that is part of who we are. But, we now realise how important it is to make time to focus on ‘us’ as a couple outside of the family too.

Taking part in this project has enabled us to reflect back nostalgically, over treasured possessions and memories. We have made time to appreciate what we saw in each other just over 31 years ago. The timing of this project came at a critical stage (and very busy) in our lives, as we move home and choose to lead a quieter (and hopefully slower) lifestyle.

One of their favourite songs is 'Humen Tum Se Pyar Kitna' from the Bollywood movie Kudrat, 1981.

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