Updated: Mar 20, 2022
To escape persecution by the Burmese military junta, our family of 8 had returned to India as refugees in 1964. Those were difficult times, but inspite of that, our father insisted that we receive the best possible education.
As is always the case in socialist regimes, India at that time suffered from a shortage of everything, even in India's most advanced city of Mumbai be it water, electricity, hospitals, schools, etc.. As a result we six siblings were dispersed across different schools with three of us brothers luckily landing up in The Bishop's School, Pune.
Aged 4, Parvinder my younger brother was the youngest ever student and boarder in the school's 100 year history and I was 6, naturally we had our bouts of crying as we longed for our family and parents. The best thing for a child is the company of other children, and we soon settled in, at the all boys boarding school of Bishops.
At that age, the only females in our lives were some teachers and matrons. Of course during the holidays there were our sisters and mother. It did not matter much because during schooling boys generally seek out and prefer the company of other boys.
After schooling I went to MIT at Manipal to study engineering and spent another 5 years in an almost exclusive, male college. Girls began to matter and physical attraction was intense, but like most of my college mates most of us lacked the understanding or social skills to effectively engage in social intercourse with females.
Engaging with males came naturally, but with females it was always tense and my understanding of women remained fuzzy. That is why almost all my friends were male.
Upon completing my engineering studies I returned home to join our family business of manufacturing and supply of high quality steel products to the automotive industry. It was clear to see why we were succeeding. We were passionate about everything and most of that passion was directed at work and squabbling over work.
Young and hot blooded, with money in the pocket and time to spare, every such young person is a recipe for trouble and I created my fair share. All the galavanting and fooling around created much excitement but it soon wore off. After some time I realised that I needed to settle down.
Even though I saw marriage as complicated, full of conflict and contradictions, I accepted my parent's wish for me to get married. Through a family introduction I met my future wife Mohini. The demure looking girl was anything but a pushover as I soon found out, after three tempestuous meetings.
Instinctively I felt that she was the one for me and irresistibly drawn to each other we agreed to get married. I promised myself that I would try and be a good husband and a friend to Mohini.
Friendship is more enduring than marriage. In marriage we seek to control the other and that eventually corrodes relationships.
In friendship one tends to give much more than one demands from the other. One of the most important things that a friend gives is space. Space to friends to be themselves, silly, funny even idiotic interspersed with play and often lengthy discussions, subconsciously learning from and teaching one another. Always helping a friend evolve and without realising it transforming the other.
Mohini is easy to love because she is herself loving and caring and commanded not only my respect but that of all my family and friends. I felt I had discovered a good formula for a good and strong marriage, friendship and mutual respect. Without friendship and respect there can be no love, lust maybe but love impossible.
I treated my wife as I did my friends, in a relaxed easy going, non demanding friendly relationship.
However this made my wife, uncomfortable, she was looking for a husband not a friend. Soon Mohini confronted me, and said "I want you to remember that I am your wife not your female roommate".
My wife was my first female friend, yet I had no idea what the wife meant or wanted, but I decided to try to be more of a husband. I looked around and tried to behave like other husbands, but that just wasn't me. Soon enough I reverted to being me and my wife got somewhat used to it.
Now after 38 years, I still do not know if I am a good husband but I know Mohini and I are still good friends, who respect and love one another. Our views on most things are often in conflict, but our disagreements are quickly resolved because we share similar values and remain friends. After all, respect is also the foundation of all friendship.
I realise that Mohini remains not only my female roommate, but my friend and soulmate.
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