Let me share with you a love story that will move and inspire you.
It was pleasantly bright and slightly warmer than usual in Coonoor on 6th May 1982. An unsuspecting, coy and simple young girl was going to take a step that would change her comfortable, cosy life forever. Her beautiful thick, black hair flowed below her waist and a friend braided it for her with fresh, fragrant moringa flowers. There was a tangible knot in her stomach. She didn’t even know the man she was going to wed today. She just knew she felt an unusual peace about what she was doing. She came out of her house fully dressed and looked at her father’s face. He looked pleased and smiled at her. He had raised his oldest daughter well. She trusted him and he was proud of her. She took one last look at the smiling flowers in her garden and left for the church with her family.
Waiting at the end of the altar for her was this strange man she hardly knew. He was thin, dark and good looking. He had a thick moustache and a carefree vibe about him. He was from Bombay and she was to travel back with him to this massive city she had only heard tall tales about. The thought petrified her but when she saw him smile at her, she knew she was going to be okay. They said their vows and pledged to be with each other for better and for worse.
That’s not the end. That wasn’t a love story. That was just a STORY. What followed for the next thirty-seven years is LOVE.
He gave up drinking alcohol and slowly gave up smoking too. For her, he was willing to change. What didn’t change though was how he made her laugh every day. He made up songs about things that she worried about. He worked hard to make sure he could protect and support her. He took her for long walks in the evenings and bought her trinklets from roadside shops.
She happily made his tiny 200 sq. ft. room into a beautiful home. She made curtains out of old sarees, made wallpaper with magazine covers, sewed frills onto cushion covers, and filled her home with flowers. She was the queen of DIY when that term didn’t even exist. She made friends with neighbours and learned to make pleasantries with them in Hindi. She’d wait for him to come back from work. He was her ONLY friend.
They didn’t have much material wealth and, on some days, they had nothing. But even on those days, they had God and each other and that was enough.
Together they couldn’t wait to have a family and not before long, they had their first child, a daughter and few years later, a son. They looked at their children and couldn’t believe how they were so much like them. They didn’t have elaborate parenting journals to fall back on or the internet to browse when they had challenges. They just winged it.
She taught her children to read. She taught them to be kind. She made her little home a haven for them. She smacked them when they got on her nerves, which was quite often. She’d discipline them but also write little notes to them telling them she loved them. She poured Rasna into ice trays to make flavoured ice cubes for them. She told them stories from the Bible each night and taught them how to pray. They wouldn’t always be this close to her, she knew. But she spent every ounce of energy doing special things for them.
He came home each evening to his children and never once let them see the fatigue from his toil. He tickled them, played with them and made them laugh till they cried. He took them to the Byculla zoo on Saturdays in a double-decker bus. If he had only ten rupees, he bought them ice cream and lied to them that he didn’t want any. He took them for walks in the evenings and taught them to ride cycles that were taken on rent — 5 rupees for one hour. He sang songs to them, all sorts of songs — most of them he just made up.
They both made sacrifices for their children every day. Sacrifices their children would never know they had made. They did everything they could to make sure their children did everything they wanted to.
They were a team.
They became the infamous Leslies.
They started a culture that became infectious. A culture of loving people unconditionally, having an open home with lots of food in it. A culture of giving whatever is there to whomever needs it without thinking about tomorrow. A culture of not holding back anything and working really hard for everything. A culture of singing and playing games and laughing so hard that you cry. A culture of praying together and reading the Bible. A culture so strong that it won’t fade away through posterity. It will live on.
It’s 6th May today, thirty seven years since the day they got married.
He is almost 70 and she is 60, but they both look much younger. He hasn’t stopped making her laugh, she hasn’t stopped taking care of him. They both haven’t stopped making sacrifices for their children.
Their children are married too now and want to know the secret to their parents’ marriage. Turns out it is no secret at all — they just never gave up.