It was on the 12th of July 1972 I met this tall and slim girl of fifteen, at the wedding of my maternal cousin that was celebrated in the village of Belakavadi in Mandya district, about 115 km. from Bangalore. Although I was a young man of twenty-two then, I did not wish to distract my thoughts from my Network Theory test scheduled for July 14th—I was in the ninth semester of my bachelor’s course in Electronics engineering.
Some years later, on the 28th April 1978, at the wedding of another maternal cousin at Bangalore, my aunt introduced me to a tall and slim lady, whom I instantly recognised as the same girl I had met at Belakavadi. By this time, I was employed as a Research & Development Engineer with a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) in Bangalore. I struck a conversation with the young lady and learnt that she lived in Malleswaram and had just completed her final M.Sc. exams earlier that month. She also mentioned that her elder brother, also an engineer, worked in the same PSU as I did.
In early December 1979, I had just returned home from an official visit to Madras and my elder sister informed me that a lady by name Malathi Rangaswamy had visited us from Malleswaram. She had enquired about me in general and about my height in particular, for she was on the lookout for a suitable boy for her tall daughter! Malathi mami had requested me to come over to her home with my parents on Sunday, December 9th, so that she could introduce her daughter to us. Then the discussion between the two families regarding marriage could be taken forward.
On the ninth of December, Malathi mami promptly arrived at our Ulsoor house by 4pm along with her younger brother Vasudevan to take me and my parents to their home in their car. At that time, my father had stepped out on some errand, so the three of us – my mother, my elder sister, and I hopped into the car without much ado and reached their place by 4:30. We were seated in the drawing hall when a tall young woman walked in and was introduced to us as Hema. To my surprise, it was the same lady I had met in 1978!
After the formalities of introductions were over, I told Malathi mami that I would like to talk with Hema personally sometime during the course of the next weekend to discuss and decide about our future. During our interaction, I found Hema to be shy, simple, and soft-spoken. Both our family backgrounds were very much socio-culturally similar, so I did not have much hesitation in saying Yes! to the marriage proposal. On 24th January 1980 we had a formal engagement ceremony at their home and the wedding was fixed for 2nd May 1980.
Yugadi is New Year’s day according to the Hindu Lunisolar calendar, and typically coincides with March/April of the Gregorian calendar. On Yugadi day—17th March 1980—I received a greeting card, which was unusual for two reasons –
- Typically I would receive New Year’s greetings in early January and not for Yugadi.
- New Year greetings would often be sent in the form of a printed card; but this one was a handwritten poem—the poet being my would-be mother-in-law.
The poem was simple, effectively expressing the emotions of an affectionate and proud mother, who had decided to hand over her only daughter to me as a life partner. The poem is reproduced here in full:
peace and harmony
Herewith my fond wishes I send,
For a new year, unique of its kind,
That bringeth you a gift of your life,
In the form of an adoring wife.
Her wants are simple, she’s humble.
But her thoughts and views are truly noble.
She knows not what jealousy is,
And adjusts herself with comfort and ease.
Her company is always a spring of delight,
Her presence in your family shall bring more light.
May she bring you luck and cheer,
Make the path of your life smooth and clear
Let her fill thy heart as an inspiring bride,
Make thy home a heaven of joy and pride.
With all the achievements of matrimony
May you both live long with peace and harmony!
On receipt of the poem, I simply replied with a tiny Thank you card because I did not know how else to respond! It took me several years of living with Hema to experience the truth underlying each and every line of the poem!
Many traditions around the world classify the composition of the universe into five elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space (Ether) Knowledge of these five elements helps us understand the laws of nature. We can connect the five natural elements with five essential parameters, which when integrated in the right proportion can give rise to contentment of having lived the life to the best of one’s abilities –
- Love, a vital emotion to bond with others, can be as fleeting as a cloud and can be likened to Space.
- Friendship with chosen people is as important as Air to connect with family and society.
- Hobby is an essential element to remain grounded and balanced; it may be likened to the Earth that feeds us.
- Profession is as important as Water, which keeps the body hydrated and energised.
- Responsibility is like Fire, as our performance is constantly judged and coming out unscathed by the time one retires, is a Herculean task.
We all know that our life is limited and many of us would like to derive fulfilment from our lives. To feel that sense of fulfilment, it is important for the mind to be free from regrets, guilt, and worries so that it can become calm and stable.
In October 2022, Hema underwent a major surgery and spent the following months recovering, even as she underwent a rigorous medical treatment. In January 2023, I suggested to her to jot down a few of her life experiences under the five parameters – Love, Friendship, Hobbies, Profession, and Responsibility – to keep her mind active. As a conclusion, I told her to write down her understanding of Contentment as an outcome of integrating the five parameters.
Hema sincerely started writing and in the course of the following five weeks, she shared the drafts with me. As I read through the manuscript, I recalled the poem that her mother had written to me forty-three years ago. Those lines penned by my late mother-in-law motivated me to write a small poem in appreciation of Hema’s nature, as I have understood it.
I’m sure you will agree with what I have summarised in the poem about Hema by the end of reading this book.
peace and harmony
Coming together in life through matrimony
Complementing each other, we live in harmony.
Purity of thoughts and serenity of mind,
Characteristics of yours that is difficult to find!
Love and affection in plenty, always you share,
Beyond relations with everyone you care.
As a daughter or sister, wife or mother,
Responsibility or duty, always you happily bear.
Teaching as a profession so much you loved,
Music being your passion so much we enjoyed.
Nature in all forms gives you thrill and excitement
Art in any form is more than mere entertainment!
—M V Ravikumar
March 17th, 2023 | Ravi 57