Even my father’s cat seemed to drive home the age difference between us. The first time Rom came home, it jumped up on a half-wall behind his chair, and stared at its reflection on the little shiny bald spot on the back of his head.
After much discussion of my unorthodox choice of spouse, my parents finally gave their blessing.
I heard snatches of gossip swirling around us. The conservative extended family sneered that I was marrying out of caste, religion, and race. Some made a big deal of Rom’s meat-eating habits, taboo in my vegetarian family. My parents had never given importance to any of this, so I couldn’t have cared less.
Inquisitive strangers asked if I was Rom’s daughter. At a college town, someone thought I was his granddaughter. I retorted, “I’m his wife,” and they squirmed with embarrassment.
Rom and I set up Draco Films and began making wildlife documentaries. I wrote the script, Rom made the pitch, and we negotiated contracts and hired the crew. Initially, we worried we were making a mistake by working together. The highly charged atmosphere on shoots can create bonds or wreck them. Colleagues fell in love, had affairs, or fell out on location. Surprisingly, we enjoyed working with each other despite the pressure.
Two years after Rom and I became a couple, I met friends who were newly married. One complained her husband was besotted with the latest electronic gadgets. I confessed mine had a weakness for the doll-like women from the Northeast.
I said, “If these women visit the Crocodile Bank, he’s out of the office immediately.”
One asked, “You let him do that?”
“What should I do? Cover his eyes?”
They shook their heads and clicked their tongues in disapproval. Husbands apparently had to have blinkers, like horses.
I asked, “What’s the point of setting an impossible standard? He’s going to look anyway, only surreptitiously.”
“Then he’ll want to touch,” another warned.
“Perhaps.” I said, “But I could also be human.”
They looked uncertain, unable to decide if I was joking or being candid. One of them shrugged her shoulders, “My husband is not like that paah.”
I didn’t tell them how Rom melts when Latina women say, “turdles and thorthoises” (turtles and tortoises).
Obviously, I didn’t know how to tame my husband, nor did I want to.
My challenges didn’t lie there; they lay in the choices I had to make straddling two worlds. I almost gave up a social life in the city — music concerts, theatre, and ‘art’ cinema. During the early days of our relationship, Rom attended concerts with me, but I could see he was bored. I didn’t insist on his company, but I attended fewer events.
However, I made up for the loss by gaining a whole new exciting world. As I grew more comfortable with the forest, every trip became a honeymoon. I was fascinated by animal behaviour, and how people related to animals.
Before we knew it, we had been together seven years, and neither of us was itching to leave. On the contrary, we couldn’t get enough of each other.
Someone asked me recently, what was the secret of our relationship’s longevity, given all the differences between Rom and I? I guess the differences were superficial: age, personality, culture, race. He reads science fiction, I don’t. I don’t like Frank Zappa much, and Rom can listen to him over and over again. We don’t agree on many issues and argue a lot. But none of it matters. Not even Rom’s appreciation of exotic women. Perhaps the secrets are having a sense of humour and not taking oneself too seriously. Maybe it is not taking the other for granted. I don’t know; I’m no expert.
The only thing that matters is: Rom makes me feel whole. It will be 20 years this year, and he still makes butterflies flutter in my stomach.