As I age, the one thing that constantly amazes me is the institution of marriage. The more years I put behind me, the more couples I see around me and the more ponders of matrimony that cross my mind - the more intrigued I become. I had the good fortune of crossing paths with a pair in the past few days. When I walk into the oncology department of the speciality hospital over here, assisting my MIL, I see a pair in such harmony that no matter what I do, my eyes constantly graze their chemistry. Their bond overtakes the whole ambience around me. The emaciated man, dressed in a dhoti and bare chested, walks out of the radiation facility sporting a sculpted ribcage. He grabs the piece of cloth and wraps it around his head in an immaculate turban with the dexterity of a young man.
It is hard to guess their age but they should be well over the wrong side of sixty - both the man and the wife. She has stacks of red glass bangles on her thin wrists - proudly displaying her marital status. Her lined face is anchored with a precise nose and elaborate nose pins on either side. Her salt and pepper hair is neatly rolled into a tight bun on the nape of her neck. It is hard to say which of them is thinner - or taller. They both look lean and stretched. I search her face now and then, to look for signs of emotion. She looks back at me nonchalantly while waiting for her husband, staring into my eyes with carefully concealed pain. I gather they come in for treatment through government aided medicare and wonder if they had eaten. The moment I enter into the waiting area, I trace my eyes around the length and breadth to spot them. Her sari, tied a few inches above her ankles, her pallu tightly wrapped around those twigs of shoulders. The other day we walked into a fully occupied room and she scooted up her seat and asked my MIL if she wanted to take her seat :-) I often wondered why young men and women never got up and offered seats to seniors or patients - but was pleasantly surprised to see this old lady graciously offer her seat. We walked past her politely asking her to sit and I held my gaze into hers, for once hoping to see a sign of warming up to me. There was that very nonchalance holding my eye contact.
There were many instances when I took my smart phone out to click a pic of them but tucked it back promptly cause I didn't want to breach their privacy. I wanted to reach out to them, give them a hug or convey in some way my awe for their bond, for her dutiful companionship, for their unmistakable love but I held myself back feeling overpowered by their sheer presence.
Today I was determined to say something to her, or him or both! I didn't see them when I walked in. I tried to capture their traces in my sketch and their spirit in my words. Life is so pretty that even in the face of illness and poverty there are things that stretch beyond 'stuff' - things like loving and being loved, things like grace and courage. If I could, I would put their picture as a definition of marriage :)