The biggest,
most challenging
lesson we learn
in any lifetime
is to learn
to be ourselves.

I awoke one morning,
eager, excited and SO ready
to live my life.

Almost immediately,
voices exploded all around me.

“No.” “No, darling.” “NO.”
“Settle.” “Tame.” “Practical.”
“No!” “No, darling!” “NO!”
“Smart.” “Successful.” “Society.”
“No.” “No, darling!” “NO.”

One of the most
powerful words in
human language
became my
death knell.

I suffered, gasped,
choked,
on the ashes of my
own dreams,
praying, crying
to be rescued.

Till the moment I
understood,
the one who could rescue me
lived in me.

“NO!” “NO NO NO!”
“NO!”

I still remember the day
I reclaimed this
most powerful word,
making it mine.

It was the day
I realized
that
to be human
is not to be
a man or a woman.
It is to simply
be myself.

So, hear me.

“NO, I will not conform.”
“NO, I will not think of society.”
“NO, I will not live a robbed life.”
“NO, I will not please you.”
“NO. NO. NO. Because you are not me.”

And you never will be.

“No, not yet.”

“No, not yet.”

“No, not yet.”

“Mad or what? No, not yet.”

“This is the age for me to play with grandkids!” my father finally exploded, one afternoon. In yet another edition of Will My Daughter Ever Listen? we were just winding up one of our more spectacular arguments. “How long should I wait?! You’ve been saying no for the past two years!”

“Two years ago, I was 24! I’m an infant myself and you already want me to give birth?!” I screamed back. All sensible and even respectful sentences always flew out the window whenever I argued with my dad.

He snort-laughed, the laugh I hated because it always sounded derisive, to my ears. The reality was, even in the midst of his anger, he always took the time to enjoy a good joke 😊

For all our arguments, in many ways, our fundamental beliefs about marriage were the same.

What was a good marriage all about?

To me, it was about friendship, laughter and exploring together. I was gaining a companion for life, a best friend who would walk life with me and grow alongside me (and put up with my feminine wiles 😊). We would be each other’s tools for evolution, each other’s mediums and triggers for irreversible transformation.

As the basis of it all, we would love the living daylights out of each other.

To my father, a good marriage was about security and honesty. Could the guy look after his daughter? Was he an honest, sincere man, making his way through life with goodness in his heart and kindness in his actions? That was enough. Nothing else mattered, not caste, not religion, not nationality.

And I whole-heartedly agreed.

When my brother and I were growing up, my father had many one-liners that we loved quoting back at him, whenever the opportunity arose. Our favourite was, “TP, TP, TP,” anytime he was annoyed. Think Positive.

My personal favourite was when, one evening as we discussed marriage, he passionately said, “I don’t care if you bring someone from Uganda, as long as he’s a good man.”

Uganda was about as far-flung from Tamil Nadu, India, as one could get. Chances were remote that a Ugandan man would land up in our living room one day but the sentiment behind his words touched me deeply.

Over the years, I clung to that as I looked for a life-partner. Where was this good any-nationality man with a kind and honest heart who would become my best friend? Why was he not appearing?

Of course, people came and went. But like passing clouds, some left behind rainbows, some left behind storms. In the end, they always dissipated.

And a while down the line, I began wondering if I would have to succumb, after all, and say “yes” to that most dreaded scenario – the arranged marriage.

Shudder!

To a die-hard romantic with dreams of camping under the Northern Lights and a farmhouse amongst the meadows with mini-me and mini-him running about with our dog, Cookie, there was nothing worse. Imagine meeting someone through a matrimonial site and beginning a conversation with, “So, what’s your real height?”

The sheer horror!

The Bible has a phenomenal verse on love. 1 Corinthians 13 from the New Testament says:

…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Replace “love” with “marriage” and there we have it – the highest ideal for partnership.

This was what I sought: not the ideal but a partner who was willing to work towards this with me.

How was I to find this in an arranged marriage scenario?

Still, as time went on and I sensed the keenness in my family to see me “settled”, I decided to give it a shot. If the Divine really wanted me to get married, how did it matter where my partner emerged from as long as he emerged?

But there were two things I was absolutely not willing to compromise on, shallow though they were – he needed to be good-looking (in my eyes 😊) and speak wonderful English. And right there, around 250 of 270 profiles fell through.

Of course, he also needed to either be walking the spiritual path or be willing to work on himself. And with that, the other 20 also fell through, leading us back to square one. But I was adamant.

Did I really want someone who began a conversation with, “Let me tell you my biography and then, you tell yours,”?

A big no.

And the prime point of contention between my dad and me: I would always look at a photo and just know if I wanted to pursue this or not. A photograph speaks a thousand words but not for my father.

“You are doing too much, you know,” he said, one evening, exasperated. “What are you, some beauty queen, that you’ll keep rejecting all these boys?”

It was my turn to snort-laugh and he walked away, fuming.

Yes, it was a challenge because what I sought was very specific and I was not willing to let go of these specificities. In my mind, I had already made the biggest sacrifice possible by agreeing to look at profiles of men who were from a corporate background.

In my ideal scenario, he’d be from an arts background, mostly running in psychology and yoga circles. Yet, here I was, looking at men who worked at this-or-that company in this-or-that position with such-and-such salary.

Along with my ego, my spirit was also dying a slow death.

It was right around this time that I came across a beautiful book.

Audrey and Jeremy Roloff live in Portland, Oregon, USA. Married with two kids now and a third on the way, I had begun following them on Instagram way back in 2016 when they were pregnant with their first child. The way they wrote about each other, their relationship and their love – I was an instant goner.

Their lives became my inspiration.

Three years later, in 2019, they released a book. A Love Letter Life captured all the key moments of their relationship, from the time Jeremy fell in love with her and pursued her to the birth of their first child, and everything in between – Audrey saying yes, their long-distance relationship over three years, their struggles with remaining virgins as hormones overwhelmed them, their wedding, and their journey of faith.

Their relationship was a representation of everything I was looking for – a partnership cemented in faith, self-work and open expressions of love.

Reading the book, I wept. This is what love was meant to be! Here was the Divine in human form, in the shape of two people giving their everything to their spouse so that they may live a happily married life, in the truest sense. At the center of their marriage was God.

The book firmed up my resolve to not settle for anything less than what I was seeking.

Which, unfortunately, made life much worse for my poor family.

My paternal grandfather came to visit, one day, gently enquiring about what progress had been made on the marriage front. While my father hemmed and hawed about how we were still looking, my mother quietly pulled out her phone and clicked on the Instagram post I’d shared that morning.

By this time, I had been in Rishikesh for a while, volunteering at the children’s centre that eventually gave me the lice I carried to the ashram while I met Swamiji. (Here 😊)

“Here,” she said, handing my grandfather the phone. He took it curiously.

Awakening can happen for any of us. All of us. At any time. All it requires is a healthy amount of curiosity, openness – real openness – and willpower.

To a sceptic, even a manifestation of energy in physical form will seem unreal, illusory. The sceptic lives in all of us. In the deepest of absorptions, in the most silent of contemplations, the mind will take shape in the form of the sceptic. It will question, doubt, ridicule, mock.

The only life it has been subjected to is the one we all know – the gross plane, the material one. When it’s taken into a new realm, into other plans, it shrinks back in fear and uses every ounce of its willpower to bring us back to the world it knows best.

Just like a captive tiger released into the wild.

The jungle is his home. He belongs in the wilderness, in the serenity and quiet brought about by cascading waterfalls and hundreds of other living beings. But for the one who has never seen this home, the cage that held him captive feels safe, secure. Binding.

If we want the real, we must step into the jungle. Into the still-unknown dark with trust, complete trust that we will be caught even before we fall. And the arms that catch us will hold us up like nothing we will have ever experienced.

Because nothing brings a mountain forest alive like the rains that rush to meet the sea.

My grandfather, an erudite scholar of the Tamil language, read through it silently before looking up. He got it instantly. “You’re not going to find anyone for her through any matrimonial site,” he said, smiling. “Her intelligence and what she’s looking for is beyond what we can give.”

Later that evening, my mother narrated this incident to me. I remember saying to her, “YES! Finally! Someone gets it, other than you!”

There are few things in the world worse than not being seen for who you are. Heartbreakingly, many, many of us live out our lives in this manner – unseen and unnoticed by the ones who love us, our spirit withers away over a period of time and settles into a mundane, monotonous routine. Our spark fizzles out.

Sustaining a relationship and living a life with the person we love requires compromise. But if we are privileged enough to decide who we get to spend our lives with, why settle for less than what we deserve?

Your spark deserves to be fanned into a flame, into a rip-roaring fire that can transform the world. And your partner? He/she is the gasoline 😊 Just as you will be, for them.

There are countless millions of people who have no voice in how they live out their lives. So, for the ones who have the choice, the responsibility is doubled; it is their voices which will be the reason for change – internal and external.

Perhaps marriages are pre-destined. But a good marriage story is created right here, on earth.

Now, we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then, we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part. Then, I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now, these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

My most valuable takeaway from A Love Letter Life was The Principle of Sharing – simple, phenomenal, transformational. If you are interested in reading the book, you can buy a copy here 😊 In Indian rupees, it’s pricey but worth every paisa.

 

P.S. These events took place a few years ago and are no longer reflective of my current state of mind. Through unimaginable Grace, I’ve found my Home, my everything in Bhagvan 🙂 Now, there’s no looking back.

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Divya Manoharan

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