My first ideas on marriage were borrowed from a partnership that lasted fifty-two years. It sounds like a lifetime. It very much is. I witnessed the old-world charm of love, longing, and loss all bundled in a lifespan and, more importantly, in my formative years.
As a young Christian couple back in the sixties, my grandparents relocated from the lush bounties of Kerala to the remote interiors of a mundane town on the hinges of Tamil Nadu. An arranged introduction, a pair of rings, and a sermon later, the two were declared man and wife. There was only enough time and space to memorize each other’s family names. Love was a far cry, a whisper rather.
Between my grandmother’s affluent upbringing and my grandfather’s humble origins, his Nikon camera captured their journey and the romantic potential of a young, tender, and ‘slow love.’ In his camera film roles, she held the visual space and vivacity of a wife, a woman, and most importantly, a person coming into her own being. She was the first muse to an avid photographer– a handsome, jovial man and her brother’s friend, whom she had known for one fortnight before they uttered their vows aloud. The days, months, and years following this marriage displayed a courtship that could put Bridgerton to shame. For the first time in twenty years, my grandmother became the centre of someone’s attention and retained this sort of love, warmth, and caregiving in her husband’s gaze.
Abundant with solo shots of her in front of majestic mountains, beaches, and bridges to the most mundane activities captured at an odd wedding, the kitchen, or their bedroom, she stands there sporting luscious silk sarees and a heart-wrenching smile. You can look and tell when one wishes to live their brightest times out of a dull, depleting monochrome album. My grandmother has repeatedly expressed that desire verbally too. She holds the grief of not having documented enough between them in a fifty-two-year-long marriage. Long, not old. Before one left the other behind, these photographs are all that remains of their love and a beautiful companionship in the wake of time.
This brings me back to ‘slow love.’ The kind that can underline and define a marriage. The kind that is hard to imagine, much less pursue, in an era of relentless dating app swipes and cursory likes. Instead, you slow things down in your mind, so the familiarity is never fleeting but naturally carved out. The kind where the idea of discovering one another is not a headrush but a steady walk down an uphill road, hand in hand. The kind that compels your grandchildren to revel in its memory and set out to search for its traces in reality. The kind where you take a lifetime to get to know yourself and, in turn, get to know your partner a tad bit more closely. A slow and steady kind of love.
In some sense, I do believe slow love makes for safer relationships. Your expressions of love are not hurried. You learn the communication necessary to relish the pace of a budding romantic relationship. You long for the warmth of handwritten letters and face-to-face interactions, and if you’re daring enough, a five-decade-old photo archive, like my grandfather’s, would do too. Early, earnest commitment can nourish a fertile plane that leads to intimacy, mutual understanding, and deep love. Perhaps, sometimes, it is their very condition. The hope is to capture the intent and ideal of a love that is simply learned and lived every day to the fullest.