The only piece of advice that my Dad gave us when we got married was…. Never to go to bed angry with each other.
This was an old fashioned recipe to stay friends and to keep a marriage together. Certainly one that helped us make the adjustments as we started our lives together as a married couple. When we returned to Vellore, we stayed in a single room on the ground floor in the Mens Internes Quarters, the MIQ at CMC.
The ground floor was reserved for married couples. Sam had the narrow single bed extended with a plank of wood that had its temperamental days. Sometimes it behaved and stayed up with its hinges and sometimes it did not. When it dropped down, it threw whoever was sleeping at the edge off the bed, without warning, onto the floor.
The person sleeping at the edge had two definite disadvantages. Firstly, you could be thrown off unceremoniously onto the floor unannounced. Secondly, if you slept on the edge, you would have to get up when the milkman knocked on the door at some unearthly hour. And wash the milk pan. Very quickly I worked out that I was better off sleeping near the wall and I don’t think Sam found out for a long time why I opted to sleeping near the wall.
The room was tiny and had a bed, a table and a single built-in cupboard which housed all of Sam’s belongings. When we landed Sam was astonished that I needed to share his cupboard and table. He was delighted that we were married and were going to play Housie -Housie, but he had not worked out the logistics of married bliss and sharing shelves in confined spaces.
We used to get our meals in a yellow enamel floral tiffin-carrier one of the wedding presents we had brought from Singapore. It had 5 compartments held together by a metal frame clipped at the top. It used to hold rice, a curry usually a sambhar or rasam , a vegetable and some curd. It was not much but we always managed to share it with our friends who came to visit.
On Sundays we were treated to 4 pieces of meat that lay in a thin film of gravy . Sometimes we would squeal in delight at the smell of the 2 pieces of fried fish that wafted out when we opened the tiffin carrier. On a salary of Rupees 120/- that was all we could afford. We were poor but we were deliriously happy .
Sam’s friends used to drop by and visit us and I was shocked at all the classified information they had on the girls. When men gossiped they call it Update. I found out more about some of my hostel mates in MIQ, than I did in all the years that I lived in Womens Hostel, before I got married.
When one of the wives in MIQ became pregnant and started morning sickness in the early months, the retching and vomiting would be transferred the occupants in the rooms above and below their room. People who lived around the couple would get to know that lady was pregnant, before the parents did. Pregnancy was a passport to move to one of the houses on the hospital campus with a tiny living room, a tiny bedroom, a tiny bathroom and a tiny kitchen. An actual Tiny home.
Its funny how your first home and your last home are so similar in space and function. We downsized to move into Anandam, a retirement community at the foothills of Kodaikanal after we retired. It reminds me so much of our early beginnings as a couple in CMC.
Compact living. A stainless tiffin carrierwith 5 compartments that brings us our meals on wheels from the Cafeteria. No vast plinth area to clean. A chatty milkman who rings the bell at some unearthly hour. Squeals of delight when something from the ordinary surprises us when we open the vegetarian tiffin carrier.
The only difference is that I insisted on 2 bathrooms in the 1000 sq feet retirement cottage when the plans were drawn. Banging on a bathroom door in the morning, cross-legged with a full bladder is good way to ruin a good marriage that started in a single room in the Mens Internes Quarters , CMC, Vellore and survived the journey that followed.