WOW | Coffee Break
What Makes a Good Marriage?
Being best friends, having a great sense of humour, saying ‘I love You’ everyday, lot of cuddling, not sleeping over a fight… what holds a couple together through the trials and triumphs of life. Real couples tell us the truth about the realities of making a marriage last.
Sanjiv Rijal(Director, Nepal Jute Industry / Managing Director, Krishna Tower and Krishna Oxygen)
Rena Rijal(Head of Marketing, Corporate Communication and Institutional Banking, Kumari Bank)
Why be alone when you can be together? With 21 years of marriage, this couple has grown their love for each other and are with the years are even younger at heart. They share their responsibilities as a couple, as parents to two sons and the extended family with love and patience.
How did marriage happen?
Sanjiv: It was a typical arranged marriage. Since my parents were in a hurry to get me married, they showed me her photo after I returned from my studies in the States. I agreed and we were allowed to meet only once before the wedding, that too for just five minutes. Within that interval, I just wanted to ensure two things: whether she was getting married under her parents’ pressure and if she was seeing someone. Luckily, her answers to both questions were negative. Somehow, we also managed to have pizza during that short meeting. Those five minutes were totally worth it!
Rena: I was nervous at that time since I was very young when our wedding was set. However, I trusted my parents’ choice and during the meeting, my instinct told me that he was a very caring person and that he was going to be the perfect husband.
Sanjiv: Our wedding was initially set for February 15, 1995 but I changed it to February 14 since it is Valentine’s Day, a celebration of love, and on the other hand, the anniversary would also be easier to remember.
Rena: And on our wedding day, he surprised me with a big Valentine’s Day card right at the mandap! His sweet gesture made my ‘big day’ even bigger and turned a regular into a dream wedding. Girls get happy with little things and he knows exactly how to make me happy. (laughs)
Three things that have kept you together
Rena: We don’t have anything to hide. We share with each other every little bit of our lives. Because we care about each other a lot, despite our busy work schedules, we make time to do certain activities together. That is the main thing that has always kept our love strong. And of course, our kids are the most precious.
Sanjiv: Our honesty is one of the main things that have kept us together. Her loving, sharing, caring nature, and definitely our children.
Sanjiv: I can’t describe how much she means to me. Apart from taking care of our family and being my wife, she is also the one person who tried her best to get me to quit smoking and ultimately succeeded in doing so. From the moment she found out I smoked, she has helped and motivated me to give up the habit. Not only has it bettered my health physically but also mentally. I feel relieved now and I owe it all to her.
Having said that, she gets worried and anxious most of the time and is also dependent on me for every little thing; even if it’s least important, she has to confirm it with me or inform me about something she’s thinking of doing.
Rena: He is a very straight forward, and he doesn’t ever say no to me. He has always allowed me to do whatever I want to. In fact, he encourages me to. He doesn’t compromise on anything when it comes to our children. His caring nature makes me proud of him. Before I was quite impatient but I’m not like that anymore; he has helped me overcome this.
He hardly has any bad habits. He had one of smoking which he’s quit. The only thing I don’t like much is his short temper but then he can’t stay angry with me for too long.
First to apologise
Sanjiv: That would be me, of course. Even if it’s not my mistake, I have to make her happy. (laughs)
Rena: I also do so sometimes. (both smile)
Rena: Coming from a nuclear family, I had quite a hard time fitting into a joint family. And then there were some cultural differences I had to get used to since he was from Biratnagar. For instance, having to wear ghumto and sari all day was something I had never imagined doing. But because of his support, I overcame it happily and now it doesn’t even matter to me. And I find it really stupid at the present moment because those were really small things. Whenever I think of those times, it was just a part of my life which now brings a smile on my face. (giggles)
Rena: We had to terminate our second baby at eight months due to certain health issues. And obviously, it was the most difficult decision I had to make and I even went through a lot of physical and mental trauma during that phase. It was a boy. Things got from bad to worse when a few months later Sanjiv suffered from a spinal cord tumour. Going through all the medical procedures and making the decision of giving up on our child made it extremely challenging. But when you are surrounded by supportive loved ones, you can overcome the toughest times of your life. Till now those were the hardest periods we have experienced.
When I conceived my youngest son, I was extremely happy because it felt like he was the reincarnation of the child we lost.
Shakti Begani (Executive Director, Shree Ganapati Jewellers & Navaratna Jewellers)
Kirti Begani(Homemaker/ Jewellery Designer)
21 years of togetherness after an arranged marriage, Shakti and Kirti Begani agree that they grew into the relationship. Matching Shakti’s perfectionist attitude with Kirti’s easy going nature – the parents of two-fit together perfectly creating an ideal balance of ying and yang.
How has your relationship evolved?
Both: I would say as we matured, so did our relationship. Children teach you to have a lot of patience; you learn from each other and grow more understanding. Your priorities obviously shift, you start trusting each other’s abilities more, and words of encouragement definitely help.
First to apologise
Shakti: That would be me. (both smile)
How do you celebrate love?
Shakti: We believe in small exchanges of love. Kirti loves to surprise me with hand written notes, cards and collages. I appreciate the thought she puts into each of these things.
Kirti: Sometimes, it is good to share your love with others as well, so we go on dinners as a family and meet with friends. Also, if we have the time, we take holidays once a year where you detach from everything and just enjoy quality time with the family, it is a great way to bond and reconnect.
Shakti: She is a very easy going person. It suits my temperament and she lets me in on fresh perspectives that I would otherwise not take note of. Sometimes, I tend to make snap judgements of people, but she always gives people the benefit of the doubt. Also, I love her devotion towards the family and children which was evident very early on in our marriage when she insisted on being more involved with the family than the business. Over the years, I have realised that this was needed. Her whole hearted involvement in the family is the reason why we are so closely bonded. About dislikes, after much thought…can’t think of any!
Kirti: He is genuinely a very caring person, not just to me but to his children and, parents as well. He makes sure that people around him are well taken care of. On the other hand, he is a perfectionist and needs everything on time and in a precise manner. As I am not that kind of a person, it bothers me sometimes. Nevertheless, I also feel that the differences in our personality are the reason why we complement each other so well.
What makes a good marriage
Shakti: A relationship should be one where both husband and wife make adjustments. They should work on effective communication so that trust builds over time.
Kirti: In my opinion, if you love your husband, then only can you love his entire family. So, work on making your bond stronger. You need to understand that you are not marrying a person but an entire family so make sure you treat his family as your own.
How do you make time for one another on a daily basis?
Kirti: A family that eats together stays together. We always have breakfast and dinner together as family. This was something we learned from our parents and the custom continues.
Pradeep Kumar Shrestha (Managing Director, Panchakanya/ Vice President, Asia Pacific Chamber)
Usha Kiran Shrestha (Entrepreneur/ Board Member of Tewa)
Years of marriage has not slowed this couple down but instead made their bond stronger. With a simple take on marriage, their advice for young love is worth a listen. Married for 30 years, the couple will give you some serious family goals. They are parents to two sons.
How did the marriage happen?
Pradeep: We had an arranged marriage and got to know each other through a family friend. I was from Jhapa and she was from Kathmandu. Since arranged marriages were the thing at that time, it was during the wedding preparations that we slowly started to fall for each other.
Usha: It was initially arranged but love soon followed.
Pradeep: Not really, we both came from similar backgrounds and were always surrounded by family to help us through. Perhaps the only challenge was that in spite of me being a Newar, I wasn’t quiet fluent with the Newari language. Another problem was probably getting adjusted in Kathmandu. But between us, I say we have been really blessed in our marriage. Besides, it helps to have a very understanding persona as a life partner.
How do you deal with conflict in your marriage?
Pradeep: You only know the taste of sugar if you know the taste of salt. A little discussion here and there only makes us cherish the happy moments more. She is a very observant person and does not react without communicating about how she feels. That makes it a lot easier.
Usha: After these years, we have mastered our communication skills. Hence, we now have very few disagreements.
Pradeep: She is a great homemaker. While I take charge mostly of business matters, I can be rest assured that she will manage the entire household along with our children. I feel lucky in the sense she puts in a great deal of time and effort for the family. She is also very hands on, especially when we have family events and parties. Her food and organising skills are phenomenal.
Usha: He is a really hard working person and extremely supportive of me. He also has a great sense of humour which I enjoy. But he really needs to inform me beforehand or at least give me enough preparation time before organising parties or inviting guests over. (laughs)
What makes a good marriage?
Usha: There are too many love marriages these days and some that don’t work out. Sometimes when you start dating before marriage, you begin to have unrealistic expectations. You only tend to enjoy the good side of a relationship which are outings and having fun. But marriage is where you face both sides of a coin. With added responsibilities in marital life, some couples get flustered. That is when they start comparing their happy past with the present and problems arise. It is important to know each other well and understand the implications of marriage before embarking on this journey.
Pradeep: Learn to embrace the mundane routines of life, not every day can be exciting. There is beauty in doing everyday rituals and it is good to find meaning in them. Also, spend time to understand the implications of living with your in-laws. Limit social events that do not serve much purpose. When you start going out a lot, you are more likely to compare with others. This leads to dissatisfaction. Just be happy with small things and do not expect much from one another. There are a lot of things to look forward to even in simpler things.
Best moments together
Usha: It was during our youngest son’s graduation in Miami. We were on a speed boat, the weather was just right and it was extremely windy. It was quite a new and thrilling experience to share together. Whenever I see pictures of that day, I still have a smile on my face.
Pradeep: Recently I went to South Africa with the entire family as a part of the South African Harmony Council. We were very well received by the people there and went to amazing places one of which was the Kruger National Park where we experienced exotic wildlife and cooked together. Then in Johannesburg, we were upgraded to this beautiful suite. It was better than I could ever imagine. The time spent there was quite exciting as we were experiencing new things as a family.
Dil Bhushan Pathak (Editor –in- Chief, Kantipur Telivison/ Host, Tough Talk / Founder, Interface Nepal)
Shikha Prasai Pathak (Executive Director, Interface Nepal/ President, Kathmandu Kickers/ Secretary, PP Prasai Foundation)
“We have three children and one of them is our company Interface Nepal”.
The two define the modern day couple eloquently and share great admiration for each other’s work ethics. 13 years into marriage, their collective love for work and family has taught them all the tricks needed for work life balance. So take note.
How did you meet?
Shikha: Like most of the weddings in our culture, we met through a relative.
Dil Bhushan: This relative had a very different approach of persuading us. He first wanted us to get in touch with each other for marriage but in case that did not work out, he wanted us to just be friends because he knew we had similar personalities. He recognised our ambitious nature and knew that we would be of help to one another in the future as life partners or in our professional lives. His intentions were not just to get us married but to help one another reach our potential.
How has your marriage changed after children?
Shikha: There are ups and downs in every marriage, but the most important thing you can do during that time is to pause and reflect; the challenge is how you move forward after some reflecting. In the heat of the moment, you may forget to notice and understand, but reflecting always helps. Married life is real, there are problems and issues and it is not always as expected, during those times it is important that you learn to handle yourself and each other.
Dil Bhushan: I think we both don’t. (laughs)
Shikha: In my opinion, I think it is me. If he is upset, he can go days without talking but I tend to keep talking since there are no other options but to talk!
What makes a good marriage.
Dil Bhushan: We are incredibly hard working people. We set up our own company called Interface Nepal and since we work so much, we do not really have much time to argue. Additionally, we are constantly on the move and believe in actively participating in our children’s lives so we keep ourselves busy by partaking in their school activities as well.
Shikha: Do what you can, even if you cannot go on several foreign trips due to money or time issues. Try to keep things exciting by travelling around Nepal. Also, eat different cuisines together, these things spice life up. Do what is in your means to spice things up and add excitement to your life.
One ritual that you do as a couple
Shikha: We try and adjust according to the work schedules as the field we work in is quiet flexible. Also, we eat dinners as a family regardless of work. This is a tradition that goes unbroken and keeps us tight as a family.
Making time for one another
Shikha: Marriage is an investment, you build it from nothing. At the end of the day, there is a lot at stake so it is important to keep building and making it stronger.
Dil Bhushan: If you have the will, you will do it, even simple activities such as going shopping for the kids, we make sure all four of us go together. This way you end up spending more time and strengthening your bond with your children. Also, even if we have not had that quality time, it is important to compensate with family holidays and outings.
What has kept you strong and grounded all these years?
Both: Our friends deserve a mention. When they appreciate our relationship, either by wishing us well on facebook or acknowledging us as a family, it always sends positivity. Such times make you stop and appreciate your life too. They make you notice things which you may have otherwise been overlooking.
Even our two children keep us in check. They actually give us feedback on our relationship and that encourages us to work harder on ourselves. They can sense it whenever there is some sort of dispute between us. So, sometimes we try to resolve issues for their sake.
Shahnawaz Mohammad (Wedding Photographer )
Runa Banu (Homemaker)
Although an arranged marriage, Shahnawaz and Runa are the classic filmy couple. Resembling the quintessential Bollywood story where vivacious bubbly girl meets the shy introverted boy, this married pair of seven years is all about celebrating love on a daily basis along with their cute little son.
How did you get married?
Runa: It was quiet filmy actually. We had only seen each other’s pictures before agreeing to get engaged. It was during the two year engagement period when we actually fell in love with each other.
How do you celebrate your love?
Both: We feel that love does not need a date or a day for celebration, everyday is an opportunity to grow and fall more in love.
What is the most romantic thing you have done for each other?
Runa: On my birthday after the year we got engaged, he surprised me with an outing. We went to a beautiful place where he had arranged a cake and even a person who sang a birthday song for me. It was a really precious, something I will remember always.
Shahnawaz: There are quite a few.
Runa: I surprised him on an anniversary… he had forgotten about it. I had thrown him a nice party, but he got stuck with the cheque afterwards (*giggles)
Who usually apologises in the relationship?
Runa: I make the first move regardless of whose fault it is. He eventually says sorry if it is his fault but only after I speak.
Runa: I like his personality; he doesn’t change according to situations. He stays true to himself. Also, he has this ability to calmly explain things to me which I love. I can get excited quickly and he makes me understand situations better even when I am flustered.
He is a committed professional; he has never celebrated our son’s birthday because that is usually when all the wedding happens. He takes his work really seriously and sometimes even takes his health for granted which I do not like.
Shahnawaz: I like that she is a very open and cheerful person. She does not get angry fast and is always joyous. But then, she sometimes tends to forget things easily in all the excitement. There have been times I tell her to get something done but when I get home and ask her about it, she goes, “Oh, you’d told me to do that, right? It totally skipped my mind!” And because of the kind of person I am, this trait of hers really tests my patience.
Describe your relationship
Runa: It is ‘magical’. We are always learning new things from one another, everyday is new and exciting.
3 most important things needed in a marriage.
Shahnawaz: We never compromise on these three things: understanding, love, and trust.
A challenge you had to overcome.
Shahnawaz: During one of the earlier earthquakes, my father had gone out to Sundhara with my son. I came home only to find Runa at home but none of my family members. She was anxious about our son that she had no idea about where my mother, who has difficulty walking, was. I felt like she was not thinking about the family as a whole but was being a little self-centred. That annoyed me even though I understood that it was a mother’s heart yearning for her son. At the end of the day, it was all good. We also clearly discussed about the issue and she understood where I was coming from, and that I am a family person.