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March 16, 2010


When I was a child, parents were viewed as a single entity. Divorce was just a word, never a reality.

Since mortality rates were high in those days, single-parent families did exist. My paternal grandmother was married at 14. By the time she was in her twenties, she had 7 children and then lost her husband. For the rest of her long life Mai was a widow.

In our community re-marriage was socially acceptable for both men and women. My grandfather married Mai after his first wife died at an early age. My great grandmother was widowed twice, thereafter living many more years as the family matriarch.

My parents lived to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary and some more. They never stayed apart, unless it was imperative for short spells. As a child, I cannot recall a single instance when they raised their voices to yell or quarrel with each other. Arguments and discussions were, of course, common in the joint family. If they had conflicts (surely they did!) we never got to see or hear about them. Whatever it cost them to maintain this peaceful atmosphere, we, their children, were the benficiaries growing up in a secure and harmonious home.

One of my distinct memories is the murmur of my parents' low voices conversing in the next room every night, after we were put to bed. That murmur, together with the sound of crickets and frogs in the dark outside is the most soothing lullaby of my childhood. I would watch the flicker of light from the little oil lamp kept in the bedroom and fall asleep in minutes.

Now, on a particularly bad night, I toss and turn for hours. But sleep eludes me.

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