My parents-in-law celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary the other day. I decided it was the best day for them to do one of the many modern day exercises — list 44 things that you appreciate about your partner. As I broached this question, Ma, joked she certainly would have a list — but, wondered if she could state anything she loved about Pa. As we laughed and cracked many jokes, I had other things on my mind.

Marriage, I think, is one of the most difficult but also the best relationship to nurture. How many of us can hope to reach the magic mark of 50 or even 25 years of togetherness? I was reminded of the moment in my life when, the man of my dreams, had looked right into my eyes and had asked if I could see myself growing old with him? I was then, a dreamy-eyed romantic who had frantically nodded without thinking much of it. But, after all these years, when, I see Ma and Pa, I understand what that actually means. A relationship to blossom from a very immature togetherness to this moment of companionship — is itself a true miracle.

Ma and Pa started off their special day by making phone calls. Long-distance calls to children and grandchildren, brought smiles on their faces. Then, they got back to their routine.

“It’s just another day”, Pa quipped.

“Just another day?” I pondered over his statement. I don’t think, either of them realised the enormous feat they had achieved by hanging in there. I wanted to know the magic mantra — the unspoken words of love that has kept them going.

“You should make that list.”, I insisted for the tenth time.

“Oh! No.” Ma protested, “What’s the big deal?”

“You have to tell us the secret — what makes you both such a lovely couple? Besides, it will be a family heirloom. A secret, you can pass on to many generations.” I urged.

Ma was unconvinced. She tried procrastinating. “I will do it in the afternoon,” she suggested. Later, that afternoon, when I reminded her, she pretended to sleep.

Pa, was quick. He grabbed a paper and got to work.

When Pa was done, I called out to Ma again. This time, I was insistent. I sat next to her unmoved with a laptop in hand and ready to take notes. I waited patiently. I think, Ma gave in finally because, she could not do much. I reckon, it must have been difficult to reveal those private and most treasured moments but my fingers got to work instantly.

The list was not long, but what clicked mostly was remembering those numerous moments that strangely replays in your memory time after time. Jogging down that path, I noticed a faint smile and love that warmed up the atmosphere. Ma and Pa without any eye-contact, sat vigilant and listened to the other while pretending to be busy. I watched them from the corner of my eye, but I pretended to stay up to task and not notice.

Later that night, still reeling under the day’s excitement, I watched my husband get ready to bed. With romance lingering in my heart, I asked eagerly what it would be like to celebrate our 44th anniversary?

“Well,” he said, “Like my parents”. Speak to our son, have a nice meal and give each other presents”.

“Presents?” I asked — thrilled and still hopeful of something romantic.

“Yes. You would give me a hearing aid and I would give you a pair of reading glasses,” he replied.

Well, it was a damp squib. However, I don’t know if I will ever make that list. But, if I did receive one, I would treasure it with my life. That, would definitely be better than glasses or hearing-aid!

Sudha Subramanian is an independent journalist based in Dubai.