Ha! This whole thing turned out to be the same lesson my parents always told me, “you have to live together before you get married”. It’s TRUE!!!! You get through all the horrible messy angry stuff before you make that lifelong commitment and then you know you really want that lifelong commitment.
Episode 7: The Parents are Here
Dhruv and Kavya’s new apartment is full up with parents. And it’s sort of….okay. Dhruv and his Dad are still tense around each other but his Mom is running interference and it works out. Kavya’s parents are as sweet as ever. But what is most important in this visit is that it feels like 3 couples, 3 families. It’s not Kavya and her parents and Dhruv and his parents, two sets of 3. It’s 3 sets of 2. Kavya’s Dad says it outloud, that watching Kavya with Dhruv he feels like he is retired a second time, no more job to do taking care of Kavya. That sounds really patriarchal, but in the moment it is just a statement. Parents do feel responsible for their children forever. And it is strange when there is a moment of seeing someone else take care of your kid instead of you. Which we see for real, without being underlined, when Dhruv helps Kavya through her physical therapy exercises. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a routine they do every morning, she literally leans on him. Dhruv’s parents are going through a different struggle, mostly financial. Learning to just accept that Dhruv is spending his money the way he wants to spend his money, even if they think his house is too large or whatever else. And then there is a party. Dhruv and Kavya are hosting it, it is their friends here to meet their parents. Another reversal of generations, it is the younger generation that is introducing the older. It’s a nice party, everything gels. Dhruv’s new work friends, their old couple friend who got married, Kavya’s old work friend, and the two sets of parents. Everything is happy. It’s not perfect, but it is happy. And that’s when Kavya pulls Dhruv aside and proposes, says this feels like their engagement party. She gives him back the ring he gave her to think about, and he puts it on her finger.
Episode 8: Engagement
Dhruv and Kavya decide not to say anything that night, although she also doesn’t hide the ring. After their parents are asleep, Kavya says she wants to get up and talk. So they go for a drive, stop to get antacids when Dhruv starts feeling bad, then walk over and get chai, return to the car to find it blocked in, fall asleep in the car, wake up and drive home and tell the parents they are engaged. And then have a tiny little engagement ceremony, just with the parents watching, as Dhruv puts the ring on her finger again. And that’s the end of the show.
The name of the show is “Little Things”. And that’s what it sticks with. A relationship is built of a million little things, and the “big moments” aren’t actually as important as the little moments. The “Little Things” are the building blocks, they add up to big things, that’s how a relationship works. This engagement is a Big Thing. But also, it’s not. It’s natural and normal, it happened because all their friends and family were gathered in their house, because they had decided to share their lives, because they were taking care of each other, because of 5 years of little things. So by the time they get engaged, it feels as normal as going out for coffee.
A common complaint about romantic fiction is that it creates an unhealthy vision of relationships. Male stalkers, female suicidal lovers, all that love at first sight stuff, and married after just meeting a few times, and blah blah blah. The counter-argument is “but regular relationships are BORING! No one wants to watch that”. Or alternatively, “people want the fantasy”. What this show is saying is “here, here is a boring relationship that doesn’t follow any of the romantic rules, and it has a happy ending”. Kavya and Dhruv were right to move slowly and start dating, to move in together and get to know each other better, to fight and make up and talk things out, to separate when they felt they had independent needs driving them apart, and finally make a considered decision to live together again.
I have to admit that the ending I was afraid of was “Kavya and Dhruv break up, and 6 months later we see them with other people because true love moves fast and doesn’t faff around for 5 years”. But instead the lesson is “true love can move slow, can consider things, and then when the engagement happens, it is all easy”.
It’s not just that Kavya and Dhruv have this simple conversation and get engaged, it is that they get engaged officially in their living room with their parents, and that’s it. They have spent 5 years getting their parents to know each other and to understand their relationship, and that means shifting to “engagement” doesn’t have such a seismic effect on familial behavior. If you see what I mean.
Family story time! As I have mentioned before, Kavya and Dhruv have a very similar story to my own parents. They started dating young-young-young in college, then went their own ways after college in a sort of mushy ill-defined long distance relationship way, then landed in the same city and moved in together, and then finally after 7 years of off and on and 2 years of living together, they just went out one afternoon and got married. And then sent telegraphs to their parents telling them they just got married.
One of my favorite parts of this story is the version I heard from my grandparents. Coincidentally, my Dad’s parents were on vacation at a state park that was near where my Mom’s parents lived. So my Dad’s parents went “wait, don’t her Mom and Dad live near here?” and then they got out the phone book and found their number and called them up and said “how about those crazy kids! Let’s all have lunch together to celebrate”. It was one of the happiest times of their lives, because they all loved this young couple and had been waiting for them to get married, everyone was on the same page, even among the parents.
And that’s what this show is showing. A “live-in” relationship isn’t some scary freaky thing. It’s a nice thing, a normal thing, an easy thing. It lets the couple work out all the mess privately so that by the time the marriage happens, they are in a different place. And everyone around them is in a different place. It’s not marriage plus moving plus introducing the families plus working out how finances are going to work plus dealing with alternate sleep schedules plus figuring out what food you both like, plus working out household chores, plus plus plus. It’s just marriage. Making a commitment. Nothing else changes, but what is changing inside of you.
If we look at the whole 4 year span of this show, we can think of it as working out all the big kinks, getting through the mess and the practice, until they reached this point of “yeah, let’s get married, it’s okay”.
And I feel kind of foolish for worrying about some bomb going off and breaking them up, because the show address that too. Kavya honestly tells Dhruv she may never want kids and asks if that is a “dealbreaker”. And he says “this isn’t a game of Jenga!!!! You don’t remove one piece and it all falls apart”. And yeah, that’s true. Kids are a big piece to relationships. But at this point, this couple isn’t going to implode in a second over one issue. Oh, and in the Indian context, or really any context, I love that Dhruv and Kavya agree the kid decision is 60/40, 40 on Dhruv and 60 on Kavya. Because, YES!!!! Both ways YES!!! Men are allowed to have a desire to be parents, and allowed to express that to their intimate partner. But it is just More for women and the woman should have the ultimate say. This is a conversation they can keep having, so long as Kavya is allowed to keep saying “no” and that is the end of it.
Okay, that’s all I’ve got! Besides being very sad to say good-bye to Dhruv and Kavya and Kavya’s adorable parents. How about you?