Be tolerant to each other’s opinions, say Padma Bhushan VP Dhananjayan and wife Shanta Dhananjayan.
The Bharatanatyam dancing legends from Chennai, in a chat with KS Rajasekar, reveal the secrets to their happy relationship of over 50 years.
They first met when she was 8 and he was 12. “I met her when my guru Chandu Panicker brought me to Kalakshetra. He asked her to take care of me because she was the only one who could speak Malayalam. I couldn’t speak any other language. From that day to this moment, she has been taking care of me,” beams Dhananjayan as he looks at wife Shanta who’s almost shy on hearing this. The adorable couple celebrated 50 years of marriage last year.
What enriched your relationship?
“Our traditional family “sankriti” – living, eating and sharing everything together philosophy made us develop the “give and take” attitude in us very early in life. That has enriched our relationship after marriage. Culture and values were given much importance, education was about “character building” and we were taught to live in harmony with nature,” he says.
A joint family makes children imbibe the values of sharing and staying together. Grandparents and parents had time for the kids of the home.
How love for dance binds them together
Art brings hearts together. Shanta and me share a passion – Bharatnatyam and that binds us together lifelong. We work together doing programs across the globe. We play to our strengths, she manages the home as she’s a good administrator while I take on our dance school work. So our life runs smoothly like a train on the two rails.
Let go of the ego
“Why should I listen to him or her is a common query of today’s young people,” he says. If we take time to love, understand the spouse and be non-judgemental, then the relationship can be very very happy,” he continues. Shanta joins in, “They have to be patient and develop tolerance for the spouse. They must respect each other’s parents and treat them as mothers and fathers, not in-laws. If they have a problem, give it a bit of time and soon it settles down with understanding.”
Learn to appreciate the small things
“Appreciating the good things in partner is key to happiness. Even if there’s a little less salt in the dinner, one should not complain,” he suggests.
What’s special about her?
She is an ideal “Bharatiya naari”, very compassionate and her approach to life is positive. She never finds fault in others.
What’s special about him?
He’s an embodiment of “Kadamai Kanniyam Kattupaadu” (Duty, Discipline, Control). He’s intelligent and positive too.
How do you manage disagreements?
“We do argue about some things but we hear each other’s point of view with an open mind. Then we agree what could be corrected and never carry forward any grudge,” he says. “We decided to make our lives beautiful for each other and hence, we agree rather quickly,” she says and smiles.
Advice to newly married couples…
“Couples should have a spiritual side to their lives. Doing things together including eating and praying can nurture the relationship and bring out happiness in the family,” advises Dhananjayan. Shanta says, “Couples should go beyond themselves and show love for those in each other’s families. To be happy they must have gratitude for what they’ve blessed with.”