As the nation prepared to celebrate independence from colonial rule 60 years ago, Soosay Arokianathan and Joanita Leela Nathaniel also embarked on a new chapter in their lives together.
Nathan, 89, and Leela, 87, as they are better known, tied the knot on Aug 28, three days shy of independence.
The streets were full of decorations, as if the entire country was celebrating their union.
“Three days before Merdeka, we got our Merdeka,” Nathan quipped about their intimate ceremony which saw home-cooked food being served on banana leaves at Leela’s family home in Ipoh Road.
Sixty years later, the couple walked down the aisle again for a surprise diamond anniversary celebration – this time flanked not by flower girls but by their two grandchildren.
“To look after each other,” were Leela’s response on how the couple remained together despite life’s ups and downs.
What was spoken about them at their anniversary celebration in Westin Kuala Lumpur, however, gave a glimpse into their life together.
“We wanted a gathering of people who love them to celebrate their six decades of marriage with them,” said their daughter Pauline, who organised the event along with husband Arul Nathan and her brothers Peter and Raymond.
“My parents don’t show it much but through their actions, you can see that they care for each other.
“What I have learnt from their years together is that you have to give and take – love is not measured by anything and it doesn’t have to be shown outwardly but also in other ways,” Pauline said.
Maybe it was the cups of coffee and tea she made for him every single day over the years or the easy-going sense of humour he shared with the family, but it was also about getting through the tough times together.
Sixteen years ago, Nathan and Leela’s son Patrick died unexpectedly.
The family has kept memories of him close to their hearts and held a brief memorial in his honour during the event.
Their eldest son, Peter, found that their secret to a happy marriage is laughter through thick and thin.
“They laugh a lot and know how to have fun with friends and family.
“In sixty years of marriage, they may argue and complain about each other but we know and can see that deep down, they have always loved each other and their relationship is as strong as ever,” Peter said.
Their second son Raymond could not agree more.
“My mum is always complaining and dad is always laughing so they balance each other out,” he joked.
“And yet at the end of the day, they are always there for each other,” he said while extolling his father’s athletic skills and mother’s musical talent.
These were inherited by their grandchildren as exhibited through the night’s performances – from the vocal prowess of their granddaughter Dhanya to tabla percussions by grandson Ceevan and cultural dances performed by both.
The night ended with an impromptu serenade by Nathan to Leela followed by a cake-cutting session where they lovingly fed one another.
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