Shester Thangkhiew was only 26 years old when he first met Sedina Kharbuki at a village event in Nongmahir, Ri Bhoi. Before this point, neither knew the other, but the stars were aligned for them to meet and ultimately begin a romance that has lasted over forty years now.
In the cool winter of December 1979, Sedina and Shester began a relationship, not knowing how it would unfold thereafter. Within four years, however, they were married, again on a cold January. Four decades later, Shester and Sedina have seven daughter and two sons, who should only be blessed to repeat their parents love story.
On one of the river islands of Nongmahir, now famous for couples seeking an isolated retreat from Shillong’s noise and pollution, Shester and Sedina speak to me on what has kept their love alive.
Shester works as a forest guard. Sedina was once a homemaker – her hands full with a full house – but has taken up the role of manageing their island in Nongmahir.
“When we first met, Sedina’s brother did not like me very much”, laughs Shester. “I was a poor man, with no job and no prospects”. Like many young Khasi men then and now, jobs were scarce, so Shester worked as a daily wage labourer when work did come around. He was responsible for looking after the family cattle, but knew when he met Sedina that could not remain in these dire straits if he had to win her heart and her family’s trust.
“I loved her so much, so I tried everything I could to please her family”, says Shester. He says it was only the Lord’s blessings that he could marry her after three years of romance, but Shester is too modest to say how much he worked to be deserving of Sedina.
On her part, Sedina, a devoutly Christian woman, says, “You know, in the Bible, Ephesian 12:22 says that the wife should submit to her husband as she submits to her Lord. So I have always remained loving and patient with him to keep our love alive. Even when Shester raises his voice, I keep silent and wait for his anger to dissipate. Whether I have done something to anger him or not, I soothe him. He takes care of me and no matter what comes upon us, I know I will always be by his side. Shester is the perfect man for me”.
For some, a love that has lasted almost half a century is privilege, but for young millenials, it is a fantasy. It is also realistically impossible as young men and women wait longer and longer to marry, whilst cheating and divorce have become an everyday affair. “As a man”, says Shester, “before you propose to a girl, you need think deeply”. He believes the love you promise when you are young is little like the love you need to grow old together, through suffering and pain. “No matter what happens, as you age, you have to be there for each other. If the world attacks you, you need to be shield that protects the relationship”.
“The same is for women. A man can walk in mud and leave nothing behind, but a woman can dent even a stone with her feet. So think deeply before you devote yourself to man. Don’t rush and waste your strength and reptuation”, says Sedina.
In all their years of marriage, Sedina and Shester may have fought many times, but never enough to separate. “You have to work to create joy and subdue anger”, they say.
Their island venture at Nongmahir began when they saw how the waters of Dawki, Sohra and Nongkhnum attracted tourists, especially couples. Converting their island home to a resort, they joined others in making Nongmahir the weekend getaway for couples and families in love.
In parting, Sedina says, “As a wife, I only want to speak pleasant words to my huband. Neither will I speak ill to him or about him. I chose him, so it’s my duty to live with him and cherish him”.