For the second finalist story from our ‘Most Understanding Couple’ campaign, we travelled to Jinuwa, a small town in southern central Nepal. Just 4 km from the famous east-west highway, Jinuwa has a quiet and timeless feel, despite being so close to one of Nepal’s busiest roads the town itself, surrounded by open fields and beautiful yellow-colored mustard crops.
Among the many who call this town home are Rekha and Lekhnath Poudel, the next finalists in the Change Starts at Home “Most Understanding Couple” campaign. Lekhnath migrated from the Pyuthan District, a mountainous part of the country, to Kapilvastu for his higher education. Student life wasn’t easy, but Lekhnath worked hard, becoming a teacher at a local school, where he met Rekha, his colleague at the time.
At first, their relationship was purely professional. Then, at a community festival where they were both assigned to prepare food for the guests, the two first met outside of the school. After the event ended, Lekhnath asked Rekha for a walk. Concerned about what others might think, Rekha was reluctant at first, but in the end she decided to take a chance and joined him in what turned out to be the first of many walks together.
As their relationship developed, so did the external pressures from the society around them. Jinuwa is a traditional and conservative town, and having a romantic relationship was frowned upon. Couples were expected to get married by family arrangement not by chance meetings.
Refusing to be bound by traditions that looked down on their relationship, the couple stayed together and, after three years, decided to get married. As per custom, Lekhnath asked Rekha’s father for her hand in marriage, only to be declined. Not ready to accept defeat, Rekha suggested they elope and soon after the couple were married. After three months of matrimony, their parents accepted their love for each other and gave them their blessing.
But how has the couple coped with having a relationship so heavily judged and condemned by their families and communities? And what made Rekha go against her family’s wishes and decide to elope? We talked to them to find out more…
Rekha: I don’t know where the courage comes from. I was just a simple girl from this village. When my parents disagreed, I couldn’t think of a life without him. The courage somehow emerged from within and I was the one who told him that we should elope. He agreed and we ran away from the village and went to Dang. We got married straight after.
Lekhnath: It was difficult at the beginning because I wasn’t from here and I had to start up everything from the scratch. However, it was bearable because I had her by my side.
Rekha: I never regretted taking the decision to marry him. He has been there for me since we met and has always fulfilled everything I wished for. We discuss everything together and make decisions together. For example, when we first got married, he hadn’t finished his studies. So I worked at that time and supported him. Later, when he finished his studies and started working, I decided to stay home to look after our son. He encouraged me to continue my studies, but I knew looking after our son was more important so I decided to be a stay-at-home mother. He has always supported me. The quality I admire the most about him is that he never gets angry. He is a good listener and always deals with situations logically. My weakness I would say is that I get irritated very quickly. But even during those times, he doesn’t get angry and gives me space to process everything.
Lekhnath: The quality I love about her is that she really looks after me and is always reminding me about my obligations even when I lose track of things. There isn’t anything that I dislike about her. I sometimes tell her not to be too hard on our son, as I believe that children learn many things from the way their parents behave towards them and each other. So I remind her to be careful with our son and not to get irritated. But there isn’t anything that I don’t like about her. I think that my weakness is that I get too busy with work that sometimes my household obligations take second place. I am a hardworking person and think that I have to work hard for a better future, which is why I am often engaged in many things outside of the house. However, I make sure that I have put away my evenings and Saturdays for her. It is very important for couples to spend time together. So, even if I am tired some days, I make sure that I spend a few hours with her talking about our day and other things; and I only go to sleep after she does.
Rekha: I don’t mind him spending the majority of the day outside of the house. We have a small child and we have to think about all of our futures. If we don’t work hard now, then it will affect our future. He spends every evening with me and Saturdays, which is more than enough for me.
Lekhnath: I think our relationship is strong because we understand each other very well. She knew that she will have to struggle after she married me, since I came from a low economic background. This didn’t faze her, she told me that she would rather struggle with me than to live without me. This goes to show that she is a very strong woman, which I admire a lot. She listens to me and I am always paying attention to her needs. We make all the decisions together and we both are completely aware of both of our financial dealings. We keep a budget book in our house. We record our income, expenses and savings for each month. Since, I didn’t have a lot of money when I started out here, I knew that we had to be very careful with our income. So, I taught her about managing money and how to ensure that we do not exceed our budget. We also have our son to think about.
Rekha: We make sure that we spend quality time together as it is very important in any relationship. Whenever I tell him that he needs to find time for certain things, then he always makes sure that he finds time for me. I do the same. Whenever we don’t agree about something, we talk to each other rather than fight. I tell him my point of view and he does the same. Then we analyze the situation and resolve the differences. We talk to each other very openly and share everything with each other. We never do anything without talking to the other person first.
Lekhnath: I give all my earnings to her every month. I don’t need it. Whenever I need money for something then I ask her. If she is not sure how to record anything in our budget book then she asks me for help. Since we are so transparent in our dealings, there is never a misunderstanding between us.
Rekha: We are always looking after each other, even after 8 years of being together. He is always worried about my well-being. Whenever I get sick, I don’t like going to the doctors. He takes good care of me during that time. Sometimes, he doesn’t even realize that he is getting late for work. I have to remind him. He is forgetful like that and during those times, I step in.
Lekhnath: After being together for more than 8 years, I do not have any complains about her except for one. She is always so involved and focused on looking after others that she often forgets about herself. She neglects her health. I have to make sure that she is taking care of herself all the time – which I don’t mind – but I wish that sometimes she would look after herself rather than everyone else for a change!
Rekha: He is very good at looking after me. We, as a couple, work together in the house as well. Since he was living by himself before marrying me, he doesn’t mind cooking. He helps me in the kitchen as much as possible, in fact he is the one who makes dinner every day. Most of the days, I go to his school (which isn’t far from where we live) and we have lunch together. He comes home after work and cooks dinner. It’s not easy to find men in our community who don’t mind helping their wives with housework. I feel blessed to have found a man who doesn’t have conventional values and thinks of me as his equal.
Lekhnath: There isn’t anything that I am not able to do without my wife. But to have a life full of happiness and content, I need her. She is the force that drives me every day. She is my motivation for marching on with life even through tough times. She puts a smile on my face and adds brightness to my life. It is impossible for me to carry on with my life without her love and support.
A testament to what a relationship full of understanding and respect should be, Radhika and Lekhnath were named as finalists in the ‘Most Understanding Couple’ campaign. Just like Lekhnath says, we are capable of achieving anything on our own, but sharing every moment with a special person makes life complete. Even after 8 years of being together, the couple’s affection for each other is still exceptionally evident. At the beginning, life was not easy for them, but this did not stop them from continuing their journey together. To them, each adversity as a test, which they excelled at with flying colors. In their years together, they have realized the importance of communication and sharing responsibilities in a relationship, and have cherished spending quality time together to build intimacy, simple things which can so easily be forgotten in married life.
Rekha and Lekhnath’s story gives inspiration to others who are finding it difficult to sustain their relationship in the face of external pressures. They also give couples everywhere hope that a union built on trust, honesty, communication and love can withstand everything that comes its way.
If you want to share your story of being an understanding couple or you have any comments about what Pramila and Ribraj have to say then please send us your comments either via Facebook or our Twitter.
The Samajhdari Radio Program is part of the Change Starts at Home project, which is designed, developed and implemented in Nepal by Equal Access International. The project is funded by What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women, a DFID funded global programme to prevent violence against women and girls.