For the past few months the social feeds were cluttered with grand celebrity wedding pictures and hashtags #deepveer #virushka #nickyanka #couplegoals – every picture carefully crafted and staged to perfection. It seems those celebrity wedding hashtags were inspired by how some malayali parents named their kids 🙂 ( the formula was quite simple – select a combination of both the mother’s and father’s names. eg: Joseph and Jisha =Joji)
Beyond the staged perfection, let’s get to some “real #couplegoals”. I recently happened to meet a couple who looked very ordinary but would definitely give us all some real #couplegoals – Vijayan and Mohana who in their late sixties run a wayside tea shop in Kochi. What’s unique about this tea shop “Sri Balaji Coffee House” other than the perfect tea & fresh vadas are the innumerable framed pictures of their travel around the world. The tea costs only Rs 5 and so does the vada. This being their single source of income – one would wonder how the hell do they manage to travel? They have traveled to 23 countries and counting!
Talking to them, here is what I learnt.
1. The joy of having shared meaning and shared dream as a couple.
Vijayan and Mohana have a shared dream that they both work towards – the dream of travelling and experiencing the world. The ups and downs of life are less bothersome for them for they have found meaning to their life with their travel. A successful marriage has to be more than raising kids, paying bills, and getting chores done.
According to American psychological researcher Dr. John Gottman’s – “An essential element of a lasting marriage is the ability to create shared meaning, a purpose, or a dream with your partner.”
2. No dream is too big, no dreamer too small.
When asked if she had always dreamt of traveling the world as she was growing up, Mohana responds – “I wasn’t even sure if I could even dream of travelling the world, let alone expecting it to happen for real. But now I would say we should all have dreams and work hard towards realizing it.”
Vijayan shares this instance – “Once on our travel to Tirupati, as I gazed at a plane that was flying over me, I told my friends – I want to travel in a plane to which they said it was only meant for the rich people.”
This quote holds so true for Vijayan and Mohana.
Dreams come a size too big so that we may grow into them – Josie Bisset
3. It’s a bliss when your life partner is your business partner and travel partner – all combined.
The first impression one might get of Mohana is of a docile south Indian grand-ma but once you talk to her, you soon realize that she is an equal partner in running the tea shop, managing family affairs, finances and planning for each travel.
Her sensibility complements his spontaneity.
It comes as no surprise when Mr.Vijayan mentions – “She is the source of my strength. I have always wanted to travel with her. “
4. Shared experiences connects us more to each other .
Their way side tea shop might look small but the walls of Sri Balaji Coffee House is filled with snapshots of their memories and experiences. They have been filling their life with experiences, not things. They have stories to tell not material wealth to show case.
We as humans are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. According to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades –Shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption.
5. If you are working towards fulfilling your dream – there is no need to retire.
To fund their travels, they have mortgaged their shop and even taken bank loans. After returning from travel, the couple works hard repaying the loan and saving money to set out for the next destination. When asked about retirement, they said they plan to work as long as they can! They have a shared dream and purpose that they work towards. They surely have a purpose to get up and open up their shop every morning.
This reminded me about Okinawa, a Japanese Island with the longest life expectancy in the world where they don’t have a formal word in their language for “retirement”! They don’t have the concept of retirement, instead they do have an interesting word (and philosophy) ikigai – which roughly translates to “the reason you wake up in the morning.” It’s the thing that drives you most.
6. When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
After the couple’s story made it to media, they attracted a lot of attention, and funds were raised to fund their trip to USA. Intrigued by their life philosophy, Hari Mohan, turned their heart warming story into a documentary called “Invisible Wings” (check for the link below) which won the Best Short Film award in the Non-Fiction category at the 2018 Filmfare Short Film Awards.
We have to be willing to create a vision for our lives, and work relentlessly towards it. When the universe realizes you are dead serious about your dreams – it starts conspiring for you!
When asked where do you plan to go next? Vijayan responded – “Scandinavian Countries”. Let the universe keep conspiring in helping you fulfill your dreams Mr Vijayan and Mohana!
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