We give and take

Mr R. Thangavelu, 81, and his wife, Madam Saraswathy V. Muthukumaru, 71, have been married for 52 years. They talk over their disagreements to solve their problems.
Mr R. Thangavelu, 81, and his wife, Madam Saraswathy V. Muthukumaru, 71, have been married for 52 years. They talk over their disagreements to solve their problems.PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, COURTESY OF R. THANGAVELU

Pulling together as a team has seen Mr R. Thangavelu, 81, and his wife, Madam Saraswathy V. Muthukumaru, 71, through the challenges of married life.

Mr Thangavelu says he was instantly drawn to Madam Saraswathy's smile when they met at a function in Perak, Malaysia, where her family lived.

Then only 19, Madam Saraswathy was shocked when he told her that same night he wanted to marry her, although she liked him.

They started writing letters to each other. Months later, they wed.

Now married for 52 years, they have two children and two grandchildren.

When money was tight in the early years, Madam Saraswathy worked in a factory for four years. They lived then in a flat above the post office in Keppel Harbour where Mr Thangavelu worked. When she was at work, he would go upstairs to check on the children whenever he could.

Mr R. Thangavelu, 81, and his wife, Madam Saraswathy V. Muthukumaru, 71, have been married for 52 years. They talk over their disagreements to solve their problems.
Mr R. Thangavelu, 81, and his wife, Madam Saraswathy V. Muthukumaru, 71, have been married for 52 years. They talk over their disagreements to solve their problems. PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO, COURTESY OF R. THANGAVELU

He says: "We are a good team. It's the love we have."

About 20 years ago, he started having problems with his spine, causing him pain and affecting his mobility. Doctors found that part of his spine had degenerated, which led to six operations over the years. He ended up having to use a wheelchair about five years ago.

"When I was in hospital, I missed my wife, though she visited me every day," he recalls.

She has taken over tasks, such as going to the bank. They live with a maid.

Adversity has brought them closer. She says: "We have to help each other. When we have disagreements, he might raise his voice, but I'll lower mine. We talk and solve the problem."

 
 
 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 23, 2018, with the headline 'We give and take'. Print Edition | Subscribe