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Diaram and Sumintra Toolsie in their younger years.

Diaram and Sumintra Toolsie celebrated a milestone of 74 years of marriage last week. Sumintra, 91, was a child bride who got married at age 17 and went to live with Toolsie, 19 and his family. Although such practices are not common these days, they were quite common at that time.

The couple has five children (one deceased), nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

As a teenager, when she went to live with Toolsie’s family, she took care of his five sisters, a common practice in those days. Later on, she also took care of her own five children.

Although Toolsie, 93, did very well in his exams and passed for Naparima Boys’ High School, his father did not want him to go to high school because he wanted him to work in the sugar cane estate. A neighbour intervened and told Toolsie’s father that his son is intelligent and so he should be sent to school. That is how he ended up going to high school and that is where Sumintra saw him.

When they were married, Hindu marriages were not even legal at that time. Their marriage was registered in August 1960 after Hindu marriages became legalised.

Their marriage, which has survived many eras and also many deaths, continues to face challenges now that they are in their 90s. They each lost their parents, all siblings, their daughter-in-law to cancer a few years ago and even their daughter Chandra Bissessar to breast cancer last year.

Now in 2020, the latest challenge that they are facing is the COVID-19.

Their family said that COVID-19 was confusing to the elderly couple. They hate seeing people around them wear a mask, they get upset and Sumintra cannot understand why her children cannot touch her or hug her.

The big question is what has kept them together for so long?

Marriage was not easy, they have had their ups and downs but they stayed together.

Their family said they are always quibbling but they were married in a time when couples stayed together and marriages did not end, so whatever difficulty they went through they stayed together. Giving up was not an option.

When asked what is the secret to their 74 years of marriage, Sumintra said: “Pray to God and tolerate a lot of things. That is the secret. You have to love each other as life is hard.”

They couple in making it work and had faith in God, their family proudly said.