Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Secret to an 81-year marriage: Learn to take the good with the bad

A couple married for 81 years have been awarded the title of New Zealand's longest-married couple by lobby group Family First.

Born just a month apart 100 years ago, Auckland couple Jeram and Ganga Ravji were betrothed at the age of 6 in their native India and married at the age of 19. They went on to have a colourful life that also involved fighting with Mahatma Ghandi to overthrow British rule of India.

Mrs Ravji told New Zealand First that her husband was imprisoned for 10 months after joining Mahatma Gandhi's Freedom Fighters and fighting against the rule of the British Government.

Mrs Ravji had to catch two buses with two young children to visit him. She said she was often beaten by police during her husband's time as a freedom fighter to try to get information from her about where her husband was.

But, she said, the key to a good marriage was to learn to make sacrifices and to take the good with the bad. Speaking to the Herald through her daughter Bhanu Daji, Mrs Ravji said she put her long-lasting and happy marriage down to not dwelling on bad times and moving forward.

"[The advice] we would give to our children if they had difficulties with their marriage would be you have to work hard, you have to have tolerance - that's the most important part, tolerance."

Not given to sentimentality, the Ravjis nevertheless told the Herald they love each other just as much now as they always have.

Mr Ravji said he could not immediately list the reasons he loved his wife, but "if we didn't still love each other we would not still be together".

Mr Ravji moved to New Zealand in 1928 when he was 11, five years after the pair became betrothed at age 6. They married at 19 and lived as a family in New Zealand from 1953, first in Whanganui before moving to Auckland in 1981.

Four generations of the family now live in Auckland and Mrs Daji said she and her siblings were proud of what their parents had achieved and the relationship they had.

Jeram and Ganga Ravji's extended family includes six children, 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren all living in Auckland. Photo / Family First
Jeram and Ganga Ravji's extended family includes six children, 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren all living in Auckland. Photo / Family First

"They've been through a lot," Mrs Daji said. "We have always lived happily, though."

She said because of her parents' age and where they were raised, in a poverty-stricken part of India, outward affection and romance was not part of how they showed love, however their bond was a strong one.

Mrs Daji, who has herself been married for 50 years, said her parents' advice about marriage was instilled in her and her siblings as well.

The Ravjis will celebrate their 81st wedding anniversary in two months, making them the longest married couple in New Zealand Family First could find.

"Although we can only go on the nominations made, we're pretty sure that the Ravjis are New Zealand's longest-married couple," said Family First director Bob McCoskrie.

Their prize includes a professional photo with their extended family, which includes six children, 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren, all living in Auckland.

Mr McCoskrie said the previous longest-marriage Family First was aware of was a Christchurch couple who were believed to have celebrated their 79th wedding anniversary before the husband died in 2013.

Mr McCoskrie said the award was "an opportunity to promote marriage and honour married couples. We want to celebrate with couples who are setting the example for younger married couples just starting out."

And despite their time fighting the British in India, Mr and Mrs Ravji both said they were looking forward to receiving their letter from the Queen when they turn 100 in May and June respectively this year.

- NZ Herald

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