The Companion Ship

“Te deseo;

Me deseas.”

– Pierdo la Cabeza, Zion y Lennox


The Companion Ship, Songkhla, Southern Thailand

What brings two people together, and what tears them apart? And what brings these two together again after they’ve been apart?

My life for the past few years has revolved around marriage and polygamy, both as an academic and simply as a woman with invested personal interest in the matter. I have spoken to many Malay women about what it means to be married (especially to a married man); to succumb to matrimonial pressures, or to simply defy such expectations and remain single and fabulous for as long as they will it. Many did indeed, with great pride, staunchly defend their singledom in the name of preserving their economic and/or personal autonomy. But none could deny how nice it would be to finally meet the man of their dreams and to settle into the banal middle-class existence they so abhor — for the moment at least, because they haven’t found the right man to be with.

Companionship — this is what every individual yearns for; the reason so many of my interlocutors elope across the border to marry, and why I too have found myself trudging through foreign lands knowing barely a familiar face or name, ready for any surprise encounters waiting in store for me. Us Malays have a specific word for this — jodoh. This is the belief that every encounter is divinely ordained, and has the potential to develop into something incredible — preferably a companion for life.

But when I say “companionship”, I mean a range of different things. This could encompass passionate love of the burning, all-consuming kind, but that is not all; I like to think of it more as two people being there for each other no matter the geographical and temporal distances between them. Whatever their differences, their hearts would always be inclined to return to the other, because Pride would for once be willing to take a back seat if it is in the name of the preservation of the companionship.

So when you’ve found that one person you feel that you’re a good match for, get on board The Companion Ship before it sails off without you and you wonder what shores you would have reached by now, and with whom would you have disembarked from that ship had you indeed been on it. To some of my Malay interlocutors, the first time they embarked on their Companion Ship was as lawfully-wedded husband and wife posing for their wedding photograph side by side on the pelamin (staged setting for brides and grooms in Malay weddings) pictured above, after their solemnization ceremony in the Central Mosque of Songkhla. Many of these couples were polygamous. Their Companion Ship will take them through rough seas and stormy weather, but it will reach its eventual destination if they stay onboard, for as long as they are willing to remain invested in each other’s lives.

One thought on “The Companion Ship

  1. Pingback: A Good Match: Safety and Infrastructure | What's (in) the picture?

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