When Wendell Rodricks Spoke To Us About Love, Friendship And A Life Well Lived
A throwback to a 2019 interaction with Rodricks where he spoke to RD about the love of his life
Jérôme and I met in Oman on a blind date that was originally planned as a dinner for three. But the person who was to introduce us stood us up and it ended up being just the two of us. We were both working in the hospitality and catering industry: I was with the Royal Oman Police Officers’ Club, while Jérôme was with an industrial hospitality company that catered to oil rigs, hospitals, etc. I recall we spoke a lot and I said to myself, Whoever gets this person is lucky. We were both in long-distance relationships at the time. But in six months, we decided to move in and be together. It has been 35 years since then.
I wouldn’t call the initial days of our relationship ‘courtship’. It was more about friendship. We just enjoyed being together at all times. We became each other’s best friends. Even today, I don’t trust anyone as much as I trust Jérôme. There was a lot of respect on both sides. Passion for travel was a common love too. But being from different nationalities, we had to make an extra effort to understand the other’s culture, traditions and customs.
We ‘formalized’ our relationship by signing the pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) in France in 2002, almost 19 years after we met. According to French law, PACS allows two adults to organize their lives as a couple. It’s not the same thing as getting married but allows couples to have certain legal rights—from letting us file taxes together to being able to sign the partner off for a life-threatening medical procedure or burying the partner without family consent.
We signed the PACS as it gave us protection from family, more independence, security, respect, civil rights and the ability to approach immigration in countries where civil unions are accepted. It wasn’t a romantic decision but an assertion of our rights. That said, our families were always supportive of our relationship. Both sides were accepting, generous, respectful and loving. It gets better as the years go by, as there are nieces, nephews, their spouses, children and grandchildren who have accepted and respect us.
Our relationship has always been about total dedication to each other. There’s care and concern that has bound us together. When I come back from a trip, I often find that Jérôme has lit up the house with candles I like, for instance. We complement and support each other’s dreams in every way—emotional, financial and career-wise. Jérôme is the one who convinced me to pursue my dream of being a fashion designer. He also adds so much to my work. We’ve travelled together to 150 countries so far and I use our travel experiences as inspiration for my designs. Jérôme has a sharp memory and will say, “Let’s do this corner in a Pan African way, like we saw in the Bush”, or something else that seems perfectly fitting, yet exotic. He even manages my design company and the Moda Goa Foundation—a charitable trust set up for the Moda Goa Museum that helps preserve and showcase Goan artefacts, the oldest of which dates to the seventh century.
Though we will never get married, we are no different from any other couple. Since we don’t have too much family responsibility and kids, it is easier on us. I see my married friends take on the obligations of marriage and children and truly respect them for their patience and what they endure. The only challenges we face are having different passports and the constant visa applications. I could take a Portuguese passport, but I love my country too much to give up my Indian one.
We both are grateful for having found each other when we did, but we don’t really talk about such things. In a relationship, one does what comes naturally. After 35 years together, there are times when we don’t even need to speak. There is truly something called telepathy.
Wendell Rodricks, 59, (1960-2020), was a well-known fashion designer and Padma Shri awardee. Jérôme Marrel (64) is the executive director of Rodricks’s fashion company and administrator of the Moda Goa Foundation.
—As told to Blessy Augustine