Marriage is a necessary evil – this was the topic for the essay in Class IX. I was flummoxed by this topic. Well, life provided me with clarity by and by.
I thought I was a good daughter, obedient and docile. So I was, until I began to see cracks in religion, society and also in my parents. Let me assure you, all parents do their best for their children but even they cannot go against social/religious norms for fear of ostracism.
The other shoe fell when one morning, my brother asked my mother to take him to see a psychiatrist, because he was hearing voices in his head. Then I knew I was on my own; my folk washed their hands off my marriage, after I was ‘shown’ to 17 prospective grooms – who wanted a higher dowry to offset my brother’s stigma of schizophrenia. I was an adamant anti-dowry girl.
I realise now that I had no skills in the finer nuances of baiting and snagging a husband for myself.
After 8 years of a futile semi sex/love relationship, I had exiled myself to Bangalore. I was still the sunshine girl, holding my head up high, dressed in fine silk saris, faculty at Computer Point in 1989, where I taught DOS, Lotus, and Word, dBase IV – now extinct in the world of IT.
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What a dancer he was
I met Unni at Indiranagar at a guys-only bachelor pad for a weekend party. Bangalore was always a fun-filled small town with draught beer, weed and dancing in Westend Hotel. We jived and waltzed up into the wee hours, and my word, was Unni a dancer! When he began dancing,
the floor would part to allow him and me to shine through. He was what I called a ‘magical elf’. He was a very slender and gorgeous version of Naseeruddin Shah with a Satya Sai Baba hairdo.
By then my Dad had written to me, permitting me to find my own husband. Well, he should have done this when I was 16, I mumbled under my breath rather petulantly. So I wrote to my dear friend Asokan, who was working in Pune, a gem of a man and enquired if he would be inclined to marry me. I had known him from my MBA days at Symbiosis. No reply.
Meanwhile, Unni was pursuing me quite aggressively and we started a live-in construct. In 1989, though Bangalore was known to be a conservative place, I was very happy when our neighbours, an elderly TamBram couple, would refer to me as their daughter.
One day we were swilling beer at a pub in Residency Road. Unni looked a little downcast, so I asked him what could be so troubling.
Nobody will marry me
His younger brother was engaged to be married, and he despaired that no one would marry him. I probed, so he said that was because his father had committed suicide 15 years ago. I pointed out that his family was an elite, political, and well-respected one and logically if his older brother and sister and now his younger sibling could get partners, so could he…right? He shook his head and said, “I want no money, gold transaction, and a civil marriage.” A near impossible event among the Kerala Nair community.
I playfully said, “So marry me!”
He said nothing. Well, he was quite an introvert, so…
Here is where the universe introduced the twist in my life…
Related reading: I proposed to him for I knew I could make this relationship work
Finally he said yes
Asokan also falls under the category of ‘shy guys’, and he had contemplated my request for marriage for 3 months, and decided to say “YES”. He enrolled our mutual friend Ratan Ramchandani to speak on his behalf and then the whole machinery of a wedding began spinning.
Hold on! Not before I asked Unni for his opinion – would he marry me? My eggs were dying out on me and I wanted kids. I was 29 years old, I argued, begged, pleaded. I had even shown him Daddy’s NOC letter. He remained silent.
So I decided to go ahead with the ‘Asokan weds Anney’ plan. My dad came over to Bangalore, met Asokan. The wedding was fixed for 15 February 1990. A Hindu marriage on the 14th and then we’d fly to Kerala for a church wedding. Even our church priest approved, because the groom was Brahmin!
A few days before the Hindu ceremony scheduled at Asokan’s house, I packed my bags to leave for Pune. Unni came to see me off, and we shared a joint, at the Bangalore Cantonment Station, and Unni suddenly asked me if I was pregnant. I said that I did not know, in an off-hand manner and promptly forgot about it. My cycles were always irregular and I never stressed out about it. How would I know? There were no tests on pee-sticks in those days. And so the train chugged on to Pune.
Related reading: Why do men leave the woman they love?
Then the phone rang
Cut to Ashok’s parents’ house in Pune. We had gone shopping for sarees for the relatives who would arrive the next day. His mom displayed their traditional family jewellery and finery…told me that I would have to learn Telugu and Ashok’s favourite Telugu recipes.
And then the landline phone rang.
It was 11 pm. It was a trunk call – (or STD call) from the Indiranagar PO. There were no cell phones then. Unni was on the phone howling like a sorrowful dog. And the conversation went thus:
He couldn’t live without me. I had to return to him, he would kill himself, if I didn’t. Especially in the event I was carrying his baby.
I said, if it came to that, I would look after ‘his baby’. He asked, “So would there be an abortion?”
“No, if it turned out that I were pregnant, then I would have my baby and Ashok agreed that he would gladly be a father to any baby of mine.”
Unni wailed that he’d kill himself.
On the spur of the moment, my decision was made
I did not have the luxury of conducting a SWOT analysis of the situation, with the telephone receiver in one ear. I could not begin a new married life with a suicide on the threshold…
Asokan warned me, “Anney, at every turn of life he will threaten you with this outcome.” I decided on an impulse. I said I’d take my chances. In case I was carrying, it would have been an injustice to both men.
The long and short of it is, that this gem of a man, Asokan, bought me a plane ticket, and saw me off at Lohegaon airport, Pune. He was shattered, embarrassed and let down by me. So was his family, and so was mine.
My married life with Unni lasted 5 years. That’s a story for another day.