It was the Christmas of ’91. I was on a mission. The mission was, asking for my beloved’s hand in marriage from her parents.
I met my wife-to-be whilst I was a Naval officer still under training in Mumbai. She was an art student, working her tuition fee off. Love blossomed and a proposal made and accepted. So far so good. Now came the catch. I was from a Hindu Nair household and she was the eldest daughter of a conservative Roman Catholic family. And if that wasn’t deterring enough, her father was in the Police services.
Related reading: I was married to the Army long before I met my wife…
Those were the dark ages when permissions were still sought from the parents before you got married. Those were the days when stupid and forgotten sentiments such as decency and courtesy still mattered. And so, weighed down by my conscience, I decided to bite the bullet. But how? And when?
Providence and the month of December brought about the Christmas season. The holiest of Christian seasons.
Can there be a better time to appeal to the kind, understanding and accepting side of her parents, than during the birthday celebrations of the very symbol of kindness, understanding and acceptance?
So, with instructions to my colleagues to send in the Navy if I didn’t surface after 5 days, I accompanied my girl to her parents’ place. The early morning chill in the railway station as we disembarked was only complementing the warmth of her father’s reception. So warm and kind was he in receiving me that I couldn’t help but think, “This poor man has no idea what’s in store ahead!”
The next couple of days were a frenzy of celebrations, church visits, visits to and from relatives, wining and dining, singing and dancing. It felt like home. I was treated like a family member of a happy home. I spoke their mother tongue, could strum a guitar, sing and jive. So her mother approved, though I still was in doubt if she knew why I was there. With one more day to go before I returned, I knew I had to pop the question to her father. From the shades of colour my girl changed as I was prepping myself for the task, I knew this was much tougher than singing and dancing my way through.
After a very satisfying dinner that night, I stepped outside the house to join her father on a post dinner stroll. Though it might have been premature, since Jesus was just born, I still made a silent sign of the cross as I began to broach the topic.
“You know Uncle, I haven’t come here just to celebrate Christmas…” The silence after that statement seemed heavy and long.
Before I ran out of all courage that I’d been collecting over the days, I decided to pursue my case.
“I came here to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”
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These statements coming from a barely 24-year-old boy must have really sounded funny. I can imagine that, now that I have a barely 24-year-old boy myself.
In any case, he wasn’t laughing. He stopped walking and turned to me. I stopped breathing and controlled my urge to run.
“You do realise we are of different religious beliefs, right?” He was point blank.
“Will you convert?”
“Will your parents agree?”
“Have you spoken to your parents about it?”
The questions came out like bullets from a machine gun. The slowly wafting cigarette smoke from his lips only added to the image.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Yes what?” I instinctively ducked at the intensity of his question. I was trained to survive after all.
“Yes to all,” I managed to speak up loud enough for him to hear.
And that was it. The one major fear of any responsible father of girls is that. Will an inter-religious or inter-caste marriage of one of the daughters affect the future marital prospects of the other girls? Was it my earnestness, my stupid-ass courage to come home and ask for his daughter’s hand or the fact that I thought it necessary to ask for permission to get married…I don’t know what helped him decide, but that night we got his blessings.
Here’s a similarly uplifting tale of two different cultures that ended happily, by Prerna Uppal. Suppose you do get married, but then have issues settling in, how can you tackle them? We have a discussion on our Community page that Aashna started. Perhaps you could offer some practical advice?