My wife Madhavi and I eloped and got married. I have written about our travails on Bonobology. In both the pieces the torture inflicted on us by my in-laws figures prominently. To appease Madhavi I will devote a piece to her ‘out-law’, my sister Didi G, who is nine years older than me.
Madhavi and I were in Rourkela, so it was decided that we get married in Nagpur where my BIL (jeejaji) was an Advocate of Advocates, as he liked to be called. (I still don’t know what it means!)
The marriage was fixed for the 26th of March. My dad, who had blessed our relationship, had given my sister broad hints. He had asked me to go to Nagpur a few days earlier to help out with the preparations.
How could you do this!
When I entered didi G’s flat in Nagpur, she was watching the cheerharan episode of the TV serial Mahabharata. As soon as the episode was over she turned towards me and indulged in a cheerharan of my aspirations.
“Who do you think you are to make all the decisions about your marriage on your own? In our community marriage is a family decision. Have you ever thought of what will happen to my kids?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know the repercussion of marrying outside the caste? No one will marry my daughters.”
“Have you gone nuts? Garima is not even ten and Geetu is barely seven – and you are talking about their marriage being impacted now! Seriously didi, I have never heard anything more ridiculous.”
“For you traditions, sentiments, and culture, nothing matters. The only thing that counts is your love or should I say your lust. In our community the girl’s father has to approach the boy’s father and seek his approval and blessings.”
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
“Please be reasonable didi! Her dad has no idea that we are getting married. If he comes to know, rather than passing on his benediction, he will curse me to death.”
The arguments continued through the day and night until my father reached the battle zone and effected a temporary truce.
I went back to Rourkela and Madhavi and I reached Nagpur on D-day.
We were not allowed to enter didi G’s flat.
What can I tell the neighbours?
“My kids will call Madhavi aunty today and then maami tomorrow. How will I be explain this transition to my neighbours?”
I kept quiet. Her logic was beyond my comprehension.
During the entire marriage ceremony, as well as the reception, didi G did not talk to me.
However, she made one gesture which will remain indelibly etched in my mind and heart. She had met Madhavi in the hotel where we were staying and noticed that she was not wearing any jewellery. She immediately went home and bringing her personal set of jewellery gave it to Madhavi to wear.
Over the years I have found that didi G and jeeju are far more comfortable talking to Madhavi than me. My penchant for satire somehow makes them uncomfortable. According to them, life is a very solemn business and is best conducted seriously. Humour is anathema and should be indulged in only on special occasions like Diwali, Holi and of course pay day!
Now we’re best friends
Didi G shares all her little secrets with Madhavi – which mainly include her opinion of her in-laws, friends, neighbours, her daughters’ in-laws, et al.
Related reading: The best thing about my marriage – my mother-in-law
Madhavi listens with rapt attention to every subtle detail and unleashes all the right expressions. I have always admired her ability to tune into this kind of unadulterated, pure and pristine bilge with such absolute concentration.
Until one day, a few months ago, when for the first time I began to doubt.
Didi G and the two of us had gone to Lumbini Gardens in Hyderabad. There, as we were walking towards the awesome Buddha statue, didi G was in full cry.
The topic was how her elder sister-in-law had raved and ranted about her younger sister-in-law’s son’s only brother-in-law. Madhavi seemed lost in thought and Didi G caught hold of her arm and shook it vigorously.
“Listen to me. I am talking to you.”
Madhavi turned to her and without even the slightest of change in her beautiful countenance replied, “I am all ears, Didi. I was just thinking that isn’t the expression on Lord Buddha’s face exactly the same as what jeeju sports – 24×7 – calm, serene and wise!”
Didi G smiled and happily nodded and I simply mumbled, “Touché!”