I was all of 22 when the battle royal began at home. With both my brothers married, I was the only ‘responsibility’ my parents had left. With my dad due for retirement, the pressure to complete this duty at the earliest must have been double. And so, as in everything else, my mother came to me confidently with a prospect, probably sure that I would simply look down shyly and nod, filmi style. So when I said, “No, I am not interested,” it threw a spanner into the works. It was a good prospect, even I knew that; but I was averse to marriage, having seen too many marriages that didn’t look happy to me. (I didn’t ask the couples their opinion of their marriage, of course, but I didn’t see it as being happy.) And then, I had a long list of things I wanted from life – work, dance, social work and just plain fun. Fun and marriage seemed like an oxymoron.
But if I expected my otherwise liberal parents to be content with my ‘I don’t want to marry’ as reason enough, it didn’t work. My mother pursued me, finally using the ‘let’s go to a psychiatrist’ phrase as her trump card. Sigh. It worked. So, the ‘boy’ came and I ‘saw’ him. We didn’t talk to each other, but his sister did. I was very open with her and told her that family was my last priority…so we didn’t see them after that meeting.
Boy 2 at 23, boy 3 at 24, boy 4 at 25…one a year seemed like a good average, keeping peace in the family. My parents were happy to scan and filter, I was happy to meet and let them know I was not interested, in gentle terms. Boys were happy not getting back at all. So no one could blame anyone else.
Thus continued my happy life, until my mother told me about this family that was waiting to see me, as a common friend had recommended me to them. By now, I was experienced in handling the girl-seeing occasions and had no worry at all about how this would go. So when the boy and his parents came in, I was at my ‘hostess’ best, polite and warm. “Not bad looking,” I thought of the boy. “Let’s see how good he is when he opens his mouth.”
Incidentally, this was the first time in all the four years of this charade we went through that I was in a formal setup, with both sets of parents present, me in a sari, and ‘demurely’ waiting to be called out.
Ahem…he was good. Clear, lucid, good language, and no hemming and hawing. His parents and mine had a common interest in music. Both had lived in different parts of the north all their working life and so could compare different cultures, and it became a nice social visit.
Then we were asked to go in and get to know each other. How the 45 minutes did fly! When his father called him out, he joked, “Will you finish your quota of stories today itself?”
Related reading: The STARK truth of a marriage arranged
It was really strange, what I felt then. He grinned as he left the room, and I laughed happily. Since I had several male colleagues and was quite friendly with all of them, in my previous “dekko” meetings, I had wondered what differentiated the colleagues from the prospective grooms. Why should I say yes to one man, and not to another? But with this man, I felt as if I had been talking to someone whom I had known for ages. It was an instant connect and there was not a minute when we didn’t have something to say to each other.
My mother said, even before I said anything, “She is.” She knew from my expression that I had finally found my match; that I wanted to spend my life with him.
And for the first time, I hoped that the groom-to-be felt that way too. I was apprehensive about what the response would be. The next day was a Saturday when normally such matters were not discussed. But this unconventional family broke that tradition and called first thing in the morning to say ‘yes’ to the match. Did anyone need to ask me for my opinion? It was written clearly on my face.
For the first time, I understood terms such as ‘Instant Chemistry’ and ‘Love at First Sight.’
In another break from tradition, we met every day until our wedding. When safely married, I asked my father, “How come you let me go out with him?”
My dad replied, “You both looked so much in love!”I am glad that 16 years and two children later, I have not regretted my decision (except after a bad fight). And I continue to work and dance and do my little bit as and when I can for society.