I recently posted my version of a ‘what-happens-next’ to a story on a writing forum and the feedback that I got for it was anything but about the story.
Infact, the comments people left made me re-read my version. Was there something I missed out perhaps?
The comments were all about ‘marriage’. A topic that had no mention in my story, might I add:)
What set me thinking, and writing this piece, were the nature of the comments.Marriage is ‘blah’ was the common thread running through them.
But then, the word ‘marriage’ always does set me thinking anyways:)
Everywhere around me, I see people disgruntled with their marriages,all kinds of marriages.Love marriages, arranged marriages, marriage that have happened years after the couple have known each other, or have lived in, or have been childhood sweethearts.
Since I belong to the ‘single’ brigade, I have all sorts of ‘well-meaning’ people come up to me with ‘advice’ on how marriage is ‘just not worth it’, to ‘enjoy my freedom’ and how‘everyone changes after marriage’ and so on and so forth.
In his ‘The Sunscreen Song’ (one of my favorites) Baz Luhrman (God! What a voice!!!) has something beautiful to say about advice.
He says, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and re cycling for more than its worth.”
So even though I don’t remember asking :) I graciously nod my head and lend a ear to the advice people have for me.
Coming back to the word that started it all.
I have been fortunate enough to have grown up looking at the wonderful marriage my parents have.
Solid. Honest. Romantic. Truthful. True.
My mother was in her last year of college and my dad had just joined my grandfathers business a year ago when my Nanaji (maternal grandfather) answered a ‘Bride Wanted’ advert in the Hindustan Times. My mother, blissfully unaware of the goings-on, was leaving for college, when my Nanaji called out to her asking for her photograph.
Running late, she hastily got out her college ID and gave him that picture.
A lot of to and fro correspondence followed and my father and grandparents came to Bhopal to ‘see’ my mother. My parents barely spoke and went out once, with the entire families in tow. My dad did ‘see’ 2 other girls after he met my mother, but he stuck to his decision that he would only marry her. On her side, my Nanaji had liked my father well enough to say yes, when my Dadaji approached him with the proposal.
6 months later my parents were married.
In these 6 months they exchanged letters, very formal ones mind you, which were generally addressed to the entire families…the ‘Badho ko namaskar, chotton ko pyar’ kinds.
15 days after the wedding my mother went back home to study for and appear for her final exams. She was there for almost 2 months and confesses that she did not miss dad a wee bit:) though he did pine for her ;)
Only when she got back, and realized she was here for good did she grasp the magnitude of marriage. The responsibility was tremendous. Dad had a huge family and in spite of being younger than his three of his siblings, my mum was still the ‘eldest bahu’.
Barely out of college and straight to being the eldest bahu, the transition was tough. Used to wearing skirts and trousers, now mum had to be clad in a saree most of the times and salwar kameezes some of the times. From a family of eight (in Mums family there was Nanaji, Nani (whom we all call Maa) Mum, her 4 sisters and 1 brother, Mum was the fourth child) to a family of 11 (Dad was the eldest of 6 brothers and 3 sisters and his parents)
My Grandparents (paternal) were gems, and my Chachas were enjoying having a bhabhi in their midst, but like every fairy story has a witch, Mum was lucky enough to have 3!In the form of my Aunts! In typical filmi-fashion they tortured her in everyway they could. Sometimes I wonder if all the cruel Nanand-Bhabhi scenes of the hindi movies are inspired by Mums experience:)
Infact, they tortured her to such an extent that when she went home next, she told her parents she didn’t want to come back! But I guess a little bit of love had blossomed in her heart somewhere for Dad, because that’s the only thing that brought her back:) That, and the love and respect given to her by my grandparents.
The silent torture sessions continued, and Mum was withering inside. She told no one, not even Dad because she was frightened and threatened by the 3 evil witches:)
She started losing weight, became very, very quiet and the saddest part of it was that she miscarried her first child. Mum says that was one of the breaking points where she had made up her mind to go back home for good and never to return. But, I guess some things are meant to be.
She did return home and, finally, told Dad a bit of what was going on and he in turn spoke to my Grandparents. My Grandparents, who had been traveling mostly, blissfully unaware of the goings on, were shocked and took immediate action. The 3 witches were reprimanded and all was well. For a while.
The witches did come back to their previous form (old habits die hard,I guess!) but a watered down version of it this time. But things were improving.
I was born 2 years later, the 1st grandchild in the family. Eagerly awaited too. My grandfather distributed sweets to practically the whole city I am told,proclaiming to everyone who was ready to hear that ‘Laxmi aayi hai hamare ghar’
But this story isn’t about me,as yet:) Gradually the bond between my parents strengthened. Mum wasn’t a stranger in the house anymore. Along the way one of the witches too softened towards her :)( I always have believed in miracles, since ;).
My sister followed me a few years later.
My parents, complete opposites to begin with were changing too. Dad, the extrovert was toning down a little, thanks to my shy, quiet, getting-gorgeous-by-the-day-Mum;) She was coming out of her shell too, though very, very slowly.
By this time both my grandparents had passed away and every household responsibility was shouldered by my parents. Barely a few years older than their siblings, my parents put my Aunts and Uncles through college/school and got them settled professionally too.
By now, my brother too had joined us. The 3 witches were happily married (whatever happened to ‘Karma’?:) My uncles were married too and new members had joined the Sharma Parivar:)
My parents met as complete strangers. They actually spoke to each other, at length,only after they were married. They are as different from the other as chalk from cheese. To will to make this marriage work was the only thing they had in common.
They have had their highs and lows. Some really terrible times. The temptation to walk out was tremendous,but they stuck by. To each other and their families.
They disagree like mad on so many things, they argue too, like all couples do. They have very few common interests (don’t laugh, but Ekta Kapoor serials is one) but their marriage is working. Wonderfully. And getting better by the day.
In all these years of marriage, no matter what part of the world my father is in, he calls up mum each day around 1:30 in the afternoon. Every time he orders flowers for someone (and that ‘every time’ happens a couple of times every month) he gets mum a single red rose. It has been a lot of give and take and a lot of sacrifices from both sides equally. That and the willingness to make it work.
The tolerance level in any relationship these days is very low. Financial independence is being used so wrongly by some women. Marriages are breaking up for reasons that surprise you. The willingness to make anything last is no longer there. Everything instant. Easy replacements, be it cars, jobs or people, have made a marriage a’lets-try-this-out-too’ fad.
People get married for all the wrong reasons. Loneliness, because they are a certain age, kids, and parents who want ‘grandchildren’ are some of the more popular ‘reasons’ :) The respectability given to a divorce have made it more acceptable now.
My parent’s marriage has proven all the clichés that I know of wrong. I agree, times have changed from then to now and so have people, but marriage is still around isn’t it? :)
And just when I started believing that my parents marriage was a ‘once in a lifetime’ miracle and 'such things don’t happen anymore', God decided to keep my faith and my sister met her better half….:)
To be continued…..