I had written this originally in Hindi and my friend Anita Kumar had posted this on her HINDI blog site about three years ago.
My intent is to show that arranged marriages too can be a happy affair. While Love Marriages or Choice marriages are also welcome, I would like to state that arranged marriages are not all that bad. Bashing arranged marriages has become common these days. Mine was an arranged marriage and I have no regrets.
I will be grateful to you if you can host this on your blog site.
I have attached an old wedding snap.
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This is an old and favourite story of mine which I have recounted to close friends and relatives only, but I cannot prove what I am narrating and it is impossible to collect evidence of the veracity of this story. My wife and father-in-law have dismissed this story as fiction, and the product of my mischievous mind and hotly deny it. I leave it to my readers to determine if this story could be true.
A marriage decided by a monkey.
Cut to 1972. I was 23, and I had just passed my BE Hons exam from BITS Pilani, Rajasthan and had come home to Mumbai. I had not thought of marriage at all. I was thinking about my career. But my mother had other ideas.
I had an elder brother, who, in 1969 had jolted the family by choosing his own mate. Those days, love marriages were not the norm and were disapproved of, in our community. You needed to face the ire of the elders in the family and fight them to get their consent which they might give grudgingly. My mother was worried that her second son too might go the way of her eldest son. Boys were watching too many of these Bollywood movies for her comfort.
I had just got admission for my Post graduate studies in Structural engineering at University of Roorkee, which was an academic achievement those days. Just 10 seats for the several hundred who applied.
I was getting ready to proceed to Roorkee but my mom was worried that I might develop intimacy with some Hindi speaking girl from UP. Relatives too warned her that some UP girl might ensnare me and exhorted her to be careful.
After much pleading and cajoling, I got my parents permission to study further. I had just left for Roorkee, but my father began in earnest his search for a suitable bride for me. He was a senior Sales manager in a reputed Private firm and his job involved a lot of touring. His next tour was to Vishakhapattanam and by chance he happened to bump into my Father in law in a business meeting. Both of them hailed from the same village in Kerala and had been childhood friends and were thrilled to see each other after so many years. My father was of course invited to visit my Father-in-laws family that evening.
My parents had three sons. I am the second. My father in law had four daughters, each one more beautiful than the other. My Father, at first sight, picked the second daughter to be my bride. There was no resistance from my in-laws. Here after all was an engineer, from a known and trusted family and this qualified as an excellent catch. No dowry either, no problems from the Ladke Waale acting high and mighty due to the old friendship, facts, that sweetened the deal.
My dad now had only one problem.
How does he convince his silly son that studies and career etc. are all okay, and are inevitable and can follow in due course, but a quick marriage was the need of the hour. They had burnt their fingers with their first son, a victim of a love marriage. They were not going to allow another tragedy and scandal in the family. My mother was asked to air-dash to Vishakhapatnam to “see” the girl. She fell in love with my wife at first sight! She was in an even greater hurry to solemnise the marriage. Another compelling reason for the tearing hurry was explained to me later.
The fact was that my mom was a great believer in astrology. The family astrologer had advised my mom that per my horoscope, if I didn’t get married before a certain date, there was no Muhoortham (auspicious date) for nineteen years!
What is notable is that nobody thought of asking my poor wife what she thought or wanted. Those days it was common practice for young girls to simply go along with the wishes of the elders in the family. They implicitly trusted the elders. After all why would they not be concerned with her welfare? She was studying BSc at that time. A photograph of mine was shown to her. That was all the consideration she received.
The events that followed were natural. My mom wrote to me asking me to come to Vishakhapattanam immediately to see the girl (and of course also approve of her! This was a generous concession to a modern groom like me who insisted on modern practices. ! After all the girl was already approved by my mom and dad and my approval was supposed to be a mere formality.)
I was flabbergasted. I bluntly refused! I made it plain that my immediate priorities were my studies and my career and I would consider marriage only after this was settled.
I assured them they could trust me not to emulate my elder brother and that I had no Hindi speaking girl friends and neither did I have any time for any amorous dalliances. I explained that a Master’s degree in Structural engineering involved considerable hard work, tests, tutorials, lectures, practical, submissions etc and I could not just abandon all this and come to Vishakhapattanam for this purpose.
My mom of course did not like this. She asked me “When are your holidays?” I told her. She marked the dates boldly on the family wall calendar. I then forgot about this. My father and father-in-law decided to bide their time and kept in touch with each other through letters.
Some months later, my mom visited my maternal uncle’s place at Chennai.
My holidays were nearing. She recounted to my maternal uncle and his family, with wails, her problem. What kind of inconsiderate son is this? His marriage deadline is approaching and he still refuses to consider this great match we fixed up. Why doesn’t he realize that in matrimonial matters, a quick match like this is rare and sometimes, it takes years to identify a good girl and a great family. What if he misses the marriage bus? He might end up a chronic bachelor. Who will marry him after nineteen long years? Won’t some one please reason with this stubborn son of mine and put some sense into his thick head? Too much education, can spoil the youngsters these days.
My maternal uncles daughter suggested that somehow I must be made to actually see the girl. She was sure I would be so smitten with her beauty, that all resistance would vanish. Accordingly she and my mom hatched a plot to get me to come down south.
Many years ago, my parents had invested in a small plot of land in my name in an as yet undeveloped area in Chennai. Later my parents had settled in Mumbai and they felt it was prudent to dispose of this site at Chennai. (I would be a crorepati today, if we hadn’t sold it, but let me not digress). I received a letter telling me about this plan and asking me to come to Chennai for signing the relevant documents at the Registrar’s office. The entire family will be camping at my maternal uncles’s place, so I too was asked to reach his house in Chennai.
The trap was ready. My father in law was informed about how the recalcitrant Roorkee boy was being lured to Chennai and informed of the dates and was asked to hasten to Chennai with his daughter in tow and reach a day or two before.
I later learned that my father-in-law suffered from sudden indecision. He was on the horns of a dilemma. The horoscopes had already been matched and the reports stated that this would be a “Ram-Seeta ki Jodi” (An ideal match) In spite of this my Father-in-law figured, if the boy is playing hard to get, will it be advisable to go ahead with this match? Why has he gone away so far for his education? Where in heavens is this place Roorkee? What do we know about what he is actually up to at that remote place ? Is he treating his studies there as an excuse to wriggle out of marriage? If he agrees to see the girl only to keep his parents happy, and get them off his back, and rejects my daughter after seeing her, wouldn’t it have a devastating effect on my daughter? Why not consider other good boys and their families too?
Any way this daughter is the second daughter. Would it be proper to negotiate her marriage while the eldest daughter was still not fixed up? What will be going through the mind of my elder daughter? etc. etc. He wrestled with these thoughts for quite some time.
And now let me relate what he did for solace and mental peace, before coming to Chennai.
Okay, from here onwards the controversies begin. My in-laws are denying the following events though I have faith in the very reliable sources who will vouch for the veracity of this story.
Some miles away from where he lived, there is an old Hanumaan Temple. There was an aged monkey living and camping around this temple. The devout believe that if one goes to this temple with full faith, carrying a proposal, and makes offerings to Hanumaan, and keeps them near the monkey, then the monkey sometimes partakes of these offerings and sometimes declines them. No one has been able to figure out why.
It was not a matter of hunger or absence of hunger. Sometimes it would reject some devotee’s offerings but accept them from another devotee immediately after. The devout believed that if the monkey accepts the offerings, then it means that Lord Hanumaan concurs with the proposal in mind, or else, it means that Hanumaanjee does not approve.
You can guess the rest of the story.
My father-in-law selected the largest and rosiest apples available with the most popular and reputed fruit vendor in Vishakhapattanam, and kept them in a gleaming silver plate and offered them to the monkey. The monkey pounced and enthusiastically grabbed at the apple and bit into it right away. That day my fate was decided!
Unaware of these developments, I reached Chennai.
After the day’s transactions at the Registrar’s office were over, I was advised that we were all going to Marina Beach. Slowly and with some trepidation, my mom blurted out “They are also coming to Marina Beach.”
My antenna was immediately up, fully alert. “Who are THEY?” I asked.
My mom escaped and it was left to my Maternal Uncle’s daughter to spill the beans and tell me the entire plot interspersed with girlish giggles.
Per plans already drawn up, the two families met most informally, at Marina beach in the evening. After the families introduced us to each other, we were left alone while we sat on the sands, gazing at the sunset, and enjoying the cool evening breeze, and talked our hearts out, while the rest of the family curiously watched from out of earshot with breathless suspense.
The two of us decided we would wait till her elder sister was married, and both of us would use the time to complete our education and I would find a good job. Marriage would be postponed till then.
This was in June 1973. We got married at Mumbai in June 1975 and in this intervening period, we wrote numerous letters to each other. I never got an opportunity to see her during this period except for one brief meeting at Mumbai at some family function.
Take a look at this snap. I have pulled it out of my wedding album and scanned it. Those days colour photography was rare and expensive.
Isn’t she a traffic stopper? Believe me, she is even more beautiful, at least to my eyes, today 36 years later.
A million thanks to that great monkey.
Hurray for arranged marriages. When a monkey can do such a competent job, what prevents us humans from arranging a good marriage?
Regards to all
Are all arranged marriages the same?
Here’s one more arranged marriage story, link shared by Sampat.
‘There are times when I am sitting at home, trying hard to write, when I am gripped by a sudden irritation: “What’s she doing here?” Then, after gathering my thoughts, I answer myself: “Oh, she’s my wife. She is going to be staying here too.’ [Click to read].