Between my teaching and fudging questionnaires, life was hectic. One evening, as I was about to go for a walk with my parents, I got a phone call from Vasanta, the lady who gave me my test at the Bank. She wanted me to come home and meet her brother who was in the Indian Navy and had come on leave. Covering the mouthpiece, I asked by dad what I should tell her. He said we could go over the next day and I relayed this to Vasanta. I must digress a little here about dad. After the coffee planter’s proposal, there were many more, suggested by grandmother or my aunts or my neighbors or whoever. In those days, a girl was eligible for marriage from the day she ‘matured’. I was a very popular candidate. Not to displease his sisters or mother, dad would agree to take me to the boy’s house for an ‘exhibition’. This meant wearing Ma’s saree and jewels and looking like a walking Christmas tree. The ritual was the same. I was decked up and escorted to the ‘kill’. I had to touch the feet of the boy’s mother and she would bless me. She would then ask questions like if I knew how to cook and keep house and I’d lie with a ‘yes’. The boy would come out for a look at the ‘commodity’, meaning me and after some more pleasantries, we’d leave. The mother would say that she’d call after knowing her son’s verdict. In every such ‘show’, dad would exchange glances with me the minute the boy walked in and we knew he was not Mr Right. But we went through the charade only to please grandmother. Ma went along as she had no say in the matter anyway.
The pic that was sent to possible mate-to-be!!
When Vasanta called about her brother, Ma was all excited. She knew the family and remembered having met the brother. Ma knows a lot of people and can reel off every one’s family tree in a second. She kept on praising Vasanta’s parents, especially her father who was a close friend of her father who in turn was a favourite of his sister, who…. By the time we left for Vasanta’s house next day, I had their family history coming out of my ears and nose! Dad agreed to my wearing a simple cotton saree and no jewellery. We were greeted first by Anthem, the Boxer and then by his Master, Mr.Iyengar. Ma and he were happy to meet each other after so many years and started off on a ‘remember’ trip of people and events. Vasanta, who was playing cupid, had some goodies for us to eat and chatted with me while her brother talked to dad and his mother quietly looked on. No one thought of introducing me to the brother. I stole a look at him and well. I liked his voice. It was cultured and soft. He later told me that the first thing he liked about me was my long hair and voice!
We wrote every day after he went back. We still have those letters which we hope to read, sitting by the fireside, in our old stage. We were to be married in March and it was still October. It is amazing how two strangers, who had met only a few weeks ago, could mean so much to each other. Our Western friends cannot figure out this chemistry. They perceive arranged marriages as barbaric. I believe it has a sense of adventure…discovering another human being and relating to that person. Since even so called love marriages go on the rocks, it does not have anything to do with how long you know each other but what you know.