Friday, 7 March 2014

The Story Of My Grandparents' Marriage

Sixty four years ago on this very day, my grandparents met each other for the first time. Although, I think I should also add the location of their meet-cute: at their shaadi mandap.
They didn't know each other before this day, not each other's names, not each other's address, they didn't recognize each other by face or by voice or by gait. Their marriage was arranged by their parents because it seemed like a suitable thing to do. Eligible twenty-one year old boy and eligible sixteen year old girl, so yes of course, the wedding bells needed to ring.
This is how most marriages were arranged in my country until not very many decades ago, and obviously, it's an unbelievable risk that both parties were taking when they agreed to marry. What if the boy turned out to be a drunk, useless loafer with no ambition or talent? What if the girl turned out to be a cockeyed kleptomaniac with a lisp? Or if nothing else, what if the marriage turned out to be loveless and dull?
It isn't always necessary for love to be everlasting and true. In fact, that's one of the rarest things in the world. It's probably easier for you to run into Mick Jagger at a club than it is for you to find such a perfect love.
Of course, I've heard tales of disastrous marriages that had to be endured by people simply because of a very myopic examination by the matchmakers. Of course I've heard tales of sadness where women have suffered abuse at the hands of their own husbands.
But these couples (most of them at least) have sat through the whole crazy ride that they got on--unwilling, unprepared, unaware--because of the vows they took for each other and to each other, and because our culture, from its very core, teaches us to respect and honor commitments. A marriage isn't just another Friday night date that you're heading out for, and you can't simply walk out if your date is a bore. It's the real deal.
My grandmother is a beautiful lady, and I'm not just saying that out of love or anything. As a joke, my mother had once sent a picture of dadi from her younger days to the Miss India contest, and well, they wanted this lady to be a contestant. Point proven, I suppose.
Whenever I ask her about her wedding day, she always tells me that all she remembers is that she had to wake up really early in the morning and wash her hair and wear a red sari. She was to head to her wedding ceremony with her hair dripping wet, because apparently, that was considered lucky.
Sixty four years later, I think it's safe to say that this one little superstition, I think it really does work.
It's not always been a smooth ride for my grandparents. They've seen some pretty tough times, historically speaking--India's freedom struggle, World War-II, the Partition, the Bangladesh War..
As if it's not enough to deal with the pressures of being a married couple without these global-scale events.
They've moved together from Amritsar to Delhi to Calcutta, and through times when the fastest mode of communication was by yelling a message from your rooftop to your neighbor (who'd then yell and pass on the same message to the next house and so on until it reached the right set of ears) to an age where you're likely to be Whatsapping someone who's in the same room as you.
My grandfather used to take a train and go to Lahore everyday where he attended University. In those days of political and communal unrest, it was a leap of faith that you needed to take everyday when you hoped to leave your home, make this journey and get back safe and sound at night. I can only imagine the amount of trust that must have made my grandparents make it through those times.
Today, this couple has everything you can possibly need or dream of in life. They have a loving family, a beautiful house, they've traveled the world together, they've had glorious careers, and yet if you look at them, you couldn't possibly think that they've taken anything for granted, or that they've allowed all this to inflate their egos.
You know this is what love is supposed to look like.
My grandfather never ever starts his meal unless dadi is on the table and eating with him. He has a form of Alzheimer's today, and has difficulty stringing words and sentences together, and yet, they understand each other.
They're partners, in the most textbook way you can imagine.
Today, I look at them and I know that they're content, and I guess that's the most perfect thing a human being can hope to be in his/her life.
There are bouquets and cards for them in their room to congratulate them and their marriage, and their room smells like a florist's workshop right now.
But the funniest thing happened when my grandad just asked me what all these flowers are for.
"They're for you and dadi; it's your 64th anniversary today!" I reminded him happily. He replied,"Oh that's today?!" and both of them burst into laughter.
I guess that's what it must feel like to have spent a lifetime with your soul mate: you forget the distinction between time and space and life seems like a happy little bubble of peace and calm.
Here's wishing this couple all the happiness in the world, and thanking them for being an inspiration and an example of what a marriage should really be.

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