A big Barbie doll cake lay untouched on the decorated table. A dozen kids stared greedily; the birthday girl looked on unmoved. “How can you even think about eating my delightful dollie?” she complained, to no one in particular. “I will go put her with my blue teddy bear.” Her parents gave each other watery smiles. “It wasn’t my idea…” the man let out a whimper.
My talkative aunt looked on at the proceedings. The little girl’s Granny came and sat beside, a plateful of paneer tikkas on her lap.
“The daughter-in-law could have had better common sense. These girls, I tell you.” Granny made a face.
Aunt smiled; Granny continued on a tangent of her own.
“Right from the time they got married, I feel the girl is incompetent. She cannot even put the kid to sleep on time.” Some of the pudina chutney stained her zardosi sari. “Anyhow, I am glad the son got married before he could get started on a love marriage nonsense.”
“Oh, so this was an arranged marriage?” Aunt made the blunder of her life.
Granny looked thunderstruck. Smoke came out of her ears. “But of course! How can you even think like that of my son?”
Aunt was taken aback. “It’s just that children choose their life partners on their own these days…”
“Huh. My son is a good boy. You get that? Good boy! Not the kind to dance to the tunes of some black-soul-ed temptress!”
Aunt nodded, quickly moving away. Granny went on rattling her teeth in the background.
I wonder. Do only ‘black-soul-ed’ people fall in love? Is ‘temptation’ all there is to it? That Granny thinks so doesn’t anger me. She comes from a time when love outside of one’s family was severely looked down upon. You could only love your parents and perhaps, the pet lamb. Prospective partners did not see each other until alone in a decked-up room. But even today, while on one hand they indulge in expensive mobile phones and send their children for higher studies, there are people who hurl abuses at love.
There are people who spend the morning praying to their noble God and promising goodness and righteousness through the holy smoke. In the afternoon, they go about kidnapping a couple who committed the grave crime of falling in love. Finally, when darkness befalls, they produce knives from their jackets and dump the two bodies – slashed throats and all – into the very river they bathed that morning in. They say the killings were to uphold the family’s honour. How, after all, could the family continue to live in an ‘honourable’ society after what their children did? Indeed. Honour has always been about bloodshed, rarely about loving your fellow people.
“Aren’t their people enough in your own caste?” say the less bloody sort.
They are harried and worried about their child’s beloved, apparently also the one the child has decided to marry. “Can you not give one thought to what people will say to your sister? To your brother? To us? Who will marry the rest of the kids?” A very serious problem this one. No one will be willing to marry the brothers and sisters of a man who has married outside his caste. Never mind if the ‘outcaste’ was well-behaved, well-educated and hailing from a respectable family. What matters the most is how they spoilt the smooth scheme of things and cooked up a mayhem for their own lives and everyone else’s. What was the ‘need’ to bring love in the arrangement? Now, the families would have to forever walk with a crestfallen face and sheltered eyes – a huge ‘blot’ that the lovers would continue to hope to erase, perhaps with a trophy that their firstborn won at school.
I appreciate the good old custom of arranged marriages in society. The families do good research; they do not have to worry about status and caste differences that love marriages often present. All very well. But it also needs to be understood how the baba and the baby do not remain true to their names till the grave. They grow up too! If someone chooses a life partner for themselves, they understand the weight of responsibility that tags along. Being in love gives the individuals a chance to understand each other better, talk about everything under the sun, see for themselves how suited they are for a lifetime of togetherness. As long as none of the people involved come with a major objection – say a crime record? Or even a lack of regular income – I fail to understand what is the hue and cry and trauma associated with a ‘love’ marriage. Yes, this is one decision that will last a lifetime and it makes perfect sense to consider and ponder. But does it make sense to negate all the warmth that love brings only on the grounds of - ‘we do not allow a love marriage’ ?
If there was one thing I could change about the world around me, I want to see a more accommodating approach towards love marriages. No more hushed whispers and rushed explanations about a bride or bridegroom who belongs to a varied social, cultural or religious backdrop. A warm welcome to such a communion in place of sacrificing, martyr like glances thrown at the ‘erring’ child. It would be wonderful to be part of a society that acknowledges love as it happens – not chosen out of a predetermined sample space but wider, broader and much more compassionate.
“I wonder what Granny will do now.” Aunt broke into my thoughts. I looked up at her quizzically.
“It seems her other son wants to marry a South Indian girl.”
What will now transpire isn’t something I can speculate. But I will keep you posted.