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In these days of couples threatening to divorce for the flimsiest reason let me give an example of a mature and understanding person. He was 26 when he married a girl half his age. 60 years ago this was quite common.
When a woman marries a man much older than her, he is more like a guardian than a companion. The woman in my post whom I shall call Rajani was in awe of her serious minded husband and treated him with deference rather than affection. She was just thirteen and it was suffocating to play the dutiful wife and daughter-in-law all the time. And then her younger sister Prema got married 5 years after she had married and she had gone to attend it.
Her brother-in-law and his family seemed so different to her own. With them around it was always fun. Her brother-in-law and his younger brother sang very well and would treat them to vocal music each evening when they visited them. Her brother-in-law would crack jokes and pose riddles and she would try to solve them. In short, she had enjoyed herself at her sister’s wedding and the week that followed. Those days weddings were a five day affair and the boy and his family stayed on for 3 more days since an auspicious day for their departure was not immediately available. Rajani had grown particularly fond of the groom’s younger brother Sundar and the two promised to remain in touch. Her own husband Rajan had returned to Bangalore soon after the wedding and had asked that his wife be sent back with an escort. It so happened that Sundar was to return to work via Bangalore and he offered to escort her. It seemed a suitable arrangement to all concerned. He dropped her off and left.
The memories of the good times spent at her sister’s wedding kept returning and she quickly wrote a letter to Sundar recounting the enjoyable evenings at the wedding. He reciprocated with an equally warm and affectionate letter and the communication continued for the next three years. Her own husband did not think much of the letters she asked him to post. He did not bother to check the address assuming that it was addressed to her parents or one of her sisters.To her, Sundar was a good friend – someone closer to her in age. She was just 18 years old and it was not unnatural for her to enjoy communicating with a person who had a friendly temperament. She truly saw nothing wrong in that. But Sundar thought otherwise. He was enjoying the attention being given to him and assumed that she had fallen for his good looks and golden voice. He was about to be engaged to the daughter of an advocate in Chennai and his family had gathered for the function. It was then that he sought to have fun at Rajani’s expense.
He tossed her letters in front of his brothers and sisters and asked them to read them. The family including his mother read the letters and began maligning Rajani.
“Married to a man twice her age, is it any wonder that she looks elsewhere for…….”
His sister read out portions of a letter and giggled-
You sing so well. I still recall the song from ‘Bhakta Meera’ she had written.
“Hey brother did you sing for her ears only?”
“Her husband does not even talk, let alone sing to her,” Sundar replied.
This went on for quite a while.
In their merriment they had forgotten that Rajani’s younger sister Prema was also present in the house. She was after all a daughter-in-law of the household. Prema was a no nonsense person and brothers-in- law could never dare to joke or make light conversations with her. She maintained a distance and they too stayed off limits. She had to do something about it before the story made its way to gossip circles.
She first made sure that the letters had been actually written by Rajani. When she confirmed the fact for herself she wrote a strong letter to Rajani asking her to involve her husband and set things right. If she did not do so the entire story would be made spicy and circulated all over the place. Her in-laws were light headed people and no one including her mother in law would spare a thought for Rajani’s reputation. She ended her letter with –
Remember, I am now part of this family. It hurts me to hear them speak of you in a cheap and degrading manner. I know that you had nothing but healthy friendship in mind. But the world may not understand. You have no option but to take jijaji into confidence and let him handle my brother-in -law. I am sure he will understand. And don’t be such a fool next time.
Rajani was indeed innocent. She showed Prema’s letter to her husband. Rajan may not have been the romantic that she would have liked him to be. But he was a very mature person. He immediately wrote to Sundar asking him to return the letters.
I know my wife and I have absolute faith in her, he had written. But you are soon to get married. Your future wife may not show such an understanding and this may cause a rift in your family life. It is in your interest that I want the letters back. I hope you understand.
The short but strong message conveyed through the letter had a magical effect and the letters were returned. Rajan tore them up without even reading them.
Rajani was in tears when she apologized to her husband.
“Silly girl,” was his reply. “Don’t I know you? Now go and get me a nice cup of tea. Stop brooding over all this and remember to thank Prema for dealing with the situation appropriately.”
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