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Caste, religion, and region hold a lot of prominence in a marriage alliance. It’s difficult to find open-minded people. And, sometimes when found, it might just be a sham!
It happened almost thirty years ago. At that point of time, the sole objective of my parents was to see me settled in life (read, married). After a few relationships that unfortunately nipped in the bud, they cajoled me to agree to a negotiated alliance. Reluctantly, I agreed.
Since my parents were quite liberal, they advertised in major national dailies for a suitable groom. Among other details the ad read: caste, faith and state no bar.
We had some interesting responses from eligible bachelors, cutting across faith and provincial lines: Sikh, Muslim, Tamil, Keralite, Gujarati, Maharashtrian, and many more.
One of the respondents was Tony, a Haryanvi youth employed with the Ministry of External Affairs. He had already completed a couple of stints abroad. He was also well versed in German and Spanish. Overall, he was genial, forthcoming, and well-mannered.
These factors appealed to me since there would be ample opportunities to travel and live abroad. Secondly, I too dabble in foreign languages. Most important of all, the government job implied stability, plus a secure future.
So, I said yes, and he said yes, after a preliminary date. The following weekend his family came home for lunch, and that very afternoon the match was fixed.
Tony was putting up in his brother’s quarters (a pokey little flat). He was due to get his own accommodation shortly. So, we decided to get hitched after a few months. And yes, it would have to be a civil one, to facilitate visa procedure, and other formalities in the long run. His family was also not keen on a ritualistic wedding, much to my surprise and delight.
For the next three months, we met on nearly every weekend, lounged in parks and gardens, chatted about his overseas travels, had lunch together, and watched movies at various theatres. I was introduced to his chuddi buddies. I visited his home on one occasion. I was addressed as chaachi by his tiny niece. Everything seemed so nice and rosy. Or was it an illusion?
In late October that year, Deepavali and Tony’s birthdays arrived in quick succession. I gave him a few gifts which he accepted with apparent pleasure. The next weekend, he announced that he would be away for a month (no dating, that is) since a departmental exam was coming up. I agreed.
November flew by. December arrived. Tony didn’t show up. No phone calls or missives either. I had a gut feeling that something was not right. Finally, I managed to meet him downtown on Xmas eve. He told me it was time to part ways. He did not wish to see me anymore.
When prodded, he divulged that his circumstances had changed. Now he was under pressure to marry within his community. The lady in question was a cousin of a noted cricketeer. Evidently he was trying to switch alliances for material benefits, socio-political clout, upward mobility, or something on those lines… while I was an simple, fledgling journo.
I tell you, I was neither angry nor hurt. I was simply bewildered. He left abruptly. So the Monday after Christmas, I headed to his office and managed to grab him. In a confessional mode, Tony said that he had tried very hard, yet he had not been able to fall in love with me all this while.
I replied that since we knew each other and had similar views on many issues, we could begin with a workable relationship, and gradually build on that. He firmly said it was not possible. He could not marry someone he didn’t love. Then, with a curt goodbye, he left the place.
Today, so many years later, I still wonder, why did Tony and his clan take us for a ride in this manner? What a pity that the world is bristling with guys like Tony who pretend to be broad minded and liberal when in reality, they are weak whimpering creatures!
Image source: a still from the series Love Per Square Foot
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