“I was 17 when I got married,” she said with a wide smile. Her face always glowed and her wrinkles really didn’t affect it.
“I was so scared” she continued, “He used to be tall and manly- every woman in our village wanted him. He had his own charms. He didn’t smile much, but when he did, the whole town would light up. He was like a knight. He was my knight.”
“You never knew him before marriage right? Wasn’t it kind of odd to start living with an unknown person?” I asked her with a curious mind. I have heard her story thousand times in this past seven months and I don’t know why I am still curious. I wanted to know how it will feel to start living with an unknown person.
Sunil is not a stranger but sure I don’t know him very well to call him my partner. I met him seven months back and we have been engaged since. I have been speaking to him all this time through phone and have been spending time with him every now and then. But I still wasn’t sure that I knew him thoroughly. He still looked and felt unfamiliar sometimes. I guess that’s how we feel in arranged marriages.
“Well, it was weird to even enter his room on our very first night. I shared my room with five elder sisters and 2 younger brothers but nothing felt that suffocating. He made me sit and asked me to open up about my likes, dislikes, fears and much more. I kept answering his questions and before I knew it dawn had arrived. I knew that everything since that night had been like a fairytale in our lives. The fact that he chose to speak, get to know me and let me know him more personally than physically, let us reach our destination without any pressure. We never tried to create a romantic time, it was always there. Our intimacy started from our hearts, our souls and eventually, our bodies. That’s how relationships should travel. Starting any relationship by just being attracted to one’s looks is mundane,” she said.
“What else did you love about him?” I asked. I needed to know all that a man can possibly do to make you like him.
“He knew me better than anyone else. We never said that we love each other. We knew it. We never hid anything from each other. We have had our small fights but every fight had its own positives. We made up with each other with lots of small gifts. I will cook anything he likes to make him smile and there you go, we are fine already. He always got the best gifts for me. He didn’t have much money to spend on gold or diamonds, but whenever he saved some, he will ask me whether I need something. He knew my answer will surely be a NO, so he will anyway get me something like flowers, a simple saree, glass bangles, sometimes even pakodas and kulfis,” she giggled.
“He never asked me for anything in particular. He will eat whatever I cook, he never had any obligations. He loved to see me smile and would my cheeks every time I did and tell me that I looked adorable. I loved him so much to let him go. He used to hold me tight and tell me that he will come back soon and we always kissed each other’s forehead before he left,” her voice broke. I knew she wanted to cry.
“I miss him too much nowadays. He would have been very happy to see his kids grow into these great people and dear, he would have been very proud of you. I know being in the military doesn’t give you many options between life and death, but I always hoped he would come back safe. A woman can sure ask for more, considering I only got four years to spend with him before he left me forever,” she stopped.
I didn’t know what to tell her. I wanted to tell her that she is a great woman and her husband was really lucky to have her love. I also wanted to tell her that I would like to live a life like hers- cherishing their life together and how, after 54 years without him, everything is still fresh in her memory. I wanted to tell her that I want to be strong like her, holding on to life like we own it, not letting anyone stamp us, but living with heads held high. I wanted to tell her that she did a great job raising two kids with no support and didn’t lose her dignity in the process. I couldn’t gather the exact words to say, hence I held her hand tight.
“Hey Ramya, it’s time for the ritual beta” called my mother standing behind the closed doors. I kept looking at this beautiful lady in front of me. She looked deep into my eyes, held me by my cheeks with her both hands and whispered “I know you are afraid. You need not worry about how perfect your wedding night or how your marriage will be. If not talking, then better do binge watching. If not pakodas, have your favourite burgers. If not simple sarees, let it be a torn jean and printed tees. Everyone’s life need not be the same. Create your own story and make sure you are ready to give that man a chance to prove his love and affection for you. It’s important that we let them show how they feel and we should reciprocate it too. I really wish you will try, meri bachi,” She hardly finished talking before she pulled me into a tight hug.
I know this is new. I know that this was going to happen, that I am going to enter into a new journey with someone I’ve known only for a few months. I know that I will have to sacrifice something and will gain something as well. Until now I didn’t know I will have a choice to choose what I need and what I don’t. Now I know that I won’t need pakodas but burgers, I won’t need cruise trip but a long walk along the beach side, I won’t need a hopelessly romantic lifestyle, but a pleasant one filled with love. I know my marriage could fail; I should be ready and welcoming. I don’t have to be pessimistic but practical. I should be aware of all possibilities. It doesn’t mean that I will let it fail easily. I will work hard. I should give him as much comfort as much as I demand from him. We should give us the chances to become better for each other.
I withdrew from her arms and walked towards the door. I turned back and smiled at her. She gave me a bright smile and uttered aloud “Remember, you need to have great memories to tell your grandchildren!”I giggled and replied, “Sure grandma, I will work on it.” Sure, we got to work on it. Together.
With that thought in mind, I walked into our room on my wedding night to begin my very own journey.