Life is not meant to be easy, my child
but take courage: it can be delightful.
— George Bernard Shaw
My consciousness has been grappling with doubts and questions since its embryonic stage, We belonged to panda community, which earned its livelihood by attending to the pilgrims(cf. Baidyanath temple). But my father had renounced the traditional family profession of pandagiri ( priesthood cum tour guide)..because he did not find it respectable. He was the first graduate of the community. He was the headmaster of a middle school. He along with his friends had established the school to make modern education accessible to the community. My friends were better off economically, still we were treated with deference by them. It was baffling. Why they should respect my father, who has openly repudiated their status even though it had meant choosing to opt for economic hardship for the family? He was a deeply religious and secular person at the same time. He was my role model.
At personal level, I was acutely gripped with a sense of rejection because of my dark complexion. I was routinely reminded that I was ugly and unacceptable. I felt an urge, since my childhood, to get acceptance by commendable acquisitions.
I, as a child, found my surroundings stagnant and perplexing. People were deeply mired in superstitions, Illiteracy and status quoist formulations. There was poverty, epidemics, poor health care, child marriage, child widows and to cap it all misplaced sense of divine sanction for immutability of their belief system. As I grew up, I organised my friends, school students and others by interventions and holding regular discussions about the sad situation.
Problems of Child marriage, dowry together with related customs and the soar of child widow were the favourite topics to get attention. The need to introduce and encourage widow marriage was emphasised intensely. I was particularly passionate about widow marriage. At that time ideal and average age of marriage for a girl was ten years. Child widows were not uncommon.
I hoped our discussions highlighting the malady would induce some young man to come out and offer to take the plunge, but it did not happen. Ideal requirements for a boy in my opinion were that he must be economically self dependent, clear in conviction and free from superstitions. He should be ready to face hardships and be able to take care of his wife with due respect, so that she may be able to come out of the superstitions ingrained in the traditional consciousness of a woman.
I myself was still a student pursuing my first degree.
But things changed for me when I graduated. Now I could get a job and be economically independent. I fulfilled the criteria So fairness demanded that I consider myself as the ideal candidate.
My wife was a child widow. She was widowed just three months after her marriage at the age of eleven years. Her parental family was our close neighbour. We often talked as neighbors do. I found her a progressive person open to new ideas. She was eighteen when my campaign was underway. I broached the idea and persuaded her to my ideas and to take a plunge. It was a very difficult choice for her. She was already reconciled to her fate and she was assured of a stable family and social support system. Acceding to my overtures meant jumping to instability,insecurity and illegitimacy. I did not have much to offer except prospects of a life of probabilities, and dreams. I particularly talked about the conflicts of day to day living, having our children and joy of parenting. I told her that under our care they would be unique unlike any other child. They would constitute the resource of the community. I had to persevere for four long years with my efforts. Initially she rejected my offer but our friendship continued. With my persistence she yielded. It all culminated in our elopement. I put sindur in her hair and we became man and wife.
In the event of a man and a woman taking unilateral decision to marry defying the prevalent societal norms it is celebration of the bliss of individuality. It defies the boundaries delimited by communities and tribes. It is called love marriage. But when it is for a cause, instead of for personal gratification. it is erroneous to designate it as a love marriage. Because it needs the individuals to compromise their personal aspirations.
As I look back it has been a great learning and fulfilling experience. Living would have been quite dull without this ordeal. I had deprived myself of all the accomplishments by just one step. I had divested myself of all the support system. I had hoped that we will assiduously build together our support system. My resources were limited and none of us was good in management of the limited resource. I see in retrospect, I was naive. I had no inkling that life is not meant to be simple; I had not put thought to the fact that it was my commitment to the idea not hers. I had no idea that she may have her own aspirations.She had just responded to my invitation.
Commitment to the idea leading to unmitigated love for my wife (by default) has defined my living. My living was no longer hazy or diffused. It became focussed. It became a celebration of conflicts. Once we took the plunge,all the boats were burnt. It became incumbent upon us that our relationship is stable and commands acceptance and legitimacy from the community. Validity of the idea was now intertwined with our survival. I had demolished all the support system except my job built onerously over the years by me. There were people hoping and wishing us to fail. There were people who honestly expected that some divine curse would visit us. They were people who felt that we had committed a sacrilege and would be punished by divine dispensation. On the other hand there were people who believed in me and who wished us well. My previous engagements with the youth and the community at large had induced a sense of support and solidarity for me; they were watching silently. And there were those who viewed it as a usual ‘ boy meeting a young, beautiful, and smart widow next door’ romantic escapade.They were to be proved wrong.
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