Of No Avail: Web of Wedlock – 2
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Soon, watching the fumes of the coffee decoction she was preparing, he envisioned the similitude of his evaporated marital dreams with her. But equally, as her loving looks and affectionate manner began dissolving his reservations about her, he found himself genuinely warming up to her.
“I never hoped to see you again,” he said taking her hand.
“Sometimes I thought I could,” she said pressing his hand as if demonstrate the reality.
“But what for,” he said.
“That’s for the end,” she said smilingly handing him a cup of coffee with a covetous look that surged his urge.
Then, sipping their coffee without a word, they stared at each other in turns, and having drunk to the dregs, they returned into the drawing room to continue their tête-à-tête.
“I’m all ears now,” she said as they settled in the sofa together.
“If you recall, we first met when I was a in the engineering final year and you, still in the intermediate,” he began his recap, “It didn’t take me long to realize that I was madly in love with you and that your feeling was no more than liking for me. So to say, that enabled me to grasp the nuances of liking and loving – to like is to savor someone’s presence and love is but misery of someone’s absence. Whatever, I nursed our marital hopes as there was no caste hurdle to cross and a status barrier to break for my love. So, wanting to propose to you after your graduation and to be nearer to you till then, after I got my degree, I took up a job in a small-scale unit in your town. Naturally I didn’t have a second thought about giving up some lucrative offers from elsewhere that would’ve afforded a head start to my career,”
“Sorry for being a spoiler in more ways than one, but why didn’t you tell me about it then?” she said grasping his hand as if to convey her pain through her touch as well.
“I didn’t want you to see that as my sacrifice,” he said reminiscently. “Moreover, seeing that your liking was yet to crystallize itself into love, maybe I was afraid that you may even goad me to go my career way. That way, you can say that it was all owing to the selfishness of my love. Whatever, I took you for granted and waited for your graduation to propose to you; so, when you declined my hand, I was as much shattered as surprised. But in the hindsight, we both were still raw then; you were barely nineteen to my nearly twenty-four.”
“So, you felt that I led you up the garden path,” she said ruefully.
“To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind,” he said pressing her hand. “Even otherwise, I always believed that it’s unfair to dub one’s genuine change of heart in the course of courting as jilting. I did realize that the closeness of courtship could expose the chinks in the armors of the enamored, giving rise to second thoughts in either, or both about the tenability of their wedlock. So, your reluctance to accept my proposal made me wonder what it was in me that made an unassuming girl like you think that my hand was not made of the right marital material for you to hold onto. Believe me; it’s no more and no less.”
“Though it’s no excuse,” she said apologetically, having been affected by his magnanimity. “I was too young to have either the foresight or the hindsight of life. What’s worse, I was in an impressionable age then, and as my life would have it, shortly before you proposed, I became friendly with Sudha, who came from an affluent family. As we readily took to each other, I began spending more of my time in their bungalow, which afforded me a first-hand experience of luxurious living. So, enamored of that life-style, I insensibly started craving for the same, and what’s worse, I came to see our middle-class life as wasteful existence. That’s how I came to raise my marital bar that was beyond even my immense liking for you to clear. Moreover, your contended visage viewed from my ambitious prism seemed too pale for my coveting.”
“Had you opened your mind then, my brain would’ve been spared of so much racking,” he said reminiscently.
“I thought why rub salt into the wound,” she said nostalgically.
“Maybe it’s a good turn from you as otherwise my monetary outlook could’ve got buggered in that nascent stage of my life,” he said philosophically. “Anyway, I hope you’ve got what you wanted.”
“Yes and no, and we’ll come to that later; but tell me what happened with you later,” she said exhibiting an uncanny urgency in her tone.
“After having lost you, it made no sense for me to stick around there,” he picked up the threads of his life all gain. “So, I readily moved over here but it took me quite a while to put all that behind me. But as that only brought the vexations of my bachelorhood to the fore, I let my parents look for my prospective bride. I told you that I was born very late into their marriage and so ever since I got employed, they were keen to marry me off, more so my father, who, by then, was fast nearing his retirement age. I may say in a lighter vein that besides his paternal concern for me, there was a middleclass mindset at work as well for one’s retirement would adversely impact the quantity as well as the quality of the wedding gifts. That is apart from the bargain prices for the related goods and services one’s proportionate position ensues. So, I readied myself to ascend the altar with my dream bride to supplant the desired one but the dynamics of arranged alliances kept me in the limbo for far too long to my material discomfort.”
He paused for a while as if to come to grips with the impediments in the way of timely marriages.
“To start with, notwithstanding our social inconsequentiality, my father was proud of his pedigree and so was averse to devaluing its progeny by default of an inferior nuptial,” he said nostalgically. “Besides, he was very status conscious, never mind he was but a petty government servant, oh, what vanity! But worst of all, he was a staunch believer in matching the horoscopes of the prospective couple to foresee whether it’s going to be a smooth sailing or the rough weather in their marital waters. Why single him out as that has become an article of faith of one and all, and the hitch is that if the groom’s astrologer predicts a batting wicket, the bride’s jyotishi lays a wet pitch for the same match. As if these impediments are not enough, there are peculiar community constraints and pecuniary family restraints to reckon with that is besides the whims of the bachelors and the fancies of the maidens. And the net outcome of all these human fads and foibles is that weddings tend to remain nonstarters for everyone’s discomfiture.”
“Do you believe in astrological predictions?” she said.
“Least of all matching horoscopes for mismatches,” he said. “If not a fraud, certainly it’s a farce as my own case proves. If the planetary configuration in the seventh house indicates one’s marital course, then astrologically speaking, he or she would only wed the one who would take him or her, on that predetermined path, which means one’s fate ensures that one willy-nilly shuns those not conducing one’s marital destiny and likewise gets slighted by such for the same reason. So, of what avail are these futile astrological exercises proving to be inimical to timely weddings.”
“May I contribute my bit to your philosophical astrology?” she said in all admiration.
“But before that,” he said, “I may say that instead, it would make sense if the psychic profiles of the prospective brides and grooms are sought to be matched for mental compatibility. Say, other persona specifics being more or less the same, two misers form a better wedlock than say, a miser and a moderate. So, we need psychoanalysts and not astrologers for matrimonial advice but still even if one believes that his future is cast in his horoscope, then he should be able to see the irrelevance of these misleading matching exercises. This reminds me of a funny remark about our peculiar penchant to simultaneously pray to a variety of gods and goddesses, which only means that we don’t believe in the power of any of them to fulfill our desires.”
“Some food for thought though,” she said smilingly.
“Over to your examined life,” he said inquisitively.
“Won’t the broken engagements and nays that prelude wedding vows prove that destiny too is prone for second thoughts?” she said meaningfully.
“Maybe that’s destiny’s own course correction,” he said wondering about the import of the moment. “While the combination of idiocies put my wedding on hold, my father’s retirement further impaired my aura in the wedding arena. By then, the dwindled number of matchable brides came to see their would-be in-laws as some sort of a marital overburden they would rather do without. No faulting the nucleus family’s free stirrings as the trappings of the joint family could indeed be oppressive but at the same time, one shouldn’t lose sight of the moral pinning of life itself. If the in-laws were to remain hard nuts to crack, maybe, its fine for the wife to scoot as the burden shifts to her man to rein in his folks, but to per se object to their presence in her home itself, never mind their amiable nature, is socially alarming.”
“Sadly, life fails to balance itself, so it seems” she said melancholically.
“Maybe that’s true about individual life,” he said noticing her changed demeanor, “but when it comes to life as a whole, it has a way of balancing itself. Even as my eligibility as a groom was getting degraded by degrees, so as to make her a match for me, life had contrived to keep Chitra’s marital dreams on hold. She was the second girl in the line of marriage in that middle-class household that held her four younger brothers as well. Besides the meager dowries their father could place in their wedding platters, the elder one had only plain-looks to offer to the prospective grooms. So, as the first wedding was not in the offing and as custom too wouldn’t let Chitra’s glamour jump the marriage queue, the second ritual was not even on the family agenda. However, while her sister, lacking an employable qualification to uphold the family dignity in the office corridors, sat at home cursing her fate, Chitra had double graduated to become a lecturer in some women’s college. But still her frustrating wait for her nuptial night seemed unending.”
“That apart, what to say about our family custom of marrying the girl first that puts paid to her elder brother’s marriage?” she said.
“Like most things in life that too has two sides to it,” he began reasoning the age-old customs. “The wed girl first idea is a relic of the joint family system that’s on a different footing but the sisterly seniority level-fields the matrimonial ground for the not so well endowed elder ones; just the same, it’s unfair to the juniors as it tends to deny them what life has granted them. This reminds me of the lines in Benign Flame – ‘when maidens cross their mid-twenties, they find to their consternation that men whom nature meant for them by the logic of natural selection, were indeed bending towards the younger ones, tending them to fend for themselves as singles’. That apart, can parents ever ensure equal quality of life to all their children? Well they may enable them all obtain the same degree but would that ensure them the same career station in life? It’s no different on the matrimonial front. As all have to be on their own at some point of time, I think it’s better for the parents to let their children run their individual courses driven by their destinies.”
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